By Nadine Bubeck,
When I was two, we moved from Philadelphia to California. My dad flew cross country, and my mom decided to drive me and my sisters. I was a toddler, and my sisters were young kids, so this was quite the endeavor considering we had no cell phones, no Google, and no navigation. My mom somehow planned and mapped everything to a tee. Fast forward more than 30 years and we have everything at our fingertips. Somehow that go-getting travel gene runs in my blood, so our family’s motto is to “take the trip.” If you’re planning a family trip, here are some travel hacks for hitting the open road.
If you’re traveling to national parks, there’s a cool app called GyPSY Guide. The narrated driving tour app uses your location to automatically play entertaining and educational commentary about your location (like notable areas in Yellowstone, the Tetons, etc.). It’s interesting for truly learning about the areas you’re exploring.
Go back to the basics.
When we were young, we occupied ourselves in the car with a notebook and crayons. As simple as it sounds, get word search books, Mad Libs, crosswords puzzles, and similar activities for kids. It’s easy, affordable, and a stimulating way to keep long drives screen-free.
Create a car schedule.
I have three young boys and I’m admittedly not a fan of the iPad. On trips, I often drive nine or more hours at a time, so I try to create some sort of plan. For example, the first hour we listen to different genres of music, then they watch a DVD, the next hour is quiet time, coloring time, etc. I also love conversation starter cards for families. Check out Table Topics; they give families ideas/topics to discuss.
Do your due diligence.
The pandemic has changed the travel industry. Spend time pre-planning and pack plenty of masks and hand sanitizer as pandemic restrictions depend on location. You might also need to make reservations at places that didn’t require them in the past.
Prep a lap desk.
For comfort in coloring, buy a cheap lap desk, making it easy for kids to write (or even eat) on the road. I put a stickable white board on ours because kids love writing with erasable markers, and for littles, it’s a fun way to practice writing and spelling skills.
Bring select toys.
I’m very picky about the toys I bring on vacation. I’m all about versatile and compact entertainment that will occupy them for hours at a time. What I’m loving lately (all affordable): the Plus Plus travel pack, Stickers by Number, and Kanoodle. I also suggest getting a travel journal for kids.
Get your kids travel blogging.
V-tech has a great Kidi Cam that doubles as a selfie stick and all-in-one editor. My older boys love creating their own movies, doing hotel tours of the properties we visit, and snapping photos of their favorite activities. It’s a great way to encourage kids to document your family trips.
Reduce your carload by opting to rent along the way.
Going to the beach? Instead of schlepping your chairs and umbrellas, most beach towns offer rentals, and many resorts offer such amenities for free.
Opt for laundry service.
I can’t tell you how many loads of laundry we acquire along the way, but I discovered many online services that offer pick-up and next day delivery, even to hotels. It’s usually under $100 for two to three loads and it makes things a lot less stressful (and dirty!).
Plan one major activity per day.
This way, you have one thing to check off your daily list while allowing room for flexibility. We often get caught up with schedules that vacations seem rushed.
When all else fails, find a playground.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a new place, found a playground, and became “mom of the year” by discovering new play structures for my kids to burn energy on.
It’s important to instill in your kids a love for travel, exploration, and adventure—memories over monetary for the win. Safe travels!
Nadine Bubeck is a former news anchor turned all things mama. She is a TV parenting/lifestyle/travel contributor, author, influencer, and blessed boy mom times three. See nadinebubeck.com and Instagram @mamaandmyboys for more info. Her eldest, Nicholas, is CEO of creationsbynicholas.com.