My lifelong dream of having children who love to travel as much as I do has come to fruition. Sometimes it’s a day trip to see a waterfall or a historic landmark nearby and sometimes it’s a 15 hour trip across country to stay a few weeks at our beach house. Either way, I’ve gathered a few tips over the years that have saved an enormous amount of money and time. As we all know, traveling is costly and traveling with children is even more so. Friends, I’m here to tell you a few of my secrets to ease the burden and make traveling a little less expensive with your children.
My main priority in the car is to make sure everyone is well entertained. Can I get an amen? The last thing I want to hear is, “Are we there yet?” eleventy billion times an hour for the duration of our road trip.
One of our favorite ways to avoid boredom is to printout some car bingo cards before we leave and pack a few crayons so the kids can keep busy looking for objects to cross off of their cards. You can find a variety here. We like to print off the license plate or car make/model one for the older kids and simpler bingo’s for my younger babes.
Another favorite way to entertain my younger kids is to take along a cheap cookie sheet from the dollar store and a ziplock baggie full of magnets. The plastic numbers and letter magnets are a real hit with this, but even just the magnets from your refrigerator will work. Kids love magnets and this simple car entertainment has always kept them busy for much longer than I thought it would. Because the cookie sheets are thin and stackable this takes up very little room in the car. We’ve also discovered the cookie sheets can come in handy as lap trays for snacks or coloring too!
Lastly, we have the kids pack their tablets. There are so many free learning tools that can be downloaded onto their devices nowadays it almost seems a crime not to use them. The kids especially love the apps that read books to them. We make sure to pack their headphones so we don’t have a bunch of different books being read aloud at once. We also download a couple of movies they can watch over and over and at least one coloring app. There are a lot of apps out there so be sure to do your research and make sure the apps don’t need Wi-Fi in the car (we learned that one the hard way).
The Right Timing
When we are traveling longer distances and we know it is going to be impossible to keep all the youngsters from losing their minds with boredom we will drive at night. We skip naps that day (to really wear those little brains out) and then leave in the evening right after dinner. The kids will knock out shortly after we get on the road once the excitement wears off and sleep all through the night. This also helps eliminate extra potty breaks and cuts the costs of roadside snacks.
While it can be tiring for my husband and myself, we seem to manage okay by rotating driving shifts. This has actually become our favorite way to travel and a great way for us to have meaningful adult conversation while the kids are all sound asleep in the back. Another bonus of traveling overnight – no traffic! We miss all the rush hours this way which saves us time and gas.
After a few trips with a car full of kids we sat down and calculated how much money we were spending on snacks. Girlfriend, let me tell you, I got SICK to my stomach! Hand down, the best way you’re going to save money while traveling is to pack food to take along with you. We have what we call a ‘snack bin’; a plastic bin filled with healthy snacks for the kids…..applesauce packets, individual cracker packages, fruit snacks, beef jerky, etc.
We put the bin in the back and the kids are allowed to snack at leisure on long trips. We also take along a small cooler with some water bottles, fresh fruit, and sandwich fixings. The kids are far less likely to guzzle a water bottle than they are sugary drinks which also helps cut down on stopping for bathroom breaks. With snacks and food right there in the vehicle nobody can use the, “I’m hungry” line over and over. It’s a win/win. Of course, we still stop to stretch and walk around while getting gas but we don’t use that as an excuse to fill up on expensive gas station snacks.
Hopefully you’ve found these tips useful. Traveling and making memories with your loved ones is what summer is all about so have fun!