Pictured (l-r): Ethan, Henry, Abby, and Jack exploring an outdoor train museum on an impromptu travel day stop. Photo by Jason Epperson. 

Family travel is an incredibly rewarding experience, but it also comes with a few extra challenges, and one of those is travel days. Stuck in your car/van or RV with small people for hours on end has the potential to drive everyone to their breaking point, and over the years we have certainly had our fair share of tough travel days, but we’ve also figured out a thing or two. Below are our tips to help you ease on down the road.

1. Flexibility

You can plan to leave at exactly 8:00 a.m. all you want, but the reality is this – you are traveling with small people and they are unpredictable, so don’t sweat it too much if you leave at 8:30, 9 or heck, even 10 a.m. Nothing gets a road trip off on the wrong foot like stressed out adults. Remeber, this is vacation and part of the fun is getting there. Of course, we can’t always leave hours after we initially planned, and perhaps you have reservations you have to make or a very strong reason for being at your destination by a certain time, so our advice is this – if you need to leave at 8 a.m., plan to leave at 7 a.m. instead. This gives you a little wiggle room so you don’t feel the pressure of getting out the door and ultimately driving off without your little one’s blankie or stuffed animal (because no one wants to be the parent who left their kid’s necessary sleep item at home).

2. Podcasts

We love podcasts and with so many excellent options out there for families, podcasts are a great way to enjoy some time together on the road, and maybe even learn a thing or two (but shhhhh, don’t tell the kids). Podcasts can easily be downloaded prior to hitting the road or on the fly. Hop over to our Top Podcasts for Family Road Trips for a little listening inspiration and to find suggestions for all ages and interests.

3. Rest Areas

Stop at them. They’re perfect for stretching your legs and some even have playgrounds, a great way to give the kids 15 minutes of energy burning fun. We usually go a few hours between rest areas, but we’ve been known to stop even sooner if the kids (or grownups) are really antsy and need to run around for a few minutes. Plus, many rest areas provide brochures or other information and it’s always nice to be able to take a moment to appreciate everything between where you’re coming from and where you’re going to.

4. Audiobooks

It is no secret that our family loves audiobooks and road trips are a great way to start that one epic family novel you’ve always wanted to read together but never had the time. We listened to the entire Harry Potter series as a family and 99.9% of that happened in the car. If you’re looking for audiobook inspiration check out our article 10 Audiobooks for Family Roadtrips and in addition to borrowing books from your local library, Audible is giving Our Wandering Family readers TWO free audiobooks when you sign up for their monthly audiobook service. We’ve been audible members for almost two years and it was through the discounted monthly rate of $14.95 that we were able to purchase the entire Harry Potter series, something we really wanted to own as our boys are avid fans. To get your two free books when you sign up, click here.

5. Snacks

Bring snacks. Bring ALL the snacks. If you think you’ve enough, bring more. If you think you have enough for everyone to drink, bring more. This has bitten us in the butt too many times to count and it wasn’t until we actually started traveling in Wander Bus with a full pantry and fridge at our fingertips did our bottomless pit kids stop making me want to stop, drop and roll out of the moving vehicle. Tie this tip with tip #3 and pack a lunch to enjoy at a rest area. You get the benefits of giving the kids time outdoors while not having the misery of eating fast food and just sitting in a car for however many more hours.

6. Movies

Yeah, I said it. Bring movies. I know this seems like a predictable entry, but so many people are afraid to come out and say they let their kids watch movies while in the car. We all do it. ALL OF US. You can have all the car games and car activities your heart desires, but when the drive gets long and people are starting to feel the burn, there is nothing sweeter than being able to break out a movie. In our Chrysler Town and Country, the kids are able to watch a movie with their headphones on while Mom and Dad enjoy a grown-up Podcast or music up front. It gives everyone a little break, so don’t feel guilty. Bring movies.

7. Dress Everyone In Comfy Clothes

This is not the time to show off those adorable new ankle boots you recently purchased, or the big tulle skirt you just bought your kid, this is sweatpants time. This is big comfy shirts time. This is one step above what you went to bed in time, especially if its an all day drive. Kids will find any reason to dislike that cute outfit you put them in, so leave that one in the suitcase and give them the shirt they would wear every day if you let them. Being able to move freely and be comfortable may just encourage your little people to take a nap, and if you aren’t driving, why not grab one yourself (sorry, Driver. Eyes on the road.).

Got a tip that makes your travel days a little easier? Leave a comment below and let us know what works for you!