Road Trip Part 5: TIPS & TRICKS!

road trip TIPS AND TRICKS fb
Road Trip Part 1: My Hometown
Road Trip Part 2: High School Reunion
Road Trip Part 3: Ohio
Road Trip Part 4: Indianapolis

All right folks, I’ve shared all about the places we visited, the things we saw, and the friends we made memories with. Now, it’s time for me to get real about what went down over the 1,940 miles traveled in a twelve passenger van with seven humans in it. I’ve promised you tips and tricks, and among them there may be some “what not to do’s” as well. You ready? I’ll start with the TRICKS.

Pinterest, oh Pinterest. I love you, I hate you. Sometimes your ideas are useful and sometimes they’re useless. Take a look at my Pinterest Board. Don’t be scared. I pinned and I pinned and I pinned some more. After taking a closer look at some of the ideas that at first look seemed useful, I realized they were impractical, so I deleted them. Here are the ideas that I used but just didn’t pan out for us.

are we there yet/via/

The idea here is that you pull off a number each time an hour passes. It was supposed to eliminate the “Are we there yet”s but the child sitting in front of the sign would ask repeatedly, “Has it been an hour?” I tied the sign to the back of one the front seats, thinking that everyone could see it from there. However, the child who could have handled looking at the clock or a stopwatch to see how much time had passed was sitting in the last row of our van. I suppose if I had re-arranged the seating, putting the oldest in front of the sign to manage it, it would have worked out. Maybe we’ll try using it again on our next road trip.


I liked this idea. I’m not crazy about rewarding my children for behaving as they should, nonetheless, we gave it a try. Whenever a child was too loud, fighting or causing trouble with the sibling next to them, or whining/complaining about the length of the drive, The Hubs or I would remove their clip and throw it out the window for dramatic emphasis. Not really, but I thought about it around hour nine on our way to Sidney, Ohio. Our children did not like having their clip taken down, so it seemed that just taking it down was enough to make them want to behave better. However, I was not about to hand out candy to the children who behaved. And I didn’t have special presents on hand either. If that’s the sort of thing you like to do, then perhaps this method would work. By the end of the trip, the clips had become useless, I think because we didn’t follow through and give out prizes. It wasn’t a complete Pinterest Fail, but it wasn’t a huge success either.

Travel Game Binders/via/

These binders were a Pinterest Success, for sure. I designed the cover with PicMonkey, which the kids totally loved. Then inside, each child had all sorts of free printables, washable! dry erase markers, and the crayons, markers, pencils, pens of their choice. I filled the back of the binder with plain and lined paper. Here are all the free printables I used:

free printable games RT/via/ & /via/

more printable games RT/via/ & /via/

Most popular printable goes to Fast Food Seek and Find. Honorable Mention: Hangman.

travel dry erase board
I used to have dry erase boards that I purchased for our three oldest children at the store, but I like this idea better because it can fit right in their Road Trip Binders! I just created a plain document on PicMonkey, printed out one for each child, and laminated them. Then they could use their washable dry erase markers to draw or write whatever they wanted. Big hit!

Road Trip Binder maps FINAL
These are print outs of Google Maps screen grabs. Each map shows the different starting points and destinations of our trip, beginning in NJ and ending back in VA. I printed out a copy for each child. The older ones especially appreciated knowing where we were heading and how we were getting there.

model magic and a tray
There is just something so calming about playing with Model Magic. I prefer it to traditional play dough simply because it doesn’t crumble or get stuck to things. It rolls out nicely and is soft to the touch. We always place our Model Magic in zip lock bags so that they last a little longer. If you leave Model Magic out in the air, it will dry and you won’t really be able to play with it anymore. I had several different colors in mini pouches stashed in the center console of our van. When things started to get a little hairy, I’d pass out a packet to each child and they’d either roll it around in their hands or roll it and play with it on their plastic trays. The trays are meant to be for finger painting, but I thought the kids would like them for the car. I am certain we will get a ton of use out of them at home when crafting/painting/etc. They didn’t use them in the car nearly as much as I thought they would.

