Frugal Family Vacation Series Part 3 – Road Trip Hacks

Frugal Family Vacation Series Part 3 – Road Trip Hacks

Road trips can be fun for everyone, families of all sizes, and kids of all ages, if you plan right! We are a family of 6, with kids ranging in ages from 7 down to 15 months, and we love road trips! From driving for just a few hours to trips that last several days, we’ve done it all, and lived to tell about it. So, as I get ready for our next adventure, driving down to Myrtle Beach SC with a van full of restless kids, it’s time to share my best tips, tricks, and hacks!

My BEST Tips and Tricks:

Tune up –

If you plan to drive your own vehicle, taking it in for an oil change and a tune up before going, is a good idea. Making sure everything is ok before hitting the road could save you issues while on your trip!

Stay organized –

Think about what you will need at what points in your trip, and organize your vehicle accordingly. You don’t want to have to empty your trunk to get something that was packed way in the bottom that you need on your first day! If you are stopping part way, pack an overnight bag with your toiletries and pajamas and outfits for everyone for the next day. This way you don’t have to lug your main suitcase with a weeks’ worth of clothing, into a hotel for just one night. When we did our big 10 day road trip, I packed clothing for each day in big zip top bags (one for the kids, one for my hubby and I), everything you need for that next day was there, and I would grab those with our overnight bag for each hotel stop. I tossed the dirty clothes back in the zip top bags, and kept it all divided in canvas bags in the trunk of our van. It was much easier than dragging 10 days worth of clothing for a one night hotel stay.

Kids Entertainment –

We have a Dodge Caravan that has 3 rows of seats, our oldest two sit in the very back of the van, and the younger two and in the middle row. Our oldest kids keep their backpacks with them in their third row so they can change up their activity as they feel like it. They bring books, pictures to colour, word searches, and of course devices! There is no limit on screen time while driving! If they want to use their tablets or Nintendo DS for hours and hours, that’s fine, because as soon as we stop and are out the van, those devices are put away. We fill the tablets with games and movies that don’t require internet to run, and make sure everything gets plugged in and charged anytime we stop. As for the little ones, well, they will have some toys and books, but we mostly plan on them napping and watching Paw Patrol on loop from a tablet that will be mounted between the two headrests. Our youngest ones are still rear facing, and can see their older siblings in the third row, and thankfully, they all entertain each other and the older ones are great at trying to cheer up the little ones when they get grumpy. For our last trip I printed off different pictures to colour and things like road trip bingo, but I found my kids didn’t use them much, and were happy with their devices. And since it was such a long trip I planned to only give them some of their books and toys for the first part of the trip, saving others for the second half, this way they had new and exciting things to look at on the way home.

Snacks –

One of my favourite parts of road tripping are the snacks. I love going shopping before and picking out fun treats, I also usually make muffins and pack lots of easy fruit like apples and bananas. Sure pigging out on chips and candy is great, but most people get a little grumpy when they are hungry, so keeping to a regular snacking schedule and eating filling and healthy snacks can lessen kids (or parents!) meltdowns, and time from having to stop for snacks as you drive. When I go to hand out snacks, I like to use big plastic disposable cups; perfect to fill with chips or popcorn or even fruit and veggies. And they are easy to pass back to the kids. And packaged snacks like granola bars or cheese strings can be easily tossed back to the third row to the older kids. If you have room for it, a small cooler is great to bring (one fits perfectly between our front seats) and we keep water bottles, and any snacks that need to be kept cool in it. Another good idea is to save the sugary juices and pop for when you stop to eat, this will help to avoid any sticky spills in your car!

Hacks to keep you sane:

Disposable bags –

Keep lots handy and hung within reach for all those snack wrappers, dirty diapers, or worse, if someone gets car sick! Toss them out in garbage cans when you stop, so they aren’t overflowing, and make sure everyone in your car knows to use them, especially the kids!

Headphones –

Our older kids watch their tablets and play their games with headphones on, so there isn’t any fighting over not being able to hear their own device. This allows the younger ones to hear their movie, and maybe even my husband and I listen to our own music through the front speakers in the van.

Sun shades –

We don’t have tinted windows in our van, so we make sure to have sun shades hung on the windows to block the rays. This helps keep the van cooler, allows the kids to nap, and reduces the “the sun is in my eyes, can you drive the other way!” cries (please tell me my kids aren’t the only ones that say that!). If you have a van like us with wide windows, turn the sun shades sideways and attached them that way, instead of up and down, you can cover more of the window this way.

Stuffed animals –

Some kids don’t like napping in the car, but if you bring something from home to comfort them, it might make it easier. Chances are you were going to pack their blankie or favourite teddy bear for sleeping at the hotel, but allowing them to cuddle it in the car might help them snooze along the way.

What are you tricks to surviving a road trip with little kids? I’d love to hear what you have done one your road trips to make it more enjoyable for everyone!

If you missed the other parts of this series, check them out here:

Part 1: Affording a vacation while living on a budget

Part 2: Saving on Travel and Attractions



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