How to Road Trip with Kiddos

So we recently returned from our summertime Idaho, Montana, Wyoming adventure.  Living in Northern California, it is a 14 hour drive for us to reach our destination.

Back when we were only 2 plus a big dog, we made a bed in the back of our Subaru wagon and one of us slept while the other drove.  We drove straight through, leaving at 2 a.m..  Oh the freedom!

Two years ago when we took our then 4 year old, our Subaru wagon still worked for us, though no bed in the back....and we still managed to do it in a straight shot, leaving at 2 a.m....although this did occur at hour 13...

This year, with a baby and a now 6 year old some changes had to be made.  First off, we bought a new vehicle.  I'm obviously not suggesting the way to take a road trip with your kids is to go out and buy a new car, but we knew it was fact, when we went on our Father's Day adventure with only 1 small bag each, a small cooler and baby's ultra small travel crib* and no dog, we had zero room left over.  Hence, new car, or in our case truck.

So, Tip #1 - Have enough space to be comfortable.
This is real folks.  It is hard enough being crammed in a car with kids and car seats and dogs and stuff for a long, long time.  Comfort is your friend.

Tip #2 - Be healthy.  In our case this means: don't find out your 9 month old is allergic to raspberries the day before you leave so that then you are driving with a 9 month old stuck in a car seat with a head to toe itchy rash.  :(

The only good part about this was the cure was Benadryl, which meant she slept basically the whole time.

Tip #3 - SNACKS!  For real.  Snacks are required for any road trip, no?  But snacks are especially required with kids.  You can avoid multiple stops by having snacks at the ready for when your little one's get hungry - or you do.  We had granola bars, apples, bananas yogurt, sandwich food and more.  For the babe, we used these* and they were a lifesaver!  Way easier to feed a munchkin in a car seat with a squeeze pouch than food in a jar....and way easier than breastfeeding said munchkin in a car seat.  #truth

Tip #4 - Entertainment.  We are pretty TV minimal in our house, especially for the kiddos.  This year, we broke down though and set our 6 year old up so he could watch Wild Kratt's on the drive.  He was in hog heaven.  While Levi watched his show, Nick and I listened to Podcasts.  Some of our favorites are: RadioLab, This American Life, The Moth, Criminal, Love & Radio and Strangers.  (We also loved Serial, but finished it long ago.)  I think we all agree the entertainment breaks made the long trip a little better for everyone.

Tip #5 - Stops.  So, when you decide to drive a long way with kiddos, be prepared to make stops.  Gone are the days of driving straight through with only potty and gas breaks! We suggest planning a couple of long-ish stops to break it up.  With a planned stop you can tell the little ones, "we'll be stopping in 20 minutes to eat lunch and hang out" which seems to settle ants-in-the-pants.  Also, depending on how long your trip is, you might want to make overnight stops.  Our trip was 14 hours, so we stayed the night in the middle both going and coming home.  (I'll share our whole route below.)  On the way out, we stopped for lunch at a park in Battle Mountain, NV.  I think it was Elquist Park, but I'm not positive.

Parks make good stopping places because the kids (and dog) can play and they have picnic tables for lunch making and a free stop is always a good one.

Tip #6 Enjoy the scenery.  It's a big world out there.  Find the beauty in your surroundings.

And apparently you take less pictures on the way home because you're sad to leave vacation.  :(

Tip #6 Know Your Route.  To be honest I mostly just stare out the window.  The hubs handles the route.  Here was ours:

Sac to Idaho:
Day 1
Sacramento to Reno via I-80 E
Breakfast at Jack's Cafe in Sparks
Reno to Battle Mountain - stop at the park (above)
{Change from I-80 E to US-93 N in Wells}
Battle Mountain to Twin Falls
{Change from US-93 N to I-84 E in Twin Falls}
Stay at Best Western Twin Falls
Dinner at Jaker's Bar & Grill (we got it to go and ate in our hotel room)

Day 2
Twin Falls to Pocatello
{I-84 E to I-86 E}
Costco for groceries
Avoid hailstorm by hanging out under Costco gas canopy.  Thank you Costco.
Pocatello to Island Park
{I-86 E to I-15 N to Hwy 20 E}
Say hi to the Tetons as you pass by.
Arrive at Cabin.

Idaho to Sac:
Day 1
Island Park to Twin Falls via US-20 W
{US-20 W to I-15 S to I-86 W to I-84 W}
Continue to Elko
{I-84 W to US-93 S to I-80 W}
Stay in Elko at Best Western
Eat dinner at Machi's Saloon & Grill
People watch all the biker's headed to Sturgis from your hotel window.

Day 2
Elko to Lovelock via I-80 W
Stop at the Courthouse in Lovelock to eat lunch
Enjoy the LoveLock/Lovelock art display

Lovelock to Truckee via I-80 W
Stop in Truckee and eat at Marg's Taco Bistro
Truckee to Sacramento via I-80 W
Arrive home.
Be sad that vacation is over.

So those are our tips, we hope you enjoy your next road trip!!

Oh guess what, some friends of ours just road-tripped with kiddos too, here are Amber's tips!


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