I'm Leaving in a Mini-Van

My brain is spinning with so many thoughts today, I feel like I'm producing mental cotton candy.

But here's one you can help me with: This weekend, we will be attending a family wedding which will require an eight-hour drive in the car with three young children. One way.

We have a DVD player, but even that will only entertain them for so long.

I need advice. I haven't traveled this far in a car with my children for quite some time. (Thank you for your blessings, Lord.)

What should I do?

Besides pack myself a bottle of Excedrin to go with my venti Starbucks, I mean.


  1. do you have new dvds that they have never seen before? rent some if you don't. it will make a difference. also lots of snacks. maybe some surprise things they can do in the car like the little magna doodles you can get for 88 cents at walmart. pull them out when things get rough.

    take a fun magazine for you and a pillow. nap when they are quiet. it's my favorite thing to do in the car besides reading and crossword puzzles.

  2. As far as the DVD player goes, we always use it as a last resort. Our kids are usually somewhat amused just being on the road and knowing that it's a BIG TRIP for an hour or so. And then out come the little toys they've packed for themselves. And then we listen to a book on CD. But only in cases of emergency, or towards the end of a trip, do we turn on that DVD player. You don't want to hit traffic an hour from getting there and find that you've already burned through the whole stash of movies.

  3. We watch a Dvd take a break for an hour to sing, talk and watch outside the windows...then watch another DVD. Try to time your trip with built in breaks (naptime, meal time, etc.) This will break up the trip a bit. Magna Doodle and books are also great time killers.
    Best wishes!!!

  4. Well, you've got my secret: DVD's. Fortunately, my kids are pretty good travelers. Good luck!

  5. Go to a dollar store or something like that and buy a bag of surprises. Explain to them when you start out that they will get surprises at different intervals along the way. I also do what chickadee ways and get movies that D-Man hasn't seen. We are taking a 6 hour trip ourselves this week and I'm stocking my arsenal as we speak.

  6. Magnets on a cookie sheet are fun to play with. . .

  7. The dollar store idea is great. Unfortunately, we're not too organized right before a big car trip; so we usually end up buying tons of junk food and tossing it over our shoulders into the back seat whenever it starts getting too loud. By the end of the trip, the inside of the van looks like someone just pillaged Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

    Pathetic, but it gets the job done.

  8. I bribe my daughter. (Easier to do with one child)

    If it is an 8 hour drive, maybe every 2 hours I would pull out a surprise...possibly gift wrapped...a movie, color wonder, a spiral notebook and pack of stencils, silly putty and a comic book, a book on dvd, a computer game (if traveling with a computer)...

    A clipboard and paper and new markers has been a big hit...not sure why.

    handheld video game

    those plug & play games are fun on the car dvd player

    also...our last trip we rented an entire series of a tv show...i think full house or brady bunch...and that worked for long increments of time.

    i'll keep thinking...your sanity is very important to me.

  9. I don't have any other amazing suggestions--I think the ones you've received pretty much describe our coping. I will be praying for you though. Safe traveling.

    Oh and think how much you'll have to blog about when you return. Maybe that's a silver lining?

  10. The only thing I could possibly add to those things already suggested is...Benadryl. (I know...many of you will think I'm a terrible Mom...this was actually on the advice of our pediatrician.) We didn't take too many long trips, but I can think of two occassions in my son's young life when we utilized the Benadryl option. He slept blissfully for at least an hour or two. Other than that, we played some fun car games (spotting different colored cars, etc...), did some fun singalong stuff, and yes those wonderful cartoons and movies. = )

  11. My mom, who was a nurse in her pre-kid life, used to recommend Benadryl for when we'd fly. (We fly more often than we drive, since my family is so far-flung.)

    We've since learned Benadryl has the opposite of the intended effect with our kids. Instead of making them sleepy, it makes them hyper.

    So while I can't use that one, maybe I should see if a Starbucks will also have the opposite effect and calm them down?

  12. Just don't give then to much sugar and E additives...hipo kids in a car not a good idea.

    Other wise Happy journeys


  13. I with the Suburban Correspondant, I suggest junk food, and lots of it. Every time it gets too loud I just throw chips or candy back there and it gets the job done.

