Do's and don'ts for road tripping across the country with kids

As I said in my previous post, 
my kids and I just went on a huge 4000 mile road trip.

We discovered many things that worked really well.
And a few that didn't work so well.

Today I want to share that with you.

We knew we had about a 27 hour drive each way.
So I broke it up into manageable chunks of time to be driving.

I figured we could handle about 10 hours or so of driving each day.
So I planned stops in states all along the way within those parameters.

This one goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway.  
Bring things to entertain your kids.

My kids are a little bit older, so I knew they would have their 
phones and want to be on them the entire time.
But I didn't want them to use all of the data in our cell phone plan.
So I dusted off their Nintendo DS's and they played them the entire time.
They had forgotten how much they loved their DS's and really enjoyed playing with them.

We also had books, music, coloring books (adult and regular), a DVD player, 
and a small container of legos for my little guy.

We also listened to podcasts. (hello am I behind the times or what)
One of our favorites was Stuff You Should Know.

We stopped often.

Since I was the only driver, I couldn't really handle driving for long periods.
We stopped about every 2 hours.  We all would get out at rest areas and gas stations
to stretch our legs and grab a drink.
I figured it was better to stop a little more often to rest than it 
was for any of us to get really grumpy or me to get sleepy.

We made sure to stay at hotels that had swimming pools.
My kids love to swim.
So it helped that each night of our drive, my kids were able to relax and play in the pool.
I brought their goggles and swim toys.

Speaking of hotels, have you heard of the Priceline app?  
My friend told me about it.
I was able to find inexpensive hotels along our path and book them right from my phone.
I felt like the prices were about 20-30% off of the walk in rate.

Another thing we did to help my kids relax at night is play games.
We had UNO and farkle with us.  

One of the best things we took with us was an air mattress.
My kids were able to spread out a little more in one of the hotel rooms we stayed 
in that had small beds.
It also gave us an extra bed when we were staying with family.
Our air mattress has a built in pump (similar here- amazon affiliate link)

I bought a ton of food prior to our trip.  
Snacks, granola bars, oatmeal, treats, etc.
I was thinking it would help us along our journey.  

We ended up hardly eating any of it.
My kids didn't snack much at all.
I guess it's because we stopped to eat so regularly.
We had to haul that heavy food bag into and out of every hotel we stayed at.
It was a big, old pain!

Since there are supermarkets everywhere, food can be purchased along the way.  
So next time I would only bring a few things.
We liked:  Instant oatmeal (that can be made with the in room coffee makers
that most hotels have), instant mac and cheese, 
microwave popcorn (most of the hotels we stayed at had a fridge and 
microwave), 1 box of granola bars for an on the go breakfast or snack, nuts and jerky.
The treats can be purchased as needed from gas stations.  

We brought some things that made being away from home a little easier-

an over the door towel holder

travel pillows
I made these years ago with scraps of fleece fabric 
sewn together with poly fill on the inside.
These are perfect in the car for a head rest.
I also stuck one behind my back for lumbar support. 
It saved my back during all of the driving!!

a power strip and an extension cord

Other things I wish I'd brought:

*bedding for the air mattress (oops)
*an extra blanket or 2
*good flip flops or sandals (We did a ton of walking and it was too 
hot for shoes and socks.  My flimsy rubber flippies did not hold up.  
I purchased some sturdier ones about 4 days into our trip and my feet were much happier)
*a backpack (In all of our walking, I got tired of carrying a purse 
and my camera everywhere.  Once I had a backpack it made it much 
easier to carry everything.)
*refillable water bottles

Here are my best-
Travel Tips

1. break up the driving into manageable periods of time.
2.  bring entertainment for kids
3.  stop as often as needed to keep grouchiness away
4.  stay at a hotel with a pool
5.  book hotel rooms with the Priceline app
6.  bring games to play in the hotel room
7.  bring an air mattress
8.  bring foods sparingly
9.  bring things from home that will help make traveling more 
comfortable (extension cords, towel holder, etc)

We were all really excited to go on this trip.
It ended up being a ton of fun and not nearly as difficult as I imagined.
Happy Travels!