Getting Real With Shadra Bruce
Whether you’re singing “Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go,” or screaming “Stop it right now or I’ll pull this car over!” traveling with kids is a challenge.

I should know – in addition to three cross-country moves, last summer we took a 35-day road trip with three of our five kids in tow.

If you want to survive traveling with kids, you need to ditch the car bingo and roadway i-Spy and get serious about entertaining the kids in the car.

It’s a vacation, so loosen up on video game and movie watching restrictions

I’d love to be able to say I’m one of those moms with pre-planned educational activities ready for the kids for each mile of the trip. While I do like Rand McNally Are We There Yet? (Backseat Books) the older your kid is, the faster they’ll lose interest. Worse yet, you might have a kid who gets car sick when reading. And traveling with puking kids is way less fun than traveling with whining, fighting kids.

The best solution for happy travelers is to provide them with electronic stimulation.

  • Portable dvd players allow your kids to watch movies to while away the hours. It makes it easy to answer the “are we there yets” with a “just finish watching ‘Madagascar 3’ and we’ll be close!”
  • Laptops, while slightly more risky depending on your vehicle set up, offer an even wider variety of options, from games to movie watching to surfing the net, provided you have a mobile hotspot (and if you’re traveling long distance, it is so worth turning on the mobile hotspot)
  • iPods are perfect for the music lover, but be sure to invest in some sound canceling headphones so that they can hear their music over yours without going deaf

The mess will vacuum up, so relax

When we departed in our brand new van last summer, I started the trip thinking that with a little care and planning, we could avoid messes, spills, and perhaps even eating in the car. And then the kids got hungry when we still had miles to go. It’s better to plan healthy snacks that won’t wind the kids up.

  • Kind bars are a great healthy choice for eating on the road. They can be a little sticky, though, so be sure you bring along baby wipes (another must-have when traveling)
  • String cheese is a quick and easy protein that will keep your kids satisfied between stops.
  • Water is a necessity, and a much better choice than turning the kids loose with soda or juice. Just watch how much you let them have, or you’ll be stopping far more often than you planned.
  • PBJs – or anything else you can pack from home – are a much better choice than fast food.

Stop and stretch

Unless your trip is short and sweet, somewhere along the way you should plan to stop, stretch, and let the kids go potty. Yes, it will add to the trip time, and yes, it can be a pain to haul everyone out, but it is the perfect refresher for everyone and can mend frayed nerves. It also helps the driver stay focused so you get there safely.

How do you survive traveling with kids?

Comment below with your suggestions, or tweet your ideas to @MomsGetReal!