6 things to pack when traveling with small children by car

6 things to pack when traveling with small children by car 1Would you rather travel with your kids by plane or by car?

For me, it's a toss-up...and depends on the ages/stages of my children and the distance of the destination. If I had to choose straight-up between 6 hours in a plane or 6 hours in a car, for example, I'd choose a car. There's more freedom, more flexibility, less potential for germs, and less worry about bothering other passengers in a cramped space.

That said, if I had the option of a 1 hour plane flight versus a 6-hour car drive, I'd go with the plane hands-down.

Either way, it's important to pack smart and be prepared...no matter how you choose to travel.

Here are 6 things to bring with you for the getting-there part of the journey.

6 things to pack when traveling with small children by car 2Snacks...and PLENTY of them. Food is one of the best distractions ever. On our most recent road trip, we brought along Cheerios, Fruit Leathers, Peanut Butter-filled Pretzels, Goldfish, Gum, etc. Other great options include...Mandarin Oranges, Grapes, Cherries, Carrot Sticks, Saltines, Beef Jerky, and Dried Apricots.

6 things to pack when traveling with small children by car 3Water. It's easy to get dehydrated when traveling and dehydration leads to tummy aches, sore throats, grumpiness, fatigue, and all sorts of ailments. Keeping water accessible in bottles and sippy cups is important. We opt for water over juice or soda because it's healthier...and not sticky if spilled.

6 things to pack when traveling with small children by car 4Diversions. You'll need something to pass the hours on the road. Obviously, conversation and laughter and whining will inevitably fill part of the time, but it helps to have toys, games, and/or books with you to help keep boredom at bay. "New" books and toys are best. For older children, books-on-CD, card games, Travel Bingo, and cartoons can also do the trick.

6 things to pack when traveling with small children by car 5Wipes. If you have babies on-board, you'll need to be prepared with a stack of diapers. If you have kids of any age, however, wipes are a wonderful thing to have around. For spills. For spitting out gum. For a quick hand-wash. For bathroom stops. Etc.

6 things to pack when traveling with small children by car 6A Map. If you have an iPhone, you can download the free AroundMe app to quickly locate restaurants, gas stations, banks, and parks around your current destination. If you have a GPS unit, you can do the same. If you have neither of those options, then having a good old-fashioned map with you is advised. Nothing is quite as stressful as getting lost or going around in circles when you have small children in the car. Pre-kids, getting lost may have equated to an adventure. Post-kids, getting even 10 minutes off-course can lead to some pretty high blood-pressure.

6 things to pack when traveling with small children by car 7A Smile. Here's the truth. Traveling with kids is bound to have bumps. Your baby won't nap. Your toddler will have a potty-training accident in an unfortunate place. Your preschooler might drive you nuts by singing the same song 52,000 times. But, in the end, you'll have some pretty incredible memories. So...as they say, don't sweat the small stuff. Try to keep calm and carry on. Anger is unbecoming and unhelpful. Laughter, however, covers a multitude of tragedies. And just think how much you can teach your children if you respond to obstacles with positivity and grace...

YOUR TURN: Do you prefer to travel with your family by plane or car? What do you pack when you travel with small children?

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21 comments on “6 things to pack when traveling with small children by car”

  1. Right now, after our crazy trip, I would say plane. On the plane you can walk around (in theory) and still be getting somewhere. The car… not so much.

  2. At this point, when we travel with Darah, we brings LOTS of changes of clothes and bibs. She spits up SO MUCH! It blows my mind. She'll have days where she'll be in only one outfit, and then there are days like this morning, where she soaked 5...yes, 5 bibs within 2 hours. Sheesh!

  3. I love the last one on your list...a smile! So very true.
    I've only ever traveled by car with Levi. The longest trip was supposed to be around 7 hours but it turned into more like 11. Yikes! I was with my parents and sister on those occasions. Although, there were stressful moments, overall we kept smiling. And, now we have some fun travel memories to share.

  4. Car, My 4 yr old son loves the I spy books and we always bring those as well as pretzel/cheese snacks which take longer to eat=)

  5. You know I have to agree with everything you said. 6 hours on a plane or 6 hours in the car - I would take the car but 1 hour in a plane or 6 hours in a car I would take the plane.

    I bring everything you said. Our grandparents recently bought us a DVD player for the car (it does not work in a plane) it helped so much with Lily our 2 year old who HATES the car and everything about it.