    I may be contributing to the childhood obesity rates, but at least they arrive alive.

    Another tip that works great for me, bring a pillow, lean up against your window and pretend you are asleep. Let the Dad deal with it. That works very well for me.

  14. Crayola Color Wonders are wonderful for car trips! They can draw/color to their hearts content WITHOUT you having to worry about it getting all over them, their clothes, the van seats.
    I also like travel sized magnadoodles. I even packed blocks (some)for my youngest on our last trip as he likes to sit and build. I packed enough that he could hold them in his carseat & build with them. Also his beloved cars LOL!
    We drive at least 10 hours once a year, and the last few years it's more like 13-14 hours for vacation. We've never flown with our kids, just too expensive!

  15. I buy a DVD (or 2) the kids have never seen before and alternate those with old ones.

    My kids also play 'travel bingo) which they love. We found ours at Cracker Barrel. I also pack lots of crayons, mini dry erase boards, etc. for them to play with (magna doodles are great, too).

  16. Lots of other people have the same idea as me - gift wrapping gifts to give out along the way... we didn't do a set interval thing, just when they seemed to get squirmy, we whipped it out. worked like a charm.

    My other idea, if you have kids that might ask to go potty a lot. (We had such a hard time with this - like every 45 minutes). So we brought a potty seat, lined the bowl with a plastic bag, and then pulled over wherever, let them go, bagged (and double bagged), and threw them away that way. It saved soooo much whining about stopping at the next stop, how far, etc... (We did this on the way back, and the way there was awful).

  17. Excedrine and Starbucks is ALWAYS a good combo! And maybe a MP3 with some powerful headphones...for you, of course :) Great Blog!

  18. Bless your heart. Traveling with small children is an adventure to say the least. I have 4 children and we used to take long drives (8 hours plus each way) a few times a year. One thing you could do is have little presents (wrapped) that they can each open every 2 hours or so. They don't have to be expensive things. They will enjoy playing or reading them(if books) for an hour or so and then eagerly await the next surprise. :)

    You could also play Car bingo or license plate bingo to pass the time.

    We often would leave VERY early in the morning (sometimes 2 am) and the children would sleep a good portion of the trip.

    Hope you have a lovely time!


    PS I found your blog through Amy's.

  19. do your kids like money yet? i paid my kids to take a nap on our last vacation. i paid the person who took the longest nap an extra $2...They slept for over 3 hours...it was an inspired idea if i do say so myself. :)


  20. I love the Preacher's Wife's idea. My kids wouldn't care about money though.

    Someone mentioned Color Wonder products and those are good. Mine also love travel Aqua Doodle as well as the little pieces of paper that you color with the water. They usually sell character ones. The best part is they dry quickly so the can be reused almost right away.

    Oh, and we gave our daughter a view finder on our last big road trip. She loved it!

    But, I'd have to say multiple venti Starbucks and lots of prayer are your best bets. (Not necessarily in that order.)

    Sorry for the long post.

  21. Books on tape, a variety of snacks, movies from Blockbuster that they have never seen, and maybe try googling car games like that you could place...you know like the license plate game?

    Hope this helps!

  22. The dollar store idea works wonderfully We sing in the car sometimes, and they like to play I Spy and car games.

    Sometimes if I'm feeling ambitious I make bingo sheets with different kinds of cars on them.

    No, I'm totally lying, I don't do that. I think about doing it, but I never actually do it.

    Usually I just rent a few videos. Since we never let them watch multiple videos in real life, they are transfixed. Apparently it NEVER gets old.

  23. I'm too lazy to read all the other somments, so some of these may be repeats
    -snacks that are new to them (ie my kids only eat the packaged stuff on trips)
    - magna-doodles
    - lap pads and new coloring sheets
    - I spy
    - When I was a kid my mom used to get a new novel and read it to us a chapter at a time when things were getting rowdy. I still remember reading the best Christmas pagent ever and that was many many moons ago.
    - (This next suggestion only works if your husband is not in the car) frequent stops. Every two hours stop and let them run, even if for 10 minutes. If I did this with my husband he'd be the one with a attitude problem.
    Have a super trip!

