REALLY Long Car Rides with Kids

Updated on January 18, 2011
L.M. asks from Kingston, MA
14 answers

We're considering taking my almost three year old, and 10 month old on a trip this spring. No biggie, right? Well, we're thinking of driving instead of flying, and the car ride (without stops) would be about 18 hours). Anyone have tips on the best time of day/night to travel and how to keep the kids from going crazy in the car?

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answers from Kalamazoo on

Plan on eating while your in the car ( I mean, you're already sitting down right) and then use stops to go potty and stretch legs. Take a ball to kick around at a rest stop or somewhere. And if you don't already have one, invest in a DVD player for you 3yr old. Also, alot of it depends on your attitude. If you're stressed, the kids WILL cry. You might need to sit in the backseat with them for awhile to help entertain them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Driving at night worked well on one occasion and on another it was an absolute nightmare for us! We vowed never again. We have taken m ore than one outrageously long trip with our kids. I did this trip by myself this summer. It really wasn't a horrible trip. It went rather well. I went tot he dollar store and stocked up on "Surprises". When the kids got cranky or fussy, I pulled out a new toy. It may have only entertained them for a few minutes, but the tantrums we usually averted. Obviously we had plenty of snacks. I also bough lap trays for my kids that strapped to the car seat. They were $9 at Target. Now they were soft, so they wouldn't hurt the kids in an accident, so they could not color on them. But they were fantastic for playing on. My daughter used them to play with some animal figures and my son played Batman and cars on them. The sides were raised, so I didn't hear about falling toys every 10 minutes...they were truly life savers. We stopped fairly often. I brought a ball that we would kick around at rest stops. And we had lunches and meals at places with playgrounds. I also got an mp3 player for my son. It was a simple one with only one button (I found it online for $5). I bought noise reducing headphones and a splitter so his sister who was 1 at the time could listen. They love the novelty of having their "own" music. We also had a DVD player, which came in handy, but my kids were less interested in watching movies than I would have liked. GL! Safe travels.

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answers from Chicago on

We drive back and forth to my hometown in MI from Chicago, and it's about 5 1/2 hrs one way, if the roads are clear and there aren't any big traffic hangups or construction detours. My son has always done really well in the car with a few exceptions. I find that if we travel when it's dark outside, he usually sleeps most of the way. I know that your entire trip won't be at night, but try to do most of it that way so that the kids will sleep. Then, make sure you have some travel games, coloring books, snacks, and a portable DVD player to keep them busy during awake hours. Keep a small bag handy for quick diaper changes at rest stops, and make sure everybody gets to stretch their legs every few hours. Bring pillows too, you and your hubby will want to rest your head as well, and you won't need a stiff neck to start off your vacation! Have fun!



answers from Boston on

BTDT many times when my children were that small.
We would go to bed early, put them in the car around 4am and start the journey.... when they woke around 6am... stop for as long as we could until someone complained their behind was falling asleep in the car seat.... get out... snack, run around break (thank god for mcdonald's play spaces!!... or rest area parks) and so on.
The invention of videos in cars (now dvds in cars) was a GOD SEND! Utilize it! Most of all... Have Fun!!


answers from Detroit on

Ok, 2 summers ago we went on a road trip from MI to TX. One way it took 18 hrs plus and the other 21 hrs (different route) The kids were 3 & 5 years. Last year it was MI to TN (10 hrs).

1. Pack the car the day before, sleep at a decent hour and leave at 4am
- It is less hectic when everything is ready and driving this early is real
ideal. There is hardly any traffic and the kids for the most part sleep
plus by the time the sun is up, you already had a few hours in your trip.

2. Prepare 2 totes. 1 for their toys or movies and another for their snacks

3. Make sure the kids are comfy.

Road trips are not as hard as most people think. The kids get lulled to sleep by the motion of the car most times. Just remember that getting there is half the fun. So some little stops, stretch out and have a wonderful trip.


answers from Phoenix on

We have driven everywhere we have gone. AZ to CO, Sacremento, New Mexico, Wyoming.... my kids did really well. Even when they were young.

We had to stop every 4 hours of coarse. But when they were little, we brought the potty chair and was pretty organized with food and movies, story on tape. By the time they were done with that, we found they slept a lot. It is all about your kids and how they handle stuff. Many moms think it won't work, but then they surprise you on how good they are.

Happy Travels.



answers from Oklahoma City on

You will have to face the facts and decide to stop frequently. Kids have no awareness of time and they just know they are being forced to sit for extended periods of time. We take lots of roads trips and have since the kids were 1 and up. They are 3, 7, 7, and 10 right now. We travel with myself, my hubby, my BFF, our 2 grandkids ages 4 and 7, and my BFF's kids ages 7 and 10. When i plan the trip I look for parks, McDonalds or other places to eat with playgrounds, any type of business that caters to children.