  6. We drove from AZ to Michigan in September 2009 with our 6 and 4 year old. I prepared a few months in advance. I bought two bags, one pink and one blue. For the next few months leading up to the road trip, I bought coloring books, books, toys, special snacks, new movies, markers, crayons, all new things our kids haven't played with before. In the beginning of our 30 hour trip, I gave them their new bag full of goodies and it was a huge hit!! We really enjoyed the road trip, new states that we traveled through and most of all, having our own vehicle stuffed with over 50lb suitcases that didn't cost any extra to travel with!

  7. We traveled by plane with our daughter when she was about 6 months. Now that she is over 2 and requires a ticket...we tend to road trip it in the car. We haven't ventured any longer than 8 hours and with baby #2 on the way...our travels may be few and far between for awhile. lol!

  8. I would prefer the car unless the time difference is dramatic.
    I like the freedom to stop. The car is actually roomier. And we can cram in half our house if we want to.

  9. I'd rather travel by car because I hate plane rides, however... next time we go to California we might just fly.

    We bring music, books, stickers - lots and lots of stickers, color magic books - because they distract better than regular coloring books since I don't let Sugar use markers at home, and regular coloring books to with colors and colored pencils, a few favorite toys, sunglasses, snacks, water and blankets!

  10. We haven't taken Audrey on a plane ride yet but have done a couple of long rides.

    I always remember to bring a favorite stuffed animal or favorite blanket, so they can feel comfy if they fall asleep.

    My son loves bringing a soft, big blanket.

    Children music cd's are great for this, I usually take advantage of the driving time to teach them spanish by putting on spanish children songs.

  11. Planes are faster, but cars are much more child-friendly. Plus, the money is the same in the car, but with three+ kids can really add up on a plane. We love to be able to stop for breaks whenever our kids (or us!) need them - that's the best thing about driving! But when we have to fly (international) the planning is similar to that of a major military operation (limited suitcase space, gear, carry-on, etc...)

  12. Well, since we live 3+ hours from the nearest major airport we usually drive if it's within a day (or sometimes 2). Farther than that it's usually a major trip (Saudi Arabia!) with plenty of things to do along the way!
    We have a pretty happy kid and with a few snacks and his favorite toys he will sit in the back for hours at a time. We're lucky! :) He loves to talk to us too. It was much more painful when he was a baby and after a couple hours got cranky being confined.

  13. we're car travelers.
    don't forget flashlights! (the crank ones are great)
    or glow sticks now that the kids are getting older. if we have a big drive ahead of us we usually try and wake up early and drive before dawn or drive into the night where the kids will sleep for most of it.

  14. It really depends on where we are going and how long we will be there. In a few months we will be making the 14-16 hour drive to Phoenix with our son who will be 18 months old. We are driving for several reasons. (We will be there for approximately 3 weeks (gotta love that my husband can work remotely), a rental car would be VERY expensive and not as safe as our Subaru and, we will be taking our dogs)

    Last October I flew to Phoenix with my son (my husband stayed home) it was only a 4 day trip and my husband couldn't get away. I flew because it was a short trip and I will not make the drive alone with my son unless it is absolutely necessary.

  15. We had a DVD player installed in the van for our road trip from Houston, TX to Orlando, FL. The DVD player broke 50 miles outside of Houston. It thought we would be doomed, but we managed to have a great trip. We spent the time actually talking to each other and playing games.

  16. I'm going to say car, so far we have not yet taken either of our girls on a plane trip. We did drive to VA a year ago at Christmas time with our then two year old daughter. It took us a few days to get there and we brought along everything you listed above - and then some! I can honestly say that after that long of a drive, my husband and I decided that next time we WILL fly there.

  17. I travel by plane with my two at least once or twice a year, usually with myself being the only adult. I always bring a portable dvd player and dvd's for my oldest. We don't watch a lot of tv normally, so it is a nice treat. For my youngest, my ergobaby baby carrier has been priceless... I'm nervous that he might grow out of it by this summers trip!

  18. OR, your child might drive you nuts by only quieting down when you sing "The Wheels on the Bus" for HOURS. With motions. That you made up. And it drives your husband crazy, too, but at least the kid's not crying.
    Right now, after our crazy trip, I would say plane. On the plane you can walk around (in theory) and still be getting somewhere. The car... not so much.
    But even better right now??? Home. Staying home and only making a trip to the grocery store when needed. Maybe even after said child is asleep. :)

  19. I have never ridden a plane and I enjoy seeing the sites with the family so I am going to say car. I always pack toys, portable dvd player with movies,ipod with earphones and definitely lots of snacks.

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