Hitting the road just for a short ride with kids takes a decent amount of preparation, so planning a long family road trip? That requires focus, planning ... and lots and lots of snacks.
I asked moms for their best travel hacks. Here are just a few of their tried-and-true tactics to survive road trips with the family:
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Keep the car clean
Give kids a place for all their stuff
Use plastic tray tables with pockets/side storage to make a "desk" for their snacks, crafts, books, or tablets.
Bring a trashcan
Put a small trash can or plastic bag between the seats ... and remind the kids regularly to use it!
Baby wipes can be magical cleaners for many kinds of messes, no matter your child's age!
Don't forget the potty
Traveling with little ones? Pack a portable potty for side of the road needs. Bring zip-up plastic bags to contain the smell of dirty diapers when a trash can isn't convenient.
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Take the snacks
Because no matter what, you won't have enough.
If you don't buy prepackaged, DIY before you get in the car. For instance, put chips in a plastic container or bag rather than handing your kids back a full-sized bag. Do that and they'll either eat it all or spill at all — either way, you're better off portioning out for them!
Bring cutlery and a roll of paper towels
Even if you don't pack food that needs to be cut or peeled, you might wish at some point for a knife or fork — so bring one along, just in case! And bring a roll of paper towels too ... do we need to explain why?
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Keep the kids entertained
Fully charge tablets and headphones before you leave home
Make sure tablets and headphones are fully charged. Download movies to them in advance, and make sure there's plenty of offline content available.
Don't forget the hotspot
Keep the kids occupied on their tablets or phones by enabling a WiFi hotspot on your phone for them to use. Or bring a portable hotspot (some libraries even allow you to borrow portable hotspots!). Not taking a hotspot? Download books, movies, and offline content before you leave home.
Prepare a travel tote for each child
Put together a plastic bin for each child that includes everything they'll need on the road, plus a few surprises that they can keep within reach in the car.
Play a family-friendly audiobook
Find a book or podcast you will all enjoy to wile away the hours.
Get a travel app
We love the RoadTrippers app, which identifies quirky roadside attractions, scenic points, national parks, and more on your route.
Check out this list of 9 family road trip games for the best car trip ever!
The most important thing to pack? Patience. Give yourself (and your kids) some grace and expect things not to go entirely smoothly, no matter how much you've planned. Just remember: Often the best family road trip memories are made when the unexpected occurs!
Kristin Fouts is the publisher of Macaroni KID Hendriks, Ind.