Road tripping with kids might sound like a nightmare at first. However, if the trip is just a few hours and you can manage to limit drinks to avoid dozens of restroom stops, you might save some money and still maintain your sanity. Most airlines charge a separate ticket for kids age 2 and older. This can really add up if you have a few kids and choose to fly.
Family road trips can be fun and affordable so long as you plan carefully. Here are my favorite 5 ways to road trip with kids and save money.
Prepare the Car
This is a step I’d recommend for any road trip. If you’re going to use your own car, make sure you check it for maintenance and get it all cleared out and organized before your trip. The last thing you want is to be stranded on the side of the road with kids. Prepping your car ahead of time while you’re at home is wise because you likely know which mechanic to use or you can shop around to save money. If your car breaks down during the trip, you have very little control over who you get to fix the car and how much you spend.
If you’re planning on renting a car, make sure you compare the amount of space you’d be getting and determine how you’ll optimize that space. For example, if you’re planning to have 3 kids in the back seat, you’ll want to make sure you pack strategically so that most things fit in the trunk. That way everyone has enough room to sit comfortably.
Consider Leaving Early
I love to start my road trips very early in the morning. This is often because my husband and kids will be sleepy and the ride is quieter for the first few hours. Now, your kids might be wide awake at 6 am, you can still dedicate the first 2 to 3 hours of the road trip as quiet time where everyone can snack, read, or watch a show quietly. Plus, getting on the road earlier is always better because you can cover a lot of ground and possibly avoid traffic delays.
In just a few weeks, we have a 6-hour road trip planned to visit my sister and we’re planning on leaving very early so we can either be close or at our destination by the time the kids get fully awake and antsy.
Don’t Stop For Fast Food
Let your family know in advance that you won’t be stopping for meals during the road trip. Trying to find restaurants on the road can slow you down and it can also be expensive – even at fast food places. Instead, opt to bring your own food and snacks in a cooler. Pack sandwiches, chips, and drinks or another meal that is easy to store and eat while on the road. We usually run to the dollar store as well as a local discount grocery store and grab lots of snacks for the road.
Also, don’t think that you have to be limited to unhealthy junk food for your family. You can pack fruits like grapes, bananas, and oranges along with veggies like baby carrots and celery sticks. Another easy and healthy snack is trail mix and raw nuts. I love these ideas on how to pack, prepare, and preserve healthy meals and snacks for your road trip.
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If you’re going to road trip with kids, know that they will get bored from time to time so prepare entertainment in advance. If you don’t want to keep hearing “Are we there yet” organize some activities that are car-friendly to keep them busy and occupied. For older kids, they may want to bring a tablet or portable game system they can use. If your child can read, you can also pack a few books. For younger kids, bring a few toys that are easy to hold and alternate them every hour or so. You can pick up a coloring book from the dollar store and give them one or two crayons to use at a time.
Another thing you might want to do is download kid-friendly audiobooks or music that they can listen to on the road. Kids can also play clutter-free games like I spy, the license plate game, and charades.
If you want to get to your destination quickly and without delays, you’ll need to limit stops. Limiting stops can also limit how much money you spend on the road. If you stop often, you and your kids may see more opportunities to buy things and spend money you didn’t plan on spending.
Encourage everyone to use the restroom whenever you stop for gas and avoid shopping around at travel stops. Instead, stand outside so everyone can stretch their legs for a few minutes before getting back into the car.
Road trips with kids can be bearable and often times even fun. You just need to know how to avoid money traps as well as boredom traps among the kids. Realize that kids are probably not going to last longer than a few hours per day so keep your road trips within those limits and organize all your food and activities so you don’t have to overspend.