Taking a road trip with kids can sound daunting. When my husband suggested that we take a road trip through Sweden and Denmark, I instantly thought, “No way!”. After all, with three kids sitting in the back seat, it was bound to be a LONG ride. Reluctantly, I began researching and planning, and after a while I decided this actually could be a good idea.
I really wanted this to be the most well thought out trip we would take. I needed to think of everything so that we could eliminate any bumps in the road (you like the road pun there?!?). With the time and effort put in on the front, we ended up having a very fun and smooth trip. Here are some of the things that made a world of a difference for us when taking a road trip with kids!
Tips Before the trip
I knew that I didn’t want to be in the car for too long each stretch. When we lived in Tennessee, we would make the 9 hour trip in one day, and the kids did fine; but we wanted this trip to be less about the drive, and more about the fun sights along the way.
Our drives averaged about 2 hours before we would stop to see something. We stopped to see at least one thing everyday. Even if it was just lunch at a neat restaurant. This ensured potty breaks in real toilets (more about that later), some food, and stretching our legs a bit.
I knew the general route that we would take and had been given a few suggestions of ‘to-see’ places from friends, but I needed to do some more research to prepare.
I started by using Google Maps to map out the route. While I was mapping, I would see points-of-interest that I could save to visit along the way. After clicking on the point of interest, I could click to get to their website and see if this was actually something we would want to see. There is also a great feature on Google Maps, where you can star locations and places. This then allows you to pull up Google Maps from anywhere you are, and see all of the places that you starred. It also makes getting directions a breeze! I did this for our trip to Ireland also! Read about that AMAZING trip here.
I even went ahead and researched and saved restaurants close to each area that we would be visiting. That way, if we were checking out Nyhavn in Copenhagen, for example, I could just pull out my phone and see what was nearby that would be suitable for our group.
Tips for Seeing the Sights
My husband and I could go to historical locations every day, all day and never tire of it. We love being able to experience a location that played a role in history some how. Our kids on the other hand, don’t think that it’s all that exciting. With that in mind, I tried to be sure that after a few historical things, we could do something kid related. This gave them something to look forward to as their parents spent 3 hours checking out castle ruins…again.
Here’s something else to consider. If you are seeing the typical ‘tourist sights’ in a city, remember that not only you but many, many others will be there also. Try to get to a sight very early in the morning, or late at night when crowds are low. If you are unable to do that, be patient. You will probably have to wait to take some pictures, or just come to terms with the fact that your pictures will include dozens of others jockeying for the same shot.
Top 10 Things to Pack or Use
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1. Tie a plastic bag to the front seat headrest to use as a garbage.
2. Attach a solar powered charger to the window so that electronics can be charged as you go.
3. Here are some travel games that kept the peace in the backseat for many miles.
4. Pack a bag full of quick, and easy to eat, snacks for the kids to access at any time.
5. The following may sound a bit overboard, but don’t judge me until you try it. Use an old cell phone, add an internet plan to it for a flat fee (i.e so many GB for x amount of $), and then use that phone as a hotspot for the kids to log onto with their tablets.
6. A small child potty was one of the most important things that we brought on this trip! Sweden has very few places to stop and use an actual toilet along the road. Many times, you do your thing in the woods. This allowed the boys to head into the forest, and the girls to comfortably take care of business near the car. Of course, we brought along some toilet paper to aid in the process.
7. A heater/cooler that can plug into the 12V in your car is an absolute must! We were able to bring along drinks and sandwiches and even restaurant leftovers in between our stops without them spoiling. Another great feature is that you can get a wall adapter and then plug it in inside once you arrive at your hotel for the night.
8. Pack your clothes by day into Ziplock bags. When you arrive at your destination for the night, you only need to grab the bag that contains PJ’s and clothes for the following day for each person. This will help you to avoid bringing in every bag at each stop.
9. Use a cartop carrier! Here in Sweden they are called ‘roof boxes’ (makes much more logical sense, huh?) This one is similar to the one that we got. You can open it quite easily from the side which helps when you need to grab something out real quick. We’ve used a soft sided one in the past, that claimed to be waterproof, but each time it rained, our clothes came out soaking wet. This hard sided one encountered much rain, and stayed totally dry inside.
10. A stroller will help you immensely! Even if your kids are older (Ok, I guess if they are 10 and 11 this may not apply to you) but even my 6 year old used the stroller a few times. Not only was it so helpful for giving little feet a break, it was key to holding all of our junk each day. The weather in Sweden changes on a dime, so having sweatshirts each day was a must. That plus sunscreen, water bottles, snacks, purse, solar phone chargers, etc. didn’t need to be carried by anyone because we brought a stroller.
After the Trip
Once you have arrived home and given yourself a day to recover from your trip, begin downloading and uploading all of your pictures to your favorite online site. While the trip is still fresh in your mind, make a fun photo book. This will ensure that you always remember the adventure you had and you can even jot down some fun commentary that you would otherwise forget after a few months have passed. For example, look at the picture above. We are missing our youngest in this shot. A few months from now, I might just think she must have been napping, which is why she missed the photo op. Now, I can take note that she was actually just being stubborn. Ah, the memories!
Then, of course, begin planning and researching for your next adventure! Even if it is going to be awhile before taking a road trip with kids again, it’s always fun to plan and dream!