Road Trip Sanity, Part II

Filed under: Activities: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Activities: Big Kids

Last week I confessed that my mood improved and family vacations became a lot more fun when I stopped expecting my husband to read my mind about what needed to happen to get the five of us packed and out the door. Forms and checklists that Bill and I created helped us work together to plan and divvy trip tasks, eliminating much marital strife. (Even this week, years later as we prepare for vacation, we're using the packing checklist we created.)

Shortly after we figured out how to begin our trips on a positive note, I thought, why not do what we can to reach our destination on a positive note instead of secretly wishing we could put the bags in the car and tie our three over-energized boys to the luggage rack? Backseat boredom and disorganization were fodder for fights and frustration, so I began implementing ideas to quell chaos and promote peace. I share a few with you here, along with ideas from other moms who've discovered ways to make family road trips more fun.

This travel box is decorated with stickers. Courtesy of

Turn a cake saver into a travel box that doubles as a lap desk. Let your child personalize a 13x9x2-inch plastic cake storage pan to hold activity books and car-friendly games. Affix a Velcro strip on a corner of the lid and Velcro dots on pens and crayons so they'll be accessible but also stay put during use.

Make footwear findable. Hang a tote bag from the front seat headrest specifically for kids to store their socks and shoes when they take them off.

Make meals less messy. A plastic shoebox works well as a food holder for a child's lap when eating in the car. If something should overturn, the mess will be contained in the box and easier to clean up. (Buy the nesting kind for easier storage when not in use.)

Create a kid-friendly map. Download and print or cut out the portion of a road map with the highways you'll be traveling, then highlight the route with a yellow marker. Glue the map to a piece of cardboard and laminate it with clear contact paper. Kids will enjoy tracking your progress.

Stories along the way. Many moms say DVD players save their sanity, but audiobooks help to pass the time, too. And bring along some joke and brainteaser books. They come in handy while you're waiting for food to be served at a restaurant.

A handy deck. Tyra Damm of Frisco, Texas, mom of Cooper age 6 and Katie 4, says they've gotten a lot of mileage out of a deck of cards called 52 Fun Things to Do in the Car. They also like the alphabet game, where they have to find letters on billboards (not license plates) in alphabetical order. They also set aside time when they can only speak in rhyme.

Phone games. The Greenwood family of Princeton, N.J. created fun games for their own family and turned them in to an iPhone app called Family Car Games with instructions for 100 games families can play in the car.

Window art. Take along Colorforms for young children. They work well on windows.

One last word. As you gather everything you need for your trip and close up your home, relieve last-minute stress by glancing at this Exit Checklist before you leave.

What makes your crazy or saves your sanity on vacations?

Read more tips about being a great mom and Family Manager in The Busy Mom's Guide to a Happy, Organized Home. Free study guide available for download at

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.