Long Road Trip... Need Advice

Updated on March 07, 2010
G.K. asks from Sandy, UT
18 answers

We are taking our kids (2 and 4.5) to San Diego the first part of May. I am very excited but at the same time a little panicked. We decided to drive, a 12 hour drive I might add. We will be spendin the night in Las Vegas to break the trip up on the way there and on the way back. Does anyone have any good advice for such a long road trip? I have a DVD player but my kids are so active that the TV just doesn't hold their attention to long. In San Diego we are going to Sea World and the zoo. Does anyone have any other suggestions as to things we should do or see or places to eat. Anything will be helpful. Thanks.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Oh, and as for the driving at night thing - we never do that anymore after having minimal success. In fact, it usually completely backfires on us and we all end up miserable. Neither of my kids sleep well in their car seats, and we generally just end up messin' up their schedules. Just plan to have lots of games, entertainment in the car as others have suggested, and stop a lot.

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answers from Denver on

I'm assuming the beach is on your list somewhere?? The beach is free and provides *endless* entertainments for the kids.

I grew up in SD and we just visited as tourists with the kids in Oct. We made a point of going to SeaWorld since they have Shamu; it was a hit. Otherwise we mainly visited the beaches and the kids were ecstatic.
La Jolla Shores: Big, long beach with nearby restaurants. Lots of room to play. Lots of parking
Scripps Beach: right next to La Jolla Shores, but when the tide is low you can visit the tidepools. If you stop at the Birch Aquarium on the way to the beach (they open at 9) you can learn about shore life and then go see it in person. How cool is that?
Coronado beach: HUGE wide open beach. Can visit Hotel Del Coronado or Star of India if they want to see a pirate ship, or USS Midway the big Aircraft Carrier on the way.
Swami Beach: Nice gardens nearby, huge cliffs, lots of fun.
Solana Beach: small intimate beach, there is a playground right near the entrance.
Del Mar: has a dog beach. It's fun to watch the dogs play
Childrens Beach in La Jolla: watch the seals and sea lions
Ocean Beach: Quirky people, near Sea World

The Zoo is very, very nice. But it's built on a hill so there is a LOT of up and down. And to be honest, it's the same animals you'd find at any zoo. For the price, IMHO, it's just not that worth it.

The only thing I will warn you of: May Grey and June Gloom. SD gets it's gloomiest weather in Apr/May/June. The clouds build up overnight and it takes until midafternoon for them to burn off. July/Aug/Sept thru Mid Oct are the nicest months to visit since it's so sunny.

For restaurants. Roberto's is the best cheap mexican food ever, lots of locations. El Indio on Grape St near the airport. Chicken Pot Pie Shop in Hillcrest -there are tons of great other restaurants there too. The cheese shop in LJ Shores and Downtown. It's an icon.

Have a good trip!



answers from Denver on

Maybe someone has already suggeted something similiar (haven't checked) but something that has been a blessing for us on long trips with small people has been the 'Vacation Fairy".When my first was little and before we had a dvd player option, I actually kept a black garbage bag stashed somewhere in the car with small items from the dollar store, wrapped. A box of crayons and a coloring book, a lollipop, a sticker activity book...And I could say, after a potty stop and when she did NOT want to get back in that carseat, "Maybe the vacation fairy left us something while we were gone..." She was excited to get back in and see what it was. Now that I have four kids, we don't wrap anything but it is still fun to see their reaction. It has been a book on tape from the library, a bag of pretzels for all of us to share or a card game or a seek and find book that the older kids can help the little ones 'read' And the Fairy shows up when I say she does. My daughter would say, "I think I hear her! The fairy came! Let's look!" and I get to say, No, I don't think so, not yet! You know, to space it out until we're almost there! Sounds kinda silly but it has really helped the drive be more of an adventure!



answers from Tulsa on

You will have to stop evey 2 hours for a play stop or a snack or a meal.

If you think about time out, 1 minute per year of age. Why do you think that is? Why not just make it 10 minutes for a 2 yr. old and a 5 yr. old? Kids process time differently than adults and it is torture for them to be expected to sit for hours and hours until they are older. Even at night, how well do you think you would sleep if you were strapped into a seat with minimal padding and not allowed to turn over or adjust your hiney off the hard seat?

When we travel we just factor that in to our trip. Even if you do travel at night you still need to stop for a few hours and let everyone go to bed for a while.

