Depending on how you prepare, a 2 week long road trip with a six year old can either be an amazing family vacation full of wonderful memories, or it can be an absolute nightmare. When Jason and I decided to start planning a summer road trip with Aubrey we were both so excited! We had just finished a backpacking trip through the Icelandic Highlands and the thought of ~glamping~ with our kiddo sounded wonderful!
We had a pretty clear idea of where we were heading and what we wanted to see. The only thing we were not sure of was how we were going to make these long stretches of driving bearable, maybe even enjoyable, for our little explorer in the back seat. Below are some of the things that were absolute lifesavers for these 5000+ miles in the car.
This thing is a game changer! It literally has a space for everything your little one could need while on the road. Simply slip it over the back of your front seat, closest to your kiddo and stock it with everything they will need for the drive. No more will I dislocate my shoulder reaching into the back seat to grab her something that is out of reach. It has a clear, touch friendly sleeve for a tablet, a slot for coloring books, not 1 but 2 cup holders, and endless pockets for crayons, snacks, pens, toys, etc.
Maybe we’re just late to the game on this one, but did you know that you can download movies on Netflix to watch offline?! This one blew our minds. We loaded up that IPad with all sorts of movies and boy did it come in handy! Most of the car ride she would color, draw, or read a book but then it would happen, she would get tired and then that loopy kid talk would start. Guys I can only take so much senseless kid babble before I snap, cue the IPad. She would pop those headphones in, turn on Shrek, and within 20 minutes she was out. Mission accomplished.
Rooftop Cargo Carrier
Living out of a car for 2 weeks, with a 6 year old, means you pack a lot of stuff. By a lot, like I mean you pack like everything you own. In Yellowstone it was warm during the day, but down to almost freezing at night, and in The Great Sand Dunes it was warm at night and insanely hot during the day. We pretty much had to pack for every season known to man. On top of the clothing, we had tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags, food, camp chairs, blankets, and every other comfort of home you would want on the road. When Jason and I set out on our Cross Country Trip almost 3 years ago, we crammed his little Volkswagen Golf so full of supplies that it was nearly bursting, and to be honest, it drove me nuts! It’s like having a messy house, but no way to clean it. This time around we invested in a rooftop cargo carrier and it made a huge difference in our comfort on the road. Everything for camp was on the roof, and everything that we needed immediate access to, like food and water was in the trunk. It was so much more convenient, and comfortable.
Speaking of comfort, I am pretty sure there is nothing more uncomfortable than sleeping in the car. Neck bent backwards, mouth open, and a seat belt buckle in your hipbone (I am sure Jason has a stash of these open mouth sleeping pictures somewhere). Our first stretch of driving was 22 hours, which meant Jason and I would be rotating driving duty. He would drive while I slept, I would drive while he slept, and Aubrey would sleep whenever she wanted, (which was not often enough). Having a neck pillow on hand was wonderful and made snoozing in the car so much more comfortable. The only thing I would maybe add would be an eye mask, (see Aubrey’s creative solution above).
View of GPS
Usually if I have directions going on my phone, it is most likely resting in front of my steering wheel, blocking my view of the fuel gauge, and probably sliding around with every turn I take. For this trip we decided to give in and purchase a dash mounted phone holder. It was wonderful not just for the driver, but for Aubrey as well! How many times during a long car ride do you hear “are we there yet?” Or “how much longer?” By having it mounted on the dash, Aubrey could easily see our ETA and had a chance to practice telling time. We worked on how to tell how many hours we had left, and even got a chance to learn a little about time change. Score!
More than anything on this list, the most important thing to bring is patience. Road trips with young kids most likely means listening to some Disney songs, way too many bathroom breaks, and a constant need for snacks. It also means singing along to those Disney songs like you are a kid yourself, raiding gas stations for the best snacks, and getting to enjoy some of the most beautiful views you have ever seen with the people you love most. Enjoy these moments, for they are the ones that will stick.