“Are we there yet?” is the phrase I hear over and over in the car – even for a quick five minute drive. So, call me surprised when I hardly heard this during our 11 hour drive to and from the beach for spring break. My kids are four and eight, and this is only our second long car trip we have taken as a family of four. Traveling with kids can be fun but also super challenging. Planning ahead and prepping them ahead of time helped things run a little more smoothly and gave them an idea of what was to come.
Pack and prep.
Filling a suitcase with shorts and swimsuits is only the start when you’re traveling with little ones. When my kids were babies, we had a whole different set of needs for both road trips and traveling by air.
It was a whole different experience for us this time around without strollers and pack-n-plays, but we still pulled some of our old tricks out of the hat when it came to gathering road-trip supplies. We took time the day before to charge our iPads, download our shows, and pack our snacks – then we were ready to hit the road! We filled up the tank the night before, and I made a stop at the local coffee shop for a giant iced coffee so we could leave right when we woke up.
Plan stops along your route.
Despite the fact we pack our car full of snacks, I always make an effort to plan stops before we leave the house. It is important for both myself and the kids to get out of the car, move around, and eat a meal together. Our favorite stops are Chick-fil-a and Cracker Barrel (their new fave!), because there is more to explore than just eating, like shopping and play areas.
You can also look for fun rest stops and other novelty experiences along your route, like the world’s largest peach or a giant rocket ship! We always split our trip into two days and find local parks near our hotel to get some energy out before the next day of driving. Playing, shopping, and relaxing in the rocking chairs makes these stops totally worthwhile.
We made it…now what?
Finally, after hours and hours in the car – we made it! The kids were so excited to see the ocean, to feel the waves, and get their toes in the sand. Before unpacking, we headed down to the beach. After enjoying the sunshine and warm sand and a family dinner, we got down to business to help make the rest of our trip a little easier (and help us save money too!). That first night, we made time to go grocery shopping to get the essentials for breakfasts and lunches in the condo. While I LOVE eating out at local restaurants on vacation, eating a few meals in saves a ton of money, and it makes me feel better about splurging on a yummy lobster roll or spending a little extra on souvenirs.
Make the most out of your destination…and prepare for the unexpected.
While the purpose of our trip was rest and relaxation on the beach, kids often need more than that. We spent a fair amount of time hunting for shells, swimming, building sand castles, and attempting to find treasure with our metal detector (with limited success). Beach time was our primary mission, but you never know what Mother Nature will throw at you…or when little ones will just declare they’ve had enough. To help avoid any unnecessary drama, we also came prepared with activities, including coloring books and board games for the condo. Throw in a side of putt-putt, dinners out, and doughnut adventures, and it was a trip for the books!