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16+ HOUR road trip with a Toddler and Preschooler {1 of 2}

Those of you with children may know how hard it can be to travel when they are young. I've been on a few long trips with kids including an 8 hour plane ride from England when my oldest was 9 months old, a 15 hour trip (divided between 2 days) when we moved 2 years ago, and a 10 hour trip when we moved again a year ago.

A few of those trips ended up being a total nightmare. I was not prepared for the temper tantrums, and nonstop crying from two kids who were bored out of their mind after sitting in a car seat for several hours. 

We recently took another trip this last week and I was not about to make the same mistake again. I did some quick research on the internet and found a ton of great ideas and also came up with a few of my own. 
I am happy to report that my plan was a total success. The kids did not fight at all, there were no tantrums, and the only crying I heard the entire trip was when my oldest was having trouble finding a comfortable position to sleep in and even that lasted only a couple minutes. 

Want to know how I did it?

I was originally going to make this all one post but there is just way to much information so I am going to divide it into 2 sections. This section I will talk about a few tips and tricks that helped our road trip run smoothly as well as some fun snack options. Tomorrow I give you all the details about the games and activities I used to keep the girls entertained.

Normally we would have broken the trip into 2 days but since we were short on time we decided to make the trip in one day. The best advice I have for taking a trip this long with young kids is to drive at night. That way the kids can sleep for most of the trip. We left around 3 pm and since hubby had to work night shift the week before, he was used to staying up all night and therefor did most of the driving. The kids ended up sleeping for a good 8-9 hours during our trip.

I found this image of an explorer online, printed it out and colored it red to look like ours. Jocelyn drew pictures of us in the window. Using a long strip of paper I rolled it into a long tub and then flattened and glued it to the back of the paper car. I thread a ribbon through the tube and tied the ends of the ribbon to the hooks in our car. Using a sharpie I made 16 marks across the length of the ribbon. Every hour that went by I would move the car down one mark. This put an end to the never ending "Are we there yet?" question. The kids knew that we would not be at our destination until the car reached the other end of the ribbon.

Using some scrap fabric and plastic sandwich bags, I put together this "essentials" holder. I cut two pieces of fabric the width of one sandwich bag and the length is equal to two sandwich bags. Sewed them right sides together then turned them inside out. I did the same for the strap with two pieces of 1 1/2" by 7" of fabric. I then sewed one end of the strap onto the larger piece of  fabric. I sewed a small square of velcro onto the anther end of the strap and a longer piece of velcro to the other side of the larger piece of fabric. Then I placed a sandwich bag on one side zipper facing out and another sandwich bag on the other side with the zipper facing in the opposite direction. The bottom of the sandwich bags overlapped by about an inch in the center of the fabric. I laid down more bags, alternating in direction until I had about 20 bags then I sewed them all down to the fabric.
I was in a rush so it is not perfect. One day I will make a better one and give you all a real tutorial. But seriously, this thing is amazing. You won't believe how much it holds. In this one I was able to hold...

  1. 16 band aids (4 each of 4 different sizes.)
  2. A pill container that holds a few each of Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Tums
  3. Halls throat drops and 4 suckers.
  4. Hubby's inhaler (which he never uses but I keep it around just in case)
  5. 4 AA batteries and 4 AAA batteries for the mini flashlights I keep in the car and in my purse.
  6. Comb, hair bands, and hair clips.
  7. Mini box of strike anywhere matches.
  8. A 5 dollar bill, three 1 dollar bills and $2 in change.
  9. Eye glass repair kit (mini screw driver and screws)
  10. 6 folded up plastic grocery bags.
  11. 10 floss picks.
  12. Black pen, blue pen, and a pencil.
  13. An old chap stick container that was cleaned out and now used as a toothpick holder.
  14. Chap stick and travel sized bottle of lotion.
  15. 10 Q-tips.
  16. Fingernail Clippers and tweezers.
  17. A few baby wipes.
  18. Leftover McDonald's paper towels.
  19. Antibiotic ointment and alcohol wipes
  20. Mini sewing kit, buttons, and 4 safety pins. 

Phew!! I feel like I am prepared for anything! And the best part is that this all fits nicely into the center console. It is out of the way yet easy to get to when needed.

During our 16 hour road trip, we wanted to stop as little as possible. This meant that the kids would be getting drinks and snacks while in the car. To minimize messes I made each one of them an over-sized bib from a couple of hand towels. Each one took me about 5 minutes to make. From the top, I cut a slit about 3-4 inches down the cent of the towel and then another slit across the towel large enough to wrap around their neck. I did a quick zig-zag stitch around the edges to keep it from fraying and sewed a piece of velco onto each flap.
These were easy enough for the kids to put them on by themselves before they were allowed to have any snacks or drinks. Luckily we only had one small spill during the entire trip and the bib soaked up the entire mess.

