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Family Travel: 8 Tips for Surviving the Long and Whining Road Trip

Every Christmas and Thanksgiving, our family of four (boys aged 5 & 2.5) and the family dog, get the chance to spend an extended amount of time in Texas, where both sets of grandparents live. Even though a plane flight is only a two hour trip, taking our family SUV loaded with Christmas gifts and all our gear required (toys, stroller, bikes, car seats, etc) just makes more sense.

As you may know, road tripping with two kids can be a big challenge. But with Grandparents’ free babysitting as the prize, here are 8 tips on how the Hunton family survives the 800 mile trip (14 hours with stops) from Atlanta, Georgia to Houston, Texas.

1. Bring a DVD player - This is a no-brainer. If yours runs on batteries, make sure to charge up the night before or bring an adapter if you can. I like to surprise the kids with a new movie to be sure to keep their attention.

2. Kick it old school - Don’t spend all your time with your kids in the TV trance, make the most of your family time together! Take turns telling the kids made up or real funny stories. My boys love any story where they get to be the hero. Road trips are the perfect time to introduce games like eye-spy or other car games you played growing up. If you want to go Griswold, you can even throw in a Christmas carol or two.

3. Designate car toys - I like to pack a small bag within close reach of some favorite small toys. (usually the non-noisy kind) I will also throw in a surprise like a Star Wars Action figure. My boys also love Crayola’s Color Wonder Lap Desk for a mess-free craft time. Try challenging the kids to make pictures for Grandparents.

4. To port-a-potty or not port-a-potty - You may want to consider bringing along your portable infant potty. It’s inevitable that just after making a stop, while in the middle of no where, some one needs to “go again”. After pulling over to safe well-lit location, having one of these around ensures your child has a familiar and clean space.

5. Plan stops ahead - While unplanned stops are certain, mapping out your gas, lunch, dinner or ice cream treat stops will help keep them efficient. My husband and I love using the Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks Apps for locations and store hours.

6. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself - After you have your little love bugs fast asleep, and you and your honey are cruising, don’t forget some entertainment for yourselves. We like listening to old favorite mixed CDs that remind us of the time when road trips (and life) was much simplier.

7. Keep moving - Sometimes things can get a little stressful. Don’t lose sight of how far you’ve come! Once during an intense leg in our trip, I flipped on Michael Jackon’s “Beat It” (a family favorite), pulled out the video camera and we made an impromptu family music video. It quickly changed the mood of the car and now we have something we can all laugh at together.

8. Travel at night - We have found that for such a long journey across the country, the best time to be in the car is while the kids are sleeping. The trip is quieter, we make less stops and in the end, make better time when traveling at night because there’s less traffic. If we leave an hour or two before bedtime, we can travel at least half of the trip while the kids are snoozing (don’t forget blankets, pillows, etc).

Just remember, every minute in the car is a minute closer. So keep it light hearted - laugh together and enjoy the journey! Isn’t this what it’s all about?

Happy traveling this holiday season. Maybe we will see you on the road.

- Kristine Hunton
Mother & Family Travel Expert