In the summer of 2016, our family quietly purchased a home in Franklin, TN, that has become affectionately known as the Downtown Franklin Cottage and is used mostly as a short-term rental property. With a new adventure underway, a discussion began in our home to road trip through the United States with our kids and allow them the opportunity to see the nation, from the road, and experience how others live, the different seasons and the history of where they live.
We decided over the following 2-3 years we would make it a goal to hit all 50 states in the United States and visit monuments, landmarks, friends and family along the way. Since we began Thanksgiving break of 2016, I get a lot of questions about how we travel and how we keep the kids busy during our time in the car. I think there’s this big misnomer around how difficult it is to travel with children and I’d love to debunk that a little, with full awareness that our kids were 7 and 8 when we began our road trip adventures.
Tip One: Have the kids travel with their own travel backpack. We purchases our rolling backpacks here because it’s easy for them to fit a good amount of activities and be able to easily roll it wherever they go. When we’re on the road, we stop every 2-3 hours for food, to visit a landmark, museum, friends or family and usually drive no more than 5-6 hours total each day. This helps break up our trip and make it more manageable for the kids to be in the car for many days at a time.
Inside their backpacks we put:
- coloring/activity books I purchase at Target
- colored pencils (no markers in the car!)
- a couple chapter books for reading,
- deck of cards
- iPad + charger (pre-loaded with games and movies)
- Nintendo Switch (remotes, travel games, tv dock, charging cords are split between the two backpacks)
- favorite stuffed animals
I also pack a couple throw blankets in the car so if the kids get tired along the way, they can curl up and take a nap.
Tip Two: Make memories along the way! We decided a road trip to all 50 states didn’t happen unless we stop at each state border and take a family photo with the state sign. I think this might be one of my favorite things we do, but it also requires some pre-planning on our part because depending on the time of year we travel, we have to make sure we hit the sign during daylight so we can get a good photo. The kids LOVE it too!!
Wondering how we get a family photo that looks so cute? Let me let you in on our secret. We pull up close to the sign and I use an iPhone tripod that grips onto our side view mirror and a timer. I’ll have Kyle and the kids go stand where I want them to be, then once I hit the 10 second timer, I run and join them in the photo. Although, my next trip, I plan to bring a remote with me as well! We also let the kids spend a few minutes pumping their fists to get semi’s driving by to honk and say hello.
Tip Three: Let them get behind the camera. Our kids associate road trips with making memories and part of making those memories is taking thousands of photos to document it. Instead of being the one behind the lens all the time, I’ve started to set the camera settings and then allow them to get behind the camera lens and take some photos of their own. I love going back and seeing the trip from their perspective. It’s a little nerve-racking at first, but I love how excited they get!
Tip Four: Keep some routines from home even when you’re on the road. When we’re at home we always do Saturday donut day. Every Saturday morning we go to our local donut shop and enjoy donuts together, or we pick them up on the way to whatever sporting event we’re headed to. When we’re on the road, I look up popular donut spots in the cities we’re visiting, so we can visit and try out other delicious donut spots along the way. It may not always fall on a Saturday, but at least we try to incorporate something special we do together at home, while we’re on the road.
This adorable donut shop called Hole in Asheville, NC, we’ve been to twice and we love it!!!
Tip Five: Travel with a cooler and pack snacks. We have a cooler that plugs into our car that allows us to travel with yogurt, juice boxes, fruit and other cold snacks. Separately, we also pack dry snacks so that if we get hungry on the trip and need something to tide us over til the next stop, it’s easily accessible. I also keep a small hand carry cooler that fits in between the kids in the backseat so I can fill it daily with snacks, water and juice for the family.
I know planning and going on a road trip can seem overwhelming, but I promise it’s worth the effort and it doesn’t all need to be 100% planned out. When we begin we always know what states and cities we’re going to hit and friends/family we plan to see along the way, but we don’t book hotels in advance. We use Priceline “Name your own Price” feature to book our hotel the day of because sometimes we decide we want to stay somewhere longer and other times we decide to drive later into the night and go further so our morning drive won’t be as long.
Have you taken a road trip? What tips and tricks have helped make your trips more fun?