Coolkid Roadtrip: California

Roadtrips have become a way for our family to explore a stretch of land between two destinations, instead of the more convenient “fly-over”.  We have become quite accustomed to the trip from Northern to Southern California, and we have taken every road and route connecting these two areas.  On road trips, I have learned many lessons through trial and error.  I hope you can use my experience and mistakes to help make your road trip dreams come true!

DO:  OVERPACK!  Snacks, activities, books, earplugs, chargers, water bottles, blankets, pillows.

DO NOT:  Try to maintain that NSNG diet on said road trips.

DO:  Be flexible!  Allow for time to make necessary and even unnecessary stops along the way.  Being too strict on a time schedule is sure to put you in a funk and your kids will feed off of it.

DO NOT:  Stop so many times that a 6 hour drive turns into an 11 hour drive.  Keep the stops purposeful and slightly hurried.  The more the stops, the quicker they must be.  We typically make one long stop, about an hour or so, and charge through the rest of the way.

DO:  Break your own rules for the sake of peace.  Junk food, electronics, juice boxes, heck slurpies even!  This is not daily life and should not be treated as such.  The vacation starts now.

DO NOT:  Think you will pack homemade food only and WILL not eat FAST FOOD!  Good luck.  I’ve tried and failed at this many times.  I pack a few healthy snacks packed with protein and know the inevitable drive thru is on the horizon.

DO:  Embrace the crazy.  These are the days of your lives, the memories being made in your children’s hearts and minds, try to be peaceful and no matter how WRONG everything goes, keeping a happy attitude will make it better, I promise.

DO NOT:  Lose your patience on minute 27 and consider everything a failure.  The tides ebb and flow – happiness one minute, screaming the next, sleeping a few minutes later.  Its all par for the road trip course.

Life is about the journey, as are road trips.  If you have your head right and can let things roll off your back, the entire car will thank you and have that much more fun!

Here are some of my tips when preparing for a road trip with my FIVE kids:

It all starts with being prepared – snacks, electronics, books, handheld card games, music, and did I mention snacks?!  It isn’t all about WHAT you pack, though that does matter, but HOW you hand out the aforementioned distractions that counts.

Snacks:  I usually put together snack boxes and bags for the kids, always including treats we don’t often get at home mixed with protein and more filling items.  Hard boiled eggs, carrots/celery and hummus dip, trail mix, and sandwiches are the staples.  Pepper that in with dry junky cereal, yogurt tubes, various cut up fruit, gummies, and lollipops, and you give yourself a chance at a successful, scream free car trip.

Books:  Usually the older kids are already reading a chapter book of their choice (or mine lol), but the little boys still need mama to read to them.  My solution is the light literature formula of open the flap, touch and feel, and sound making books.  Things the little boys can do on their own make for a mama that doesn’t have to scale the carseats going from front to back of the vehicle during this drive.  They may only buy a few minutes of peace, but could offer just enough distraction to put your little one to sleep for a nice nap.

Games:  We have tried them all, car bingo, hangman, the animal guessing game, I spy, etc. These verbal games sometimes provide just enough change of pace to engage the entire car!

Ipads/Ipods/Etc:  These are a last resort for our family.  Yes, our kids do play on these devices.  However, it is not the first offering and is treated as an emergency rescue device.  Make sure you have lots of new/educational/interesting games downloaded to keep their minds active and engaged.

You are PREPARED!  Now, how do we set this trip up for success?  Its all in the way items are distributed….

Usually we begin the road trip with the typical “look out the window and enjoy the scenery” mantra.  Our journey usually begins close to sunrise, providing lots of beautiful light and new perspective for the kids.  The earlier the better!

The first handout is the healthy sustaining foods – if they are truly hungry, they will eat!  Unbeknownst to them, we have bags of the good stuff lying in wait.  If they know about the junky treats, they will NOT eat the healthy items.  Use junk as an “ace up the sleeve” to brighten moods and as a distraction.

Typically I alternate between food and activity, until the children are about to lose it.  That’s where the iPad comes in handy.  Usually I am able to keep the natives busy for a solid 3 hours before the electronics come out of hiding.  The pads/pods can easily decimate another hour or two.  Then a stop is necessary, and inevitably a potty break.  This resets the cycle of food/activity.

If you are driving from Northern to Southern California, beware, there are not many quality locations to stretch.  We typically make it through to Valencia, then hit the Walmart/Marshalls center and waste 60 minutes and $60 at least.

Best wishes on your next adventure!

CoolKid Mama


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