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On The Road - A Family Road Trip Survival Guide.  Great tips here from what to pack to how to get the kiddos to nap!

On The Road – A Family Road Trip Survival Guide

Fourteen hours, two young children, and two parents packed into one car. This obviously calls for a survival guide.

Every summer since I can remember, I have taken a road trip from the Twin Cities to Red Lodge, Montana. I did it as a child with my parents and siblings, with friends as a young adult, and now with my own little family. And every year I am shocked at how long the car trip is. It reminds me a little bit of labor and delivery – forgetting the pain because the outcome is well worth it.

No matter how you slice it, 14 hours is a really long time to sit in a car. But this year, I was determined to have a game plan. First on our agenda was to pack all of our own food. There are a lot of great reasons to do this. Fresh in my memory was last year’s trip and being five hours from home when my husband started showing signs of food poisoning – yikes.

The goal with our food was to keep it healthy, simple, and clean. We also wanted to have some slightly salty snacks to reduce the amount of bathroom breaks. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Breakfast: overnight oats that we ate right before walking out the door
  • Snack 1: apples and sunflower butter
  • Lunch: spring rolls
  • Snack 2: popcorn and frozen peas (thawed by the time we ate)
  • Dinner: tuna salad olives and celery
  • On hand incase we got really snacky: bananas, a few more apples, cherries and some rice cakes


Second we wanted to prepare the girls and ourselves for two weeks with a lot less structure. With fourteen hours to kill, we figured we should create an age appropriate and fun way  to set our expectations. We brought a children’s CD with us that has 11 songs with positive affirmations. Each song has a positive affirmation – “I am kind,” “I am dependable,” “I take turns,” etc. – and a sweet little story that exemplifies that affirmation.

We decided we would go song by song and first listen to the words, talk about what they meant and how we could demonstrate that behavior, and then listen one more time. This not only passed time, but the girls loved it. It also created great family conversation. There were lots of laughs when the girls shared examples of demonstrating each affirmation.

Third, we decided to talk a little bit about geography. Our journey took us through land of many lakes and the great plains of North Dakota to the mountains of Montana. We watched our surroundings change and celebrated each milestone city we passed though. I am willing to bet that few people have ever been as excited to see Bismarck, ND (our half way point) than our girls as we rolled through.

Fourth, we knew that nap time had to happen. Our three and a half year old can go without naps easily most of the time, but our younger daughter needs her naps or we all suffer. We started quiet time with a movie, and watched their lids get heavy as it was ending. Circling back to our talk about affirmations, we decided to put them to the test by telling them that although they didn’t have to sleep, we needed to be able to depend on them to follow our directions and stay quiet. They were so eager to show us that they were dependable that they both napped and our older daughter, who woke up first, remained quiet until her sister woke up. We were shocked – and of course high fiving, too.


We don’t typically award our girls for having good behavior while in the car, but fourteen hours in carseats is worth many awards. Lastly, we gave them a little surprise every couple hours for good behavior. We settled on:

  • some new sticker books
  • a new movie 
  • a new lunch boxes to hold their snacks

The roadtrip out and back home were shockingly pleasant. Of course there were some tough moments and a few tears, but if I had to be strapped into the carseat for that long, there would have been a lot more of both. There  is something liberating about knowing that we can not only survive road trips but enjoy them. Let the magic of a family vacation begin on the journey.

Happy road tripping!

Finally, don’t forget that we’ve got not one but two wonderful giveaways going on for on-the-go moms and moms-to-be:

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great tips and gear for being on-the-go with babySecond, enter to win over $70 of top of the line gear for on-the-go kids from OXO Tot.






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Anna is a joyful wife and mom to two sweet girls. Nutrition became one of her passions when her first daughter was born prematurely and showed early signs of food allergies. She is now happily learning all about health and wellness as part of the Prescribe Nutrition team. (Use code: MPMK20 to try one of their courses at 20% off.) When not working, she can be found practicing yoga at Yellow Barn Wellness.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin July 22, 2013 at 6:52 am

I would love to get the name of that Positive affirmation CD!


Mara July 22, 2013 at 9:46 am

Thank you for your ideas! I am interested as to what the cd was called. It sounds like it could be helpful in my house as well as in my classroom. :)


Stefanie July 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I love your ideas! I always need new ideas for being in the car with the kids! I would love to see your spring rolls and tuna salad recipe and maybe a link to the cd you bought for the trip!


RMP July 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I would love to know the name of the cd you played in the car – so hard to find a good children cd with songs/stories of positive affirmations


Erin July 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I would love to know the name of the positive affirmations CD!


Kate July 23, 2013 at 12:20 am

I agree, if you wouldn’t mind passing along that CD I would really appreciate it!


Steph at MPMK July 23, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Hi guys,

Here’s what Anna says about the CD:

The CD that we have is called Affies 4 Kids. They have a website http://affies4kids.com that has all of the songs that are on the CD. It sounds like Affies 4 Kids will be officially launching and selling the CDs in September. If people would like to purchase a CD immediately (before the official launch) anyone is welcome to email [email protected]. The CD is pretty incredible!


Jenny July 25, 2013 at 4:36 pm

These are all really great ideas for surviving long road trips with the family. I like the idea of discussing the geography before hand so you can have a discussion during the trip.


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