Lego boxes for travel/via/

I love this idea and was so happy that we didn’t have to buy anything to execute this project. The Hubs cut a large green board into smaller pieces and I hot glued them to the outside of the box lids. The kids each picked out a small collection of loose Legos to bring on the trip and placed them inside the boxes. Easy! Some folks suggest gluing the green board to the inside of the lid, but I thought it made more sense to put it on the outside.

smart games/via/

These Smart Games kept my boys busy and quiet for quite a while. I found them at Michael’s of all places and I’m thinking that they’d be a great birthday gift for the boys to give their friends.

CAY universal packing list/via/

Last, but not least, the packing list from Kendra at Catholic All Year. I printed out one for each child and laminated them. What would I do without  my desk top laminator? That way, they can use a dry erase marker to check off each item and then we can use them each time we pack our bags to go somewhere. Each child has a small Nike duffel bag that fits all the clothes they need. I always pack everyone’s shoes and jackets/coats/raincoats/sweatshirts in a separate bag.

Now for my TIPS.

  1. Targets are the perfect rest stops. The bathrooms are clean, there is plenty of room to walk around and stretch your legs. Their snack counter is pretty good and if that doesn’t float your boat, there’s always the grocery section. We let our kids play in the toys aisles for a little while, then head back to our vehicle and hit the road.
  2. Lysol wipes to clean the bottom of your shoes. Shout out to my friend Joni for this one. As soon as the kids get back to the car, they sit on the step into the back of the van and I wipe down the bottoms of their shoes with Lysol wipes. That way, all the nasty that they picked up on their shoes goes bye-bye before climbing into the van. You know they’re putting their shoes all over everything that’s fallen on the floor back there. Ew!
  3. We drive during the day. For The Hubs and I, this is a safety thing. We are both more alert drivers when we drive in daylight. We also feel as though all the other drivers on the road are far safer during daytime hours than in the middle of the night. It’s certainly an over-generalization, but we just feel safer driving in daylight whenever possible.
  4. Bring gifts for your hosts. We stayed with three different families on this road trip — that’s a lot of host/hostess gifts! We brought some Virginia wines from one of our favorite wineries but ran out by the time we got to the third house. Sorry Ivan and Christine! So when we got home, we ordered some special items that we noticed our hosts needed or didn’t have and mailed care packages filled with cards, letters, and pictures from the kids, thanking the families for having us.
  5. Stay positive. When The Hubs and I planned this trip, I was extremely apprehensive about how the children were going to behave. Sleep deprivation, staying in all these strange places, eating foods they’re not used to — How on earth are they going to behave!? The Hubs and I stayed positive throughout the trip, and the children reflected our positive attitudes. We had a few melt-downs, but nothing out of the ordinary for days eight to ten of a long road trip. It also helps tremendously when you stay with folks who understand children and are accommodating to the needs of a large-ish family.
  6. Take your time. To make positive family memories, don’t rush through the road trip experience. Enjoy the ride!

I hope you found this post helpful! Please, by all means, leave me some of your family’s tips and tricks in the Comment Box! I love hearing from you.

Categories: Parenting


6 Responses to Road Trip Part 5: TIPS & TRICKS!

  1. Loved all these ideas, Mary! We took our first long road trip last summer and had a lot of luck with coloring books (surprisingly) and some little design magnet sets that came in tins. One thing we did to break up the trip was to find “Catholic” destinations to stop at along the way – we stopped at two different shrines – and it was nice to stop and stretch our legs where they happened to have outdoor stations of the cross, etc…
    I love your comment about not wanting to reward kids for behaving the way their supposed to. Me too! My husband thinks I’m such a grouch about this 😉

    • I’m glad I’m not alone, Theresa. Two pet peeves of mine in parenting are rewarding for expected behavior and when parents say, “Thank you” to their child when they do what they’re told. Makes me nuts.

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