Kids need the activity after sitting for even 2 hours. When the kids were younger we stopped every 2 hours for potty breaks and either a meal or a snack and play time. It kept everyone sane and gave everyone the opportunity to stretch their legs. For example, driving from OKC to Tulsa, a 2 hour trip. We would get on the turnpike heading East and the planned stop would be at the midway point at McDonalds. The kids could get out and potty, the adults could move around too, the kids get a snack, and off to Tulsa. When reaching Tulsa the first stop is a bathroom and running around area. It can be a park that has a playground or just a grassy area.

If I was planning atrip across country I imagine we would do some driving late at night when the kiddos are asleep but still, everyone will be cranky the next day due to not getting good sleep and their bodies would not be rested very well. I would only do that on a trip that was like yours. One day to a certain point then stop overnight then drive the next day until we go there. But plan on a lot more time due to the stops.

Just imagine what your baby will be feeling after 19 hours of being strapped to his/her car seat and not being able to sit up and do anything. She/he needs to have frequent stops to get up and move around.

Just plan it out, plan stops, take activities, plan on moving around in the vehicle so you can spend time with each child and play with them, like coloring with the 3 year old, they would enjoy that. There are many things you can do to lighten the travel stress to them.

There are a lot of sites that give good ideas too, I have them saved in my favorites, well, the ones I thought had the best solutions/ideas for us. Here is what yahoo search pulled up when I searched for planning a road trip with kids.



answers from Denver on

don't bet on the sleeping part. we listened to that and so at 12 months old, we took my oldest on a 700 mile trip. left at bedtime, he fell asleep, then woke up 4 hours later in the middle of nowhere. one full hour of screaming before we got to a hotel and he didn't go back to sleep until 5 a.m.
so, my suggestion is to go during the day and maintain routines as much as much as possible. feed at normal times, insist on eyes closed at nap times (for the 3-yr old). we put one adult in the back with the kid(s) and did normal play - book reading, puppet stories, favorite toys, etc. expect to take 25-50% longer because you will make more stops and they will take MUCH longer. take plenty of healthy snacks. we always have a portable dvd player but use it sparingly - usually the last hour or two is it.
really consider the cost of driving versus flying. 1500 miles or so each way at the real cost of 50 cents a mile (based on IRS allowed deduction) and you're looking at $750 each way. if you just look at gas and oil changes (the minimum you need to consider), you're looking at $150 or so for gas each way or $300 total plus $30 or so for an oil change. add in a hotel each way and you've just added another $200 plus all the meals. if your car is leased, you need to consider the cost of that mileage too. plus there's the cost of your time (2 days on each end versus 1 for travel) and the fact that you and hubby will be exhausted the first day or two at your location, particularly if you try to drive at night.
we do tons of driving but that's mostly because our relatives all live far from major airports and it takes just as long to fly as it does to drive and it is insanely expensive to fly to little outlying airports. if flying is an option and tickets are less than $300 a pop, I'd fly.
have fun on your trip!


answers from Biloxi on

We drove to Ohio, from south Mississippi, when my boy was about 3 years old about 15 hours. We left at night when he was already asleep so we where able to drive un-interrupted for about 6-7 hours. When he woke up we stopped, had breakfast, play time, and diaper change. Then Dad drove and I sat in the backseat with him and helped to entertain him. We did the rest of trip in about three hour increments, stopping to eat, stretch, play, and diaper. Of course, Dad and I were exhausted when we got there - but we just handed him off to relatives and I went and took a nap.
We came home the same way - starting after his bedtime.

It really was not that bad. I actually find him harder to travel with now that he is 14 - tho' he still tends to sleep in the car really well. LOL

Have a fun and safe trip!



answers from Wichita on

we have a dvd player for our car and it made our car trips much much more enjoyable.



answers from Boston on

We always drive. Take some small new toys that will keep the older one busy. Leave right after you finish dinner. If you don't want to travel during the night start your drive at about 4 am. Drive until the kids wake up and stop for breakfast. Where are you planning on going. I migh be ale to help with places to stop and see along the way. Also you might want to break it up into two days of driving.



answers from Johnstown on

We drive to Florida every year atleast once, sometimes 2 or 3x and it's an 18 hr drive w/out stops. Travel at night. The kids will sleep and you'll have less trafic. A dvd player helps for the daytime hours. Stop at rest areas and allow them to blow off some steam. Some of the rest areas have really nice playgrounds now too for this very purpose. Take snacks and drinks and then stop to eat a decent meal for breakfast. Enjoy your trip!



answers from Boston on

My husband and I drove to the outer banks this passed summer with our two year old and infant who was three months at the time. We drove overnight and found it worked the absolute best. We stopped halfway at a relatives to sleep, and we ended up getting stuck in traffic during the day, and it was definitely more of a challenge. On the way back we just drove straight through. It was harder on us(sleep deprived obviously) but the best way for the kids. Bring lots of new, interesting toys and activities/music, sit in the back seat with them and take lots of breaks. Good luck!



answers from Erie on

My kids LOVED listening to books on tape-
John Lithgow has some cute ones, Arlo Guthrie, and we always found some Thomas ones. Plus a lullaby cd and a sing along cd. Family fun at its best

I would buy a few new toys and also take a few well loved toys and wrap them up in tissue paper and dole them out every five hours or so

stickers are great too just peel them all off later.

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