This post is sponsored by Autotrader; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
My family and I are no strangers to travel. Thanks to my husband’s job (he works for a band and travels constantly), we get to take journeys throughout the year to visit or accompany him, both by plane and by car. We also have friends and family throughout the midwest, so it’s road trips that end up being the most frequent type of travel for us. And when it comes to road trips, it’s the holiday season ones that end up being the most unforgettable. There is something especially sentimental about them (there’s a reason “home for the holidays” is such a beloved expression), but they also seem to be the most challenging (which, ultimately, also makes them the most memorable). As we prepare to go visit my sister and her family for the holiday season in a couple of weeks, I thought I’d share some of my tips (from experience!) that make holiday road tripping with kids a success.
1. Prepare your vehicle.
One of the most important tips is something I found via a great article on Autotrader with tips for long holiday road trips: ready your vehicle. This might seem like common sense, but there have been more times than I care to admit that I’ve been in a rush to hit the road and have neglected getting my car trip-ready, only to have something go wrong on the way. Make sure your vehicle is up to date on maintenance and oil changes, that coolant and windshield wiper fluids are full, and that the tire pressure is correct. Run it through the car wash and vacuum the inside as well. The trip will be so much more comfortable for your whole family in a clean vehicle, I promise. And your stress level will be infinitely lower knowing your car is in good shape for travel, especially during these winter months.
2. Bring an extra phone charger.
Yet another reminder I discovered in the holiday road trip article on Autotrader, this tip is one I wish I had years ago. When my youngest was a baby, I took a solo road trip to Indianapolis and my cell charger broke. It was during the holidays, the roads were bad, and I was in the middle of nowhere. Eventually I came across a town and found a place that carried them, but dragging a toddler and newborn out into a snowstorm to buy it was not fun. Especially in case of emergency, having an extra charger in the car is crucial.
3. Pack coloring and activity books and/or a travel journal.
Yes, screens are an easy way to keep the kids occupied, but bringing along more hands-on activities like coloring books for the little ones or travel journals for older kids will make your holiday road trip so much more memorable for them. We recently got the coolest road trip kit called Joy to the Road box from Autotrader that came with a fun Paint By Sticker book (think paint by number without the mess; perfect for the car), Color & Frame book (the kids can make frame-worthy colored art as holiday gifts for loved ones on the trip!), colored pencils, and a travel journal where my daughter can write about each day of the trip. These types of activities are the perfect way to keep the kids occupied while remaining present for the experience of the trip instead of tuning out.
4. Bring snacks. Lots of snacks.
Hell hath no fury like a child who is trapped in a car for hours with no snacks. We try to pack healthy, non-messy snacks (apples, strawberries, apple sauce pouches, crackers, and string cheese), and we also pack some fun holiday themed treats like candy canes and holiday cookies. Snacks are an easy solution to a whole lot of road-tripping-with-kids problems, I promise.
5. Take pictures to create visual memories.
We take a lot of pictures on our phones on holiday road trips (okay, so my husband doesn’t, but I take enough for both of us), and I’m always so thankful later to be able to look back through the visual memories. But there are other ways to take pictures that can make your holiday road trip even more fun. My kids were so excited to receive an Instax Mini 9 camera and film in our Joy to the Road box from Autotrader, and we can’t wait to use it on our trip. We plan to take photos along the way and make a special photo album documenting our journey when we get back.
6. Make the car ride cozy.
If you’re going to be spending hours (or even days) in the car, your might as well make sure you’re comfortable. My kids and I love creating a cozy holiday environment in our van for trips like this. We bring blankets, cozy slippers (I’m loving the comfy snowflake slippers that were included in our Joy to the Road box from Autotrader; Emmett does too, and has claimed them for his own, as seen in the image above), and hot chocolate and coffee (in my new Autotrader Titan Thermal Mug from our Joy to the Road box, which came filled with yummy holiday sweet treats for our journey). We als listen to holiday music the entire way (or at least until it drives my husband crazy).
7. Put a first aid kit in your car.
Maybe you already have one in your car (high fives for thinking ahead!), but until I received one in my Joy to the Road box from Autotrader, I never even thought about it. Mine (from Thrive; it’s so cute) is the perfect glove box size and features a whole bunch of medical grade supplies, and I will never go on a road trip without it again. Vehicle first aid kits are especially important during holiday road trips when winter weather can create unsafe road conditions. And let’s face it, the chances of a kid needing bandage on a road trip are usually pretty high (because they make even the tiniest scratch feel better, right?).
8. Keep hand sanitizer in your vehicle.
Raise you hand if your child always seems to get sick during holiday travels! It’s so easy to pick up germs during the cold months, and travel – whether by road or air – seems to up the chances even more. We keep hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes in our car at all times, and make sure we’re constantly cleaning our hands during holiday road trips.
9. Check the weather and road conditions in advance.
I tend to check the weather on my phone when we’re stopped during trips, but Autotrader’s Long Holiday Road Trip Tips article reminded me of the importance of checking ahead of time, before we hit the road. We’ve been caught off guard with road closures more than once during holiday travels, and while they’re never fun, they’re even more stressful when your little ones are with you. So check the weather before you leave, and use the Federal Highway Administration’s website (as suggested by Autotrader) for road updates.
10. Take breaks.
Another great trip from Autotrader’s Holiday Road Trip Tips article is to take regular breaks. We tend to try to get to our destination as quickly as possible, but it’s safer (and more fun!) to stop occasionally and stretch our legs. (This is also a great time to follow tip #4 and take pictures!) Autotrader suggests stopping at least once every two hours or more frequently if it’s snowing, which can have a hypnotic effect (who knew?). Autotrader also suggests taking frequent breaks during night driving to prevent fatigue and tunnel vision on the highway. Taking breaks to enjoy the journey makes it more fun for everyone as well!
Wherever your holiday road trips bring you, I hope these tips prove helpful! And for more great tips, check out Autotrader’s Holiday Road Trip Tips article and Autotrader’s Best Family-Friendly Car Features for Surviving Road Trips article. Autotrader has always been our go-to to help make car shopping easier, but now they’re also one of our go-tos for making holiday road travel easier too! From their informative articles to their seriously awesome Joy to the Road box, Autotrader is a true Santa’s helper for making holiday road trips stress-free. And as always, Autotrader makes online car buying quick, easy, and trustworthy. They have the widest variety of vehicle options in one place, and they’ve even added Kelley Blue Book Price Advisor to their car listings, so you get the most trusted pricing. The best!
If you have any tips for making holiday road trips with kids a smooth, enjoyable experience, I’d love to hear. Happy holiday travels!