10 Road Trip Sanity Savers from One Parent to Another

The holidays are coming up and there are plenty of road trips to be had in the next couple of months. (We hope at least one of them is a beach getaway to Topsail Island, hint, hint). The mere thought of taking a road trip with the kiddos can bring on cold sweats, anxiety and a sense of foreboding. That's okay. It's perfectly normally.

Happy Kids on a Road Trip

Let's face it, family road trips can be challenging in more ways than one. Have no fear, we've compiled some sanity-saving (if you happen to have any of that left) road trip tips for traveling with kids. Ten are probably not enough, but it's a start. Instead of popping a Xanax or five, sit back, take some deep breaths, and check out these suggestions. We promise, you'll feel better in no time and be more prepared for what lies ahead.

10 Road Trip Sanity Savers for Families Traveling with Kids

1. Attitude is everything (well, almost).

It's easy to get worked up and stressed out on the day of departure. The thing is, kids are like animals when it comes to this stuff�they can smell fear! They can sense your mood and quickly pick up on it, and worse yet, feed on it. Don't get overwhelmed with task at hand. Remember you're embarking on a travel adventure. Maybe it's a vacation, maybe it's a family gathering, maybe it's an impromptu get-out-of-Dodge weekend getaway. No matter the reason, don't forget that the actual time in the car is only part of your trip. Refocus on the big picture, the memories in the making, and don't sweat the small stuff.

2. Pack early and strategically.TripList packing app

A major portion of any trip or vacation is packing. That includes packing your suitcases and then packing up the car. For the packing suitcases portion, consider using a pre-made packing checklist (we like this Road Trip Packing List by Burlap & Denim: just highlight what you need and check them off as you go). Or consider using a packing app (we love TripList; it�s free and easy to use).

It becomes an even more daunting task when it comes time to pack the car. Trying to squeeze luggage, kids, and other miscellaneous items into your already over-packed vehicle is enough to make a grown man or woman cry. If at all possible, pack the car the night before (just don't pack the kids in there yet, okay?) and get as much situated ahead of time as is humanly possible. The less you have to do at the estimated departure time, the better. You know that something �or a million things�always come up at the last minute. If you can't do that, at least have your things laid out systematically, so when it comes time to pack up the car you know what you'll need at arm's reach and what can be packed away in the trunk.

3. Make it comfy.

Nothing is more miserable than being uncomfortable during any length of road trip, but particularly a long one. Uncomfortable kids on a road trip? You don't even want to go there. No way, no how. Whatever it takes to ensure the best possible comfort in the vehicle for your travel companions, bring it if possible (for their sakes and for yours, too). Favorite pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, pacifiers, neck pillows; whatever it takes, do it.

4. Timing is key.

Assess the needs of your family. Depending on the ages of your kids, you may need to adjust the departure time depending on what works best for your family. Are you night owls? Early birds? Do you have a baby that will sleep a majority of the trip if you leave at a certain time? Teenagers who stay up late and will sleep most of the way during the morning? Sleeping kids are good! Very, very good. Choose wisely.

5. Snacks, snacks, baby.

Everybody likes to have options when it comes to food on a road trip. Unless you have some specific stops planned, you don't want to add unnecessary pit stops for food if at all possible. If you have young kids, make it fun by packing their favorite snacks or special treats. Pack each child's snacks in his own unique container for easy access and a sense of ownership. For older kids or teens, get their input on what they'd like to have to eat in the car or let them pick out some things when you're out shopping. The less messy, the better. Things that require forks or spoons are way too high maintenance. Keep it simple. And you'll probably want to pack twice as much food as you think you'll need, just in case.

6. Keep it clean.

There is a certain amount of expected trashing of the vehicle that comes along with a road trip. Crumbs everywhere, spilled drinks, wrappers scattered to and fro�it happens. It's messy. A little advance preparation can go a long way when it comes to keeping the messes at bay. A travel cleaning kit can come in pretty handy. Gather up your handiest items for quick cleanup of messes and have it in a convenient, accessible place. Things to consider including are wet wipes, paper towels, trash bags or empty plastic bags, ziplock bags, an extra bottle of water reserved for cleanups.

7. It's all fun and games.

Road trips are supposed to be fun, you know. It helps to have some games ready for when the natives start getting restless. Distraction is one of the keys to a successful road trip. Pinterest is your BFF when it comes to road trip games and activity ideas. Don�t spend time reinventing the wheel when someone somewhere has already done it for you. There are so many creative, free, ready-made ideas out there. Take advantage of them.

When the tattle-taling, poking and arguing ensue, try out some of these all-time favorite road trip games.

License Plate Game Printable for Road TripsABC Game
License Plate Game
Road Trip Bingo
Road Trip Scavenger Hunt
Road Trip Activity Book

We�d like to thank Chrissy from TheTaylorHouse.com for offering up 14 Best Road Trip Games for Kids  and links to the free printables all in one place. We really liked the ones she chose and the printables that accompany them. The graphics are great! Most are mentioned above, but you can find the full list on her site.

8. Novelty reigns supreme.

You�ve got to keep it fresh and keep the kids on their toes, figuratively speaking of course. A great way to do that is to randomly pull out some road trip gifts throughout the long journey. All it takes is a little bit of advance planning on your part. Hit up the local dollar store or dollar section of Target before your trip and pick up some cheap novelty items for your travel gift giving. Spontaneously hand them out at strategic times for added distraction throughout the ride. It�s up to you if you want to take a little extra time and wrap each of the gifts or if you just want to keep a stash to dole out at your convenience. It�ll buy you a few extra minutes of peace and quiet. Totally worth it!

9. Stay motivated. Set milestones.

If the kids are getting particularly antsy, you may need to step up your motivational speaking skills. Keep them excited and entertained of what�s to come by reminiscing about some of your favorite road trips as a kid. Share some funny stories from those trips; the more animated the better. Have a playlist ready to go of music that matches your travel theme for extra inspiration whether it�s a compilation of beach music, holiday music, or just classic road trip songs. Who knows, you may all be singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall in unison at some point. Whatever works to keep spirits high. If all else fails and they�re really getting miserable, set a milestone like a stop for ice cream at a certain exit in exchange for peace and quiet until that point. Bribery works wonders.

10. Be flexible. Be realistic.

As a parent, you already know that being flexible is a necessary life skill. So many glitches in the matrix can and will come up during your road trip, it�s best to just go ahead and expect that they will happen. Have a flexible mindset and be realistic. Traveling with kids adds a lot of unknown factors into the road trip equation. Do the best you can to prepare and keep a positive, adventurous spirit about the whole thing, and you will survive, as will your kids. The ultimate goal is to create some wonderful memories in the making that you�ll all look back upon fondly, even despite the bumps in the road. Happy travels!

What�s your best tip for traveling with kids?

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