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Traveling Long Distance with Kids

Traveling with kids can be stressful. I recently took a 2000 mile round trip with my husband and 3 children. They are 10 years old, 3 years old and 10 months old. I was afraid that it would be one meltdown after another.

We decided to leave at 3:30 am so that the kids would sleep for a few hours in the begining of the trip. When everyone woke up, we stopped and stretched our legs and had a little breakfast. This is how the entire day went until about 6:00 pm when my son, the 10 month old, finally had a melt down. We stopped and stretched our legs for about 30 minutes and kept going. He only had one other meltdown about 9:00 pm. The girls did a great job the entire ride. We got to Nana’s at 11:30 pm.

On the return trip, we didn’t have the 10 year old. She spends 3 weeks every summer with my mother and will fly home in 2 weeks. So, to combat the fact that she wasn’t there, whoever was not driving sat in the back with the little ones and played with them. By the way, a pink balloon was the hit toy on the way home. We did this drive in 2 days instead of the marathon that we had on the way there.

About a month and a half before the trip I started doing a little research. I went to some great websites and my favorite site was and they had tons of information for all ages. I adapted some of their ideas and used them my way.

My biggest hit was a homemade coloring book. I went to sites like, and and any other site that had shows or characters that my 3 year old liked. For me, I printed 3 copies of each item. One is a master copy for later. I made sure that both children had the exact same pictures. On, there was a cool paper battleship game and I made several copies of this one for my older daughter. She and I played this in the car since the 3 year old was not old enough to understand the game. I also printed off some scavenger hunt and car bingo cards as well. The sky is the limit with this.

I also printed a map of the U.S. and we used it to mark all the lisence plates that we saw on the trip. If it is printable, then put it in there if you think your kids might remotely like it. I am a crafter so I had some card stock and I put cardstock on the front and all through the book for stability. I also put some blank paper in the book at different points so that they could draw their own pictures too. I took the books to Office Max but any publishing place will work. I had them put a spiral binding on the books. My girls played with them for hours. Just a note, if it is hot, do not bring crayons, get washable markers instead. Crayons melt if you leave them in the car (lesson learned from a previous trip).

I also spent three or four Saturdays going to garage sales to find little things to play with. I found little books, stickers (for the coloring book), mini beanie babies, fun little hand held games and I didn’t spend more than 25 cents on anything. I kept everything hidden (including the coloring books) so that everything was new and a surprise.

Each girl had a backpack that I hung over the front seat so that they had a place to put things when they were not using them. I kept the surprise bag in the front with me so that they could only see things when I wanted them to.

I also took the DVD player (hardly used at all) and their Nintendo DS game system (not used much either). We also went to the library and borrowed some books on tape. We listened to Junie B Jones and The Magic Treehouse for hours.

Another thing that I spent quite a while setting up was the ‘find it’ bottles (water bottles filled with rice and lots of tiny treasures that have to be shaken to uncover). But honestly, they had so much fun with the coloring books, the bottles never came out until we were at Nana’s house. I made two so that there was no bickering in the backseat.

I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. My children are constant movers and shakers. They don’t like to be cooped up and have boundless energy. My husband and I were fearing the worst but our kids were awesome. I don’t think it could have been better.

Today’s guest post was written by Tamie. Tamie says: “I am the proud mother of Elizabeth (10 yo), Kathryn (3 yo) and Joseph (11 mo). I am an older mother. I am almost 43 yo and my kids keep me young and prove how old I really am on a daily basis. I work outside the home on 3rd shift so that my husband and I can raise our children and do not have to pay for childcare. We live in Wisconsin and have been married for 16 years in August.”


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  • Jasmine

    LOVE all the great advice! Especially the coloring book one! I will be coming back to this post on our next road trip! Thanks Tamie!

    • Tamie

      Thanks so much. I was very worried about the trip and decided to be proactive and not reactive. If you start a couple of days ahead of time you can spend so much money but with a little planning, you can find things on sale or at garage sales. Even if you are not planning on a road trip this summer, going to garage sales to find little ‘things’ or using McDonald’s toys and putting them out of sight, will make any winter or surprise road trips easier. I am trying to justify the purchase of one of those spiral hole punches. I just want to make coloring/road trips books for everybody I know.

  • Jessica

    Great advice! Loved the spiral books.

  • Betsey

    Thank you – this was helpful!

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