By Amy Rowland, Military spouse
Traveling with kids can be a challenge, whether you’ve just PCSed or are hitting the road for vacation.
Here’s an awesome idea: spend two weeks driving cross-country with a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a newborn. Any takers? No? Well, my husband and I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter as these were our kids and we were told it was time to PCS. Let’s just say; there were some highs (seeing the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park) and some lows (okay, a lot of lows) along the way. But, if there’s anything I gained from this trip (besides some truly good memories) it was a handful of go-to lifesavers that I will use for every road trip we take from now on.
Top 5 Go-To Lifesavers When Traveling with Kids
1.Special snack bag
It doesn’t have to be a fancy bag: I literally use brown paper lunch bags and put their name on it, but I fill it with healthy snacks as well as a few treats. I try to buy some snacks that they never get to have, so it gets them excited when they open it. I tell them that these are their snacks for the trip. So, it’s up to them to decide if they want to eat all the junk food first or save some for later in the day.
2.Adventures in Odyssey and other audiobooks
Adventures in Odyssey are by far my favorite traveling treats for the kids. They are original audio stories that teach kids good character-building lessons with a Christian influence. They are just awesome! Though they are technically geared toward kids ages 8-12, my 2, 4, and 5-year-olds love them!
I actually really like them, too. Each story lasts between 20-25 minutes, and there are hundreds of stories to choose from. When we’re on the road, they will frequently listen to these stories for almost 2 hours straight! They are also great for my kids during “quiet time” when we’re home. It helps them rest a little without getting restless.
If Adventures in Odyssey just isn’t your thing, try renting audio books from an online library or purchasing audio books through a resource like Audible Free Trial [Digital Membership] (an affordable option because they offer “credits” for free books with a monthly subscription).
3.Tag Reader/Leap Reader books and “regular” books
I’m not sure why I sometimes think that my children need all the portable electronic and mobile devices to keep them entertained on a road trip. The truth is that my kids actually love to look at books, whether it’s a regular book or using the Tag Reader/Leap Reader. The funny part is that only one of them can even read yet!
To get them excited about the books, I frequently run to Walmart or Target and get them each a new, inexpensive book for the trip. They usually all swap at some point so the added bonus is that it’s like they each got three new books. Our youngest is only eight months right now, so he just eats the books!
When the kids finally start to get restless, which is inevitable no matter what when on a 10-hour drive, I turn on KIDZ BOP and they all start singing and dancing along (mommy does, too). The great part is that this music doesn’t annoy the heck out of me. It’s like listening to very clean versions of popular songs on the radio, all sung by kids.
Yes, we also have our Toddler Tunes, and kids praise songs and, of course, the Frozen soundtrack. However, I try to hold off on Frozen until one of the girls has an inconsolable screaming fit. Usually, it only takes getting halfway through; “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” before she snaps out of it and starts singing along.
5.Movies and other portable devices
Last, but certainly not least, are the movies and video games. I really try to hold off on these as long as I possibly can for a variety of reasons. One is because the battery power only lasts so long and our car charger is not very fast. Another reason is that they always get frustrated with whatever game they are playing so then we have to deal with that. And, third, it’s a WONDERFUL bargaining tool in our household. I frequently tell them that they will only be allowed to play on the iPad if they take a nap. My kids are still all under the age of six. As they get older, I will just tell them that the movies/video games are for the last two hours of the trip, if they behave.
Traveling with kids
As we prepare to embark on another long trip along I-95, I will prepare my bag of tricks and pray for the best! I hope that you will find some of these tools helpful as you buckle up for your family’s next long excursion!
Please share your road trip tips below. And the next time you make a military move, check out PCSgrades for the latest feedback from fellow military families on base housing, local neighborhoods, realtors, schools, etc.
Amy Rowland is a military spouse, lifelong Army brat, and mother of four.