While it did work out, I do not recommend making a trip that long in such a short period of time. I remember Little Man was less than a year old and Gracie was about to turn 8 years old. She was a great helper during the drive while they were awake, helping to keep Little Man entertained and give us eyes in the back seat better than any baby mirror. We did a lot of driving while they were sleeping so as to not be as noticeable for them and made sure to make plenty of stops along the way. After that trip, we agreed to not do it again in such a short time span. So this time, we will be driving over 2 1/2 days each way with several days in between. We will also have all four kiddos with us so we will have to get a van to make sure we have plenty of room for our family as well as the luggage we will be hauling. Other than that, here is how we are organizing our trip plans to (hopefully) have a smoother ride. This is all based on the MANY road trips I have taken with the kids, using the failures & successes as well as adding in some other ideas we have come across & come up with to make it better.
Plan out your route carefully. This is where my OCD comes in handy! Pull up your route on GoogleMaps and make sure to include any sightseeing stops you plan to make (at least the cities) and look at the overall time spent driving as shown. (See STEP 1). Then break up the drive using the "Add Destinations" feature to get time spent driving between each point. Take into consideration your own children and their needs & personalities when doing this. I have a recently potty-trained little boy, a people-pleasing daughter, and a son & daughter who each have ADHD to varying degrees. I chose to break up our drive into several sections, each only about 2 hours or so to allow for frequent potty breaks, boredom alleviation, and gas fill-ups in larger cities to get better prices. (See STEP 2). These cities are where we will make sure to take a quick break to stretch our legs, let the kids run & play for a bit, use the potty & make seating changes as necessary.
Know the approximate time to you want to be on the road and plan around high-traffic times if at all possible. For example, if I know I will be getting on the road at 2 pm and that puts me getting into Fort Worth close to 5 pm, I know that will be a VERY high-traffic (which translates to high-stress & everyone has to potty at the same time = red zone) period in the day as rush hour traffic will be starting to set. If you know you will be going through something like that, you may want to plan a stop before & after the red zone to re-coup as needed. If possible, you should also get snacks or extra entertainment (a movie or music, something to keep the kids distracted) ready and going before hitting that area.
Make sure to keep in mind your child's normal eating schedule and try to incorporate those times into your planned stops. Whether you are bringing sack lunches or stopping at a restaurant, you will want to have a plan in place to keep the kids from getting hungry. Another way to help alleviate the hunger monster is to pack lots of snacks. Some of our staples for road-tripping are Goldfish crackers, beef jerky, grapes, cantaloupe, bananas, and lots of water. A newer thing we have added in that I recommend is to buy Mio water flavoring as the waters can get boring for the kids. This will allow them to still stay hydrated while getting a new flavor to break it up a bit. For us, another thing to plan for is our Starbucks allowance goes up. We use the Starbucks card app on our phones and get points for each purchase and I know that when we travel and drive a lot, we stop more for coffee. So I can easily load up our registered card & rack up those points while setting our allowance for the trip so I don't lose track of it.
Make sure you are not planning to be in the car for too much of the day. I will admit, I have made this mistake plenty of times, thinking that all would be peachy if I just kept them fed & entertained. You also have to consider the overall time you are spending in the car, in a tight & confined space. This time, we are planning to not be on the road more that 8 hours or so each day we are driving. The idea is that if the kids are only in the car for 2 hours at a time before we take a break for either the potty, eating, or playing, 8 hours should go by rather quickly in their minds compared to the 12+ hours in a day being spent on the road. You can use the neat Map Wizard from RoadTrip America to plan out your stops and know what is in the area you will be breaking in!
Here is the budget planner printable I used to figure out what to expect for the cost of the trip. I got it from Living Well Spending Less, where you can also download it for free if you would like. Just click the photo and it will lead you there.
Here is the packing list printable we will be using to make sure we don't forget anything. You can download it for free as well by clicking on the photo and it will lead you there.
Entertaining is Key
Wrap a few new toys or gifts for your kids to open on the trip to get a new exciting "thing" to occupy their minds rather than how bored they are. This should help you avoid some of those "Are we there yet???" questions... Because we are traveling for Christmas, we are reserving a couple presents from "Mom & Dad" to let them open, including the tablets they are getting this year. Other smaller things will include their own art sets, small toys, etc. You can even get some things from the local dollar store to keep it low-budget. We also will have their tablets already fully charged and with games, movies, and books pre-downloaded and ready to go.
As I stated earlier, two of my kids struggle with ADHD and the symptoms involved with that. My oldest son is very OCD in his own ways when it comes to traveling. He always like to know exactly where we are at the time, where we are going, which route we are taking, and how long it should be before we get there. Now this may seem like any other kid, but with 3 others to compare the behavior with, I believe he needs a little something extra. To help him cope and know what is going on without having the constant interrogation we typically get from him, we will be printing out a map of our route in a grayscale and then using markers to draw out our routes as well as notate where we will be stopping & approximate times we will be hitting each milestone. We will be laminating the maps and giving one to each of the older three kids so they know what the game plan is, but this will be mostly to help our oldest son feel like he has a sense of what is going on and can even help us. We will make a game of it to see who sees the next planned checkpoint on road signs with mileage markers as well. It will also be reading practice for them to learn how the cities are spelled and pronounced properly.
While there is always the traditional "I Spy" game, there are many more options out there to keep your kids occupied during your trip, and plenty of educational options as well. Here is a gathering of a few of my favorites that we will be utilizing this December.