We use city maps and find parks for our play stops. We eat at places like McDonalds with playgrounds and we buy/pack healthy food for our snacks. Fresh fruit and whole grain crackers or PB on whole wheat type things. If you can't find a public park on a map, it may be a small town and not show them, then find an elementary school. That will work in a pinch.

Road trips are awesomely fun and can be the best experiences a child can remember. It's just up to you to plan it so it's fun and entertaining.



answers from Pueblo on

When we were in San Diego, we really enjoyed the Wild Animal Park. We enjoyed it more than the zoo. My oldest also like Belmont park, an amusement park by the beach. Enjoy your trip.



answers from Denver on

The only problem with driving at night is if your child wakes up and needs to go potty. There's not much between here and SD. My friends made the drive between SD and AZ recently, and have to convince a security guard at a casino to let them in to use the bathroom, b/c that was their only option.

I agree with the others... Balboa Park, the Tide Pools, Point Loma, Coronado Island Beach, Legoland, SeaWorld, the Zoo, Wild Animal Park, the aircraft carrier downtown... there's tons of good kid places in SD. (I lived there for 3 years.)

If you can, try and stay on the beach. Some of the places on Mission Bay have good deals, like the Catamaran and the Hilton. Don't stay in Mission Valley. It's boring and there's nothing for the kids to do. If you're on the beach, perhaps your hubby can take the kids down to play while you get a few minutes to yourself.


answers from Gainesville on

i posted one just like this but im goin to wva from fl. and the moms on here have great advice so if you want to look at the one i posted you can it should say something a bout 12 hour trip need advice for entertainment.but some of them said a goody bag let them pack it them self and if you want to go the the dollar store and pic of a few new small toys and give them a new one every couple hours then they will have something new to play with that is ne.my 4 yr old is active to and we boght her a light up bored that you color on i forget the name of it but you can get it at walmart or target pretty cheap.but if you want to get more advice you could look at the one i posted


i posted one just like this but im goin to wva from fl. and the moms on here have great advice so if you want to look at the one i posted you can it should say something a bout 12 hour trip need advice for entertainment.but some of them said a goody bag let them pack it them self and if you want to go the the dollar store and pic of a few new small toys and give them a new one every couple hours then they will have something new to play with that is ne.my 4 yr old is active to and we boght her a light up bored that you color on i forget the name of it but you can get it at walmart or target pretty cheap.but if you want to get more advice you could look at the one i posted



answers from Salt Lake City on

We did this trip just last year and you will have a fun time! I'd recommend checking out the tide pools at La Jolla Beach. They are free and amazing. You can see some awesome sea life if you get there while the tide is low. If not at least you can play on the beach and have fun. A couple of suggestions for the ride is check your local library for books on CD and play a few of those. Sometimes they have fun kid music to play as long as they don't make you go insane. Play "I Spy" with the kiddos...spot something on the road and discribe it while they guess what you see. Sometimes we even discribe things/people in the car. You can play 20 questions. I'd recommend getting out of the car to run around every few hours. Looks like you go a lot of good recommendations. Have a fun time!!



answers from El Paso on

I make these seek and find bags and that keeps the kids intertained...Coloring books, when you feed them give them turkey so they will get tired and go to sleep...Or sing..



answers from Los Angeles on

Look into Legoland, it is just north of San Diego but is great for that age group. Balboa park is another great place lots of hands on museums and such... Birch aquariam in La Jolla, Ca and Belmont Park in Mission Beach are also fun. Unfortunately places to eat are about the same in all towns it seems these days... Dave and Busters is always a hit with our kids, there is a place called "spaghetti factory" in the gaslamp quarter that is also really good (I think it is a chain also, but still pretty good). Old town has a lot of great Mexican food resturants also. Hope you have a great time, San Diego is a wonderful town!!



answers from Denver on

Leo Land!!! My husband would be so sad we we went all the way to San Diego and not visit Lego Land!



answers from Salt Lake City on

You have gotten some great ideas on things to do for the drive. I just wanted to add a side note since we just made this same trip just after X-mas. (only we flew.) $550 round trip air fare for a family of 4. Also if you have not already gotten your tickets to the zoo and seaworld check out costco.com we got tickets there that included a five day unlimited pass for San Diego Zoo, The Wild animal park and Seaworld. They were about $360 for all four of us. They included alot of extras like a wild safari tour at the animal park as well as the sky ride at the zoo. We went to each place for a whole day adding in a day at Coronado Beach (FREE) and on our last day when we asked the kids which place they would like to re-visit, since our passes were good for one more day, they wanted to go back to the beach. It was a great trip 84 degrees on New Yrs Day at Sea world (it was 20 degrees in SLC when we left) Hope you have fun!!! San Diego is BEAUTIFUL!!!



answers from Denver on

Wild animal park is close, as is legoland. Depending on how long u are staying Disneyland is about 1-1/2 hours away without traffic.


answers from Salt Lake City on

I read through some of the suggestions, good ones! We like Lego Land and the beach. Scripts is fun, too.

