In the past year alone having driven across two American states, clocking up over 2,000 miles, with two young children in tow we spoke to travel writer Zoey and asked her to share her travel essentials and top tips for embracing a family road trip, with the minimum of meltdowns.
Keep Em Quiet Activity Packs
In the past I’ve put together my own entertainment packs for trips, but having recently used the Keep Em Quiet packs, I found them to be much better value and more creative than my humble offerings!
Each pack is tailored to your child’s age and is bursting with toys, puzzles and healthy snacks. Great for flights, car journeys, and general holiday entertainment – our kids are still playing with these packs weeks after we’ve returned from our latest trip.
GOOD TO KNOW: Packs start at £10.99
Hire Bulky Equipment
If you are travelling abroad and don’t want to drag car seats and pushchairs through the airport, then hiring them at your destination can really lighten the load. Most hire companies will drop the equipment either at your hotel or meet you at the airport with - which is handy if you are using an airport hire car.
Many also offer helpful holiday items such as safety gates, baby monitors and a box of toys to keep the little ones entertained.
TOP TIP: Invest In A Pop-Up Travel Cot. If you are staying in multiple locations and don’t want to rely on the hotels for cots, then a good travel cot is essential. The Koo-di Sun and Sleep Pop-Up Travel Cot from Jo Jo Maman Bebe is a fantastic design for traveling tots – it’s easy to assemble, lightweight and folds down into a small bag.
Include Well-Planned Pit Stops
It can be tempting to condense the driving into larger chunks, just so you can just arrive at your destination and relax. However, we’ve learnt the hard way that this is a recipe for disaster with small children, so now schedule in regular breaks where the kids can let off steam and we can all have a leisurely meal.
We recently broke up a long drive by stopping at a hilltop restaurant overlooking Santa Barbara, and after lunch the kids played with my husband on the lawn while I ducked away for a quick massage at the spa. It may sound wildly decadent, but we all got back in the car feeling much happier, and the rest of the journey was a breeze!
Use A Good Journey Planner
Technology is your friend when it comes to a well-planned road trip! The Roadtrippers app is free to use and all you have to do is enter your starting point and destination, and it highlights the places of interest and restaurants on-route.
Similarly, Hertz have developed an interactive route planner that shows the best stop offs for your journey. They have also created a really useful section for American road trips, with 24-unique routes that take in everything from the tried and tested to the weird and wild.
Keep Organised with a Seat Tidy
Our car journeys generally involve toys being scattered across the car and continuous demands for us to find that elusive, missing colouring-in book!
This Brica by Munckin backseat and pushchair organiser helps to tame the chaos, by keeping all the children’s essentials within their reach. It doubles as a good great place to store nappies and wipes when you get to the hotel, and can also be used as a pushchair organiser when you’re not on the road.
Schedule In A Laundry Stop
Travelling light with small people in tow is always challenging, but with some careful planning you can cut the amount of clothes packed in half. During a recent road trip across California, we booked into an apartment with a washing machine halfway through and managed to leave the next day with suitcases filled with freshly washed clothes for the rest of our holiday.
Alternatively, some hotels have laundry rooms where you can wash all your clothing quickly and cheaply. If neither of these options is available, a tube of travel wash and a hotel sink is a handy alternative.
Listen To Audio Stories
If you want to limit screen-time but the endless games of I Spy have run their course, then audio books are a great way to keep kids entertained in the car. Harry Potter and Roald Dahl are always popular choices, or if you’re really inventive then source a story that links in with your destination. Audio books are a really nice way to share a story as a family and also make a long car journey feel so much quicker!
Plug-In Some Noise-Reducing Earphones
If all else fails and the tablet makes an appearance, then them it up with some earphones specifically designed for children. JBL’s 300BT are a great safe option for kids aged between three and ten years as they are fine-tuned for lower sound pressure levels.
The cleverly designed ear cups automatically adjust to children’s ear sizes to create a perfect seal, meaning the whole family doesn’t have to passively listen to reruns of Alvin & The Chipmunks at full volume!