Holiday season is upon us! For most of us, that means gathering with family or friends to celebrate the year and spend some quality time together. For some, that means packing the family in the car for a holiday road trip.
Making it to your destination without one of the kids asking, “Are we there yet?” can seem like a pipe dream. But with a little preparation and a well-stocked travel kit, you can all enjoy the trip a little more.
Tiny Tots (Ages 0–3)
The best advice for traveling with this age group is to plan as much of the drive as possible during naptime. But if that’s simply not realistic, or if your kid doesn’t sleep in the car, variety is the key to success. Toddlers’ attention spans can be dreadfully short, so we suggest having a rotating arsenal of toys. Stuffed animal favorites, toy cars (in multiple so when one rolls under the seat you have another on hand) and board books are great for keeping tiny hands busy.
You can also make your own find-and-seek jar using small toys – think blocks, plastic figurines, colorful beads, buttons and other trinkets – and then filling it the rest of the way with lentils, beans or rice. Glue the lid on the jar to prevent spills, and then let the kids have fun finding all that you’ve hidden inside.
And don’t feel even a little bit guilty about handing over a tablet or portable DVD player to get you through a long car ride. You’ll all be happier for it!
Little Learners (4–9)
Solo time in the car is a great opportunity for preschool- and school-aged kids to soak up some knowledge. Take advantage of their thirst for learning and budding creativity by stocking up on books and coloring pages. A disposable cup filled with crayons keeps them within reach in a cup holder.
Another fun idea is to create a magnet activity tray using a cookie sheet and magnetic letters and numbers. If you’re feeling ambitious, glue magnets to pom-poms, small dolls or other toys to make this tray more entertaining. Plus, it can double as a tabletop for memory games, travel checkers or snack time. For really long trips, try wrapping a few small toys individually in wrapping paper and handing them out after reaching set milestones (every 100 miles, for instance). It’ll help pass the time and keep up a festive level of surprise.
Teens in Training (10+)
Kids in this age range likely have their own favorite trip activities – portable games or tablets, books and so on – so you may not need to be quite as meticulous in your plans. But make sure to pack charging cords, book lights, pillows and blankets to keep them happy throughout the road trip.
Good for All Ages: The Car Comfort Kit
And when we say “all ages,” we mean you, too! Create a car comfort kit to ward off all the discomforts that come with being caged up in the car for too long.
Snacks are a must for a long car trip, but some are smarter than others. Precut veggies, fruit, granola bars and cookies are relatively mess-free. Bite-size crackers come with crumbs but are typically kid approved – we’ll leave it up to you on whether the extra mess is worth it.
Pack a lunch box or other divided container for each kid and fill it with their favorites, a couple of healthy snacks you can feel good about and a couple of treats to make the trip feel more special. Keep a cooler full of bottled water or sippy cups and other cold items, like string cheese, pouches or premade sandwiches, if you’ll be driving during lunch.
Outside of eats, a few other essentials can keep everyone comfy. Puffs Plus Lotion tissues can help with sniffly noses in the dry air, Bounty paper towels can mop up sudden spills and Pampers wipes can clean sticky hands. A Tide to Go stain-removing pen will come in handy when you discover one of the kids has a stain on their shirt, and a Febreze car vent clip will keep the air a bit fresher for everyone – make it a holiday scent if you’re feeling festive. (You can also eliminate odors in car upholstery with Febreze FABRIC before you all pile in.)
Bring along a plastic bag to gather trash as you travel so you don’t have a carful of it when you get to your destination, and you’re good to go!
Have a favorite go-to activity we didn’t list here? Tell us in the comments below!