A lot of the bickering in our car comes from the girls fighting with each other. I hear a lot of "Stop looking at me." and "This is my window, you can't look out it." this is often accompanied be sticking out their tongues at each other and making other mean faces until someone gets mad and starts screaming or crying. The solution I came up with to put an end to this was to hang a divider between the two. This did not stay up the entire trip, just for an our or two when the kids started getting cranky and I thought they may need a break from each other. I bought a window valance and curtain set at a yard sale a few years back because I loved the bright and colorful fabric. The valance ended up being the perfect length and width for this project. I sewed a few strips of velcro (the side with the hooks) down one side of the fabric and that was it. The velcro stuck right to the top of the car and provided and instant divider between the two girls. It also came down very easy and did not ruin the car at all.


In my opinion, snacks are essential on any road trip. I know some parents don't allow food in their car and honestly, I don't know how they do it. I noticed that my kids are much calmer when they have on hand. And I trade temper tantrums for vacuuming crumbs out of my car any day. However, I am very picky about the food that my kids eat while on a road trip. It can't be too messy. anything gooey or sticky is out of the question. I also don't want them getting to hyper so I try to choose snacks that are low in sugar or have no sugar. Also with my kids allergies, it has to be gluten free. Here is a list of the snacks that we took on our trip.

  1. Almonds
  2. Raisins
  3. Popcorn
  4. Gluten free crackers
  5. Dried apricots
  6. Homemade dried apple chips (see recipe below)
  7. Go Go squeeZ applesauce
  8. Corn chips
  9. Chex Cereal 
  10. Jerky
Homemade Dried Apple Chips
  • Turn oven onto the lowest setting (mine goes down to 175* you may need to adjust the bake time depending on your own oven)
  • Peel and core apples
  • Cut into quarters
  • Cut each quarter into 1/4 inch slices
  • Spread slices out on a cookie sheet and back for 2-4 hours

 These were probably the biggest hit during the trip. They are healthy, have no added sugar, do not leave a huge mess, and were amazingly delicious.

UPDATE: Click HERE to view part 2

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  1. i love this! you have some fabulous ideas :)

  2. Wow, you are so brave! I cringe at the idea of a measely 4 hour trip to visit my parents with our two kids. Great tips for traveling with kiddos though. Love the fabric to separate them :)

  3. These are great tips! I wish I had them before we had to drive from Kansas to NC for a move a couple years ago! One thing I do on longer trips is make up goodie bags of dollar store toys in paper lunch bags. Then when my boys get antsy I just pass back a bag and enjoy the quiet as they play!


  4. You are gifted and talented!

  5. You're a very resourceful person indeed!

  6. I need some help Im moving from mass to indi i do have 2 1/2 yeard little man we planning on doing fist day 10 hours why i should bring to this trip he is very pickey when comes to food he still eating banana in bany food chips and alots milk has to be warm he doesnt like it cold im sure i have to buy one this things warm the milk with the ligther hook please help any sujestions ?

  7. Fantastic idea! We featured this in our most recent article :)

    Keep up the awesome work !!!

  8. You've been featured on Whistlin' Wednesday on Be Wit'n Wise!

    Thanks for being so awesome and sharing your awesomeness online!

  9. I just found this and I love your ideas! We are going on a 17 hour trip with 3 kids 5 and under in a few weeks. Glad I found you on Pinterest!!

  10. Thanks for all these ideas! We are movin from washington to Virginia in the spring and have two kids..6 and 4 and these will definitely help in the trip across the country.

  11. I love these ideas and will implement most of them on our vacation next month. I'm wondering if you would be willing to share the i-spy game sheet? I'd love to just print one out and not have to remake it! Thanks!

  12. Love these. Can you tell us how you fastened the divider? I believe this may be the solution to no naps! Thanks!

  13. Love these. Can you tell us how you fastened the divider? I believe this may be the solution to no naps! Thanks!

  14. We regularly make a 12 hr trip each yr with our daughter who is now almost 6. She has a travel bag with the usual books, crayons& paper but I also surprise her with a felt board from the dollar store, a puzzle with a hard back. Finger puppets,stencils, pipe cleaners and magnetic letters on a small cookie sheet are great too. She has her pillow & blanket for comfort. I dress her in patterns. They don't show spills as much.

  15. We regularly make a 12 hr trip each yr with our daughter who is now almost 6. She has a travel bag with the usual books, crayons& paper but I also surprise her with a felt board from the dollar store, a puzzle with a hard back. Finger puppets,stencils, pipe cleaners and magnetic letters on a small cookie sheet are great too. She has her pillow & blanket for comfort. I dress her in patterns. They don't show spills as much.

  16. Keep it up!! You have done the nice job having provided the latest information.
    vietnam travel

  17. Wow...this is pretty good. We are planing a road trip from California to Montana in a few weeks with our 2 and 4 years old. I am a little nervious on how this will work out ...we plan to make a few stops on the way. Thanks for the advise I will use some of the tips for sure

  18. Thank you Anon. You'll have to let me know if you use any of these ideas and how they work out for you.

  19. Thanks for all of your ideas! I am getting ready for a trip with a 5 and 2 year old so these will definitely come in handy :)


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