As for in-car entertainment, I love giving my kids Color-forms to stick on the car windows. They clean up in a hurry and don't leave any sticky mess. And you can use them again and again.

As a side note, color-forms really freak out flight attendants if you let your kids stick them on the airplane windows! :) Always good for a little laugh!

good luck and have fun!




answers from Los Angeles on

I grew up in the San Diego area and I love the Wild Animal Park. It is about a 45 minute drive from the zoo and Sea World (basically another day trip). The WIld Animal Park and the San DIego Zoo are both owned by the San Diego Zoological Society. You can learn more about both from their website: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/

The Zoo itself is within Balboa Park, which is huge and has lots of things to do. On the day you go to the zoo, make sure to check out the carousel nearby. You can spend another whole day at the park checking out the 15 or so museums there, the green spaces and playgrounds. My favorite museum for kids is the Ruben H Fleet Space Center and the Natural History Museum. Here is a link for the park: http://www.balboapark.org/

While you are in the area, you should also check out Legoland. This is a fantastic amusement park for little kids. Bring bathing suits and towels for the kids because they have a water zone area (lots of those fountains that squirt up out of the ground.) Here is the link: http://www.legoland.com/California.htm

As for your long drive, I am afraid I am not much help. My kids are restless travelers also. I find they will sit still and watch TV longer in the car because there is nothing else to do, but still we need to stop every two hours or so to let them burn off some energy.



answers from Los Angeles on

You will want to eat at the Guadalajara Restaurant in Old Town if you and your kids like Mexican Food!

You will also want to spend some time at Mission Bay and take a drive through the Paradise Point Hotel. It is absolutely beautiful.



answers from San Diego on

If you can do it, I'd recommend driving at night. The last time we drove from San Diego to San Francisco, we left right around my son's bedtime. He quickly fell asleep and stayed asleep the entire eight-hour ride. When we've attempted this drive during the day, he would get bored and we'd have to stop every few hours just to let him run around and blow off steam. It definitely made the trip a lot longer. The downside, of course, to driving at night is that the adults have to stay awake. But I just popped in a book on tape, and it was fine.

As far as San Diego, you already got a suggestion for Balboa Park. They also have a model railroad museum that most kids usually like. There is also a little train by the zoo that the kids can ride. The Flower Fields in Carlsbad will be open until May 9 (www.theflowerfields.com). There are also strawberry fields you can visit to pick your own strawberries in Carlsbad. The Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island is also worth a visit. You can rent bikes or a surrey and bike through downtown Coronado and down the Silver Strand. Also, if you're a baseball fan, take in a Padres game at Petco Park. They have a little "Park at the Park" that you can set up a blanket and just let the kiddos run around if you don't think they'll sit still enough in the stands.

Have fun!



answers from Indianapolis on

We are going from Indiana to Oregon in about 18 days. This should be about a 3 day trip and we have a 2 & 4 yr old. We've got lots of things planned to help them. My husband is going to drive as far as possible at night. During the day it will be my job to make progress, but not a huge necessity. We have a list of EVERY McDonalds play place on our route, and plan to use alot of them.

As for car entertainment...I am making these cookie sheet chalkboards (get an old or cheap cookie sheet, do a few coats of chalkboard paint). Personally I am going to glue felt to the bottom so it will be quieter. These are magnetic, so you can then buy alphabet magnets or whatever other magnets you can find for them to play with. I've also been collecting small cheap coloring books, drawing pads, toys, books, ect. We are seperating them into different little boxes/bags, and they will get a new "set" every day. Within that set, we also have a new dvd for each day, some new, some recorded off tv.

Our kids don't normally get many processed snacks, so we also have stocked up on goldfish, fruit snacks, animal crackers, and juice boxes.

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