  24. Oh yeah, Kelly, I dare you to see if Starbucks has the opposite effect on them. Let us know how that goes.

    Well, it's too bad you don't live near Chick-fil-A. Right now, they're giving away the ultimate road trip survival kit in their kid's meals. It's amazing. Snacks, CDs, games, crayons... you wouldn't believe how awesome it is. You're really missing out.

    Nah. They're not doing that.

    We are the family of many, many roadtrips, so much so that Gary drove to California with them (WITHOUT me!) last week from here in Colorado. Brave soul. The kicker? No DVD player! Sucker!

    So we (I mean, they) did magnets on a cookie sheet which was a hit for awhile. Also, at WalMart they have these little magnetic books (?) with punch out magnets which are used to create different scenes, or some are like paper dolls where you dress the characters in different outfits. I don't remember if they had boy versions, but they're fun and the girls loved them. I think they're $4 or $5. Also, those ColorWonder or Color Explosion marker sets - or any of the new Crayola stuff - is a huge hit since it's a VERY special treat here at our house. Also, Rubik's cube. And Where's Waldo and other "I Spy" type books. They love those. Oh, they also love stories on tape, so if you don't want to overdo the DVD thing, you could try that. My girls love Odyssey and Psalty or any (kids) books on tape from the library.

    I've also considered making Bingo sheets like Sue, but never have gotten around to that. I'm sure you have time to do that, right?

  25. Prozac?

    For you, not the kids.

    I mean, maybe for the kids - whatever works, man.

  26. We alternate between audio books and dvds. For every dvd they watch, they have to listen to an audio book. I don't know how old your kids are, but that works well for my crew.

    Also, the cookie sheet/magnet idea is fun. If you give them a cookie sheet with a lip, it's a great surface for drawing/coloring, and keeps the markers and crayons from rolling all over the place.

    Another idea that has worked for us is to give each kid a roll of quarters at the beginning of the trip. Every time they fight/whine/complain etc, we take a quarter away. Whatever money they have left at the end of the trip is theirs to spend however they choose. (We like to stop at Cracker Barrel b/c they can usually buy candy AND a toy).

    Good luck...you'll make some fun memories!!!

  27. oh honey! I rarely comment b/c I am just a lurker, but I NEED TO TELL YOU.... get tranquilizers!!!!!!!!! hahahaha!!

    We are driving cross country with our kiddos right now (moving) and we managed to turn a 4 hour drive into an 8 hour drive and a 5.5 hour drive into a 10 hour drive....see where I'm going here?? And we too have three kids. Today we mananged ALMOST 400 miles and it only took 11 hours. :(

    We have the built in DVD player with headphones. We have books, snacks, music, drinks....all of it. And none of it is working. I have no advice for you. We suck at this. I can't wait to see how you worked it out though!!

    You can check my blog to see our updates....it's insanity!

  28. Benadryl makes them sleepy....
    Sort of.
    When we're on long trips, I pack a duffle bag per child. First, I let them choose some things for the bag, but they always choose stuff they're in to right now and that gets boring, then I throw in some other stuff. Check out the websites for their favorite tv shows (like nick jr, noggin, etc) - they always have coloring pages, activity pages, etc for their favorite characters. I also like the activity books that have a water pen. Fill the pen with water and it magically makes the colors on the page appear. Fascinating.
    I admit, DVDs are my friend. Take them to a movie store and let them rent something they've never seen. Our van has 2 DVD players - one for the way back seat where my oldest daughter sits, and another for the middle seat, where my little 2 daughters sit. That way they can watch things that are interesting to them.
    Have fun!

  29. Play the alphabet game! Start naming things that begin with each letter (for X and Z you're allowed to use license plates, but only for those letters).

    You can also count flags. Have people on one side count their side, and those on the other count theirs, and have a contest.

    You can do the same thing with horses and cows. Another rule is that passing a graveyard puts you down to 0, but we don't always use that one.

    There's also Car Bingo games that you can download off the internet. Just run a search for them, and then bring them with you. You have to mark stuff off, like cows, and planes, and barns, and certain road signs, and stuff, until you get a Bingo. They're done by picture so even little ones can play.

    These have kept us going for hours!

    Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

  30. I shop the $ store and get a reserve of fun activities together and bring then out when my kids are just on the break of meltdowns. It's a 12 hour trip but I keep constant surprises