My husband and I planned a trip to Florida over a year ago. It sounded wonderful at the time (and still does), but as the date looms and we get ready to leave, the practicality of getting our family there in one piece is a bit challenging. Since buying plane tickets for five people (we have three children ages 11, 4, and 3) would cost about the same as a used car, my husband has decided we will save money by driving there instead.

So for the past few weeks, I have been planning what to bring on the trip, activities to do in the car, anything I can think to make the 24 hour car ride easier for everyone. I’ve asked friends, family members and Facebook friends to offer their suggestions as well. And as I am thinking that we are probably not the only family on a budget this year and planning to travel by car, I will offer my family as the testing ground, reporting back to you after our trip of all the things that worked… and those that didn’t.

Here is a list of my ideas so far:

  • I picked up items in the dollar sections of stores: coloring books, stickers, small cars, little trinkets. All things I will pull out of a goodie bag as we travel along.
  • I bought small children’s lap trays for less than five dollars that will make it easy for the kids to color or draw, and it has compartments on the sides to hold all their own color crayons, books, markers, even drinks.
  • We’ll pack bottled water and snacks for everyone, and even bring some special treats we usually don’t have at home.
  • We do not have a DVD player in our car, but have a portable one, and for this long of a trip I plan to bring it for the kids to watch movies. I also picked up a new movie (again for less than 5 dollars) that I will save for the trip.
  • The kids received LeapPads for Christmas. I plan to bring them, and even bought a new game that I’ll give them on the way. Although we won’t let them use technology the entire time, it should help to switch things up and alleviate boredom.
  • Games to play in the car: the alphabet game, car bingo, or eye spy.
  • Our kids love music, so we’ll plan to have all their favorite CD’s in the car to listen to.
  • I have a bag filled with kids’ books, scripture cards, and kid’s quiz or question cards to do together as a family.
  • One friend suggested printing maps of all the states and having the children color them.
  • Another friend suggested utilizing Redbox, a movie renting box located at many convenient locations across the county. You can rent a movie in one state and return it in the next.
  • Some practical things for parents to pack: snacks that aren’t too messy (my husband is so appreciative of this), extra plastic bags to periodically collect garbage and throw out at rest stops, and wet naps or baby wipes.

After prepping all these ideas and getting some good suggestions from others, I feel fairly confident that our road trip will be successful! (And not just be my wishful thinking.) Be sure to watch for part two, where I’ll share what was helpful and what wasn’t, and what new ideas and improvisations we came up with along the way!

What are your great ideas for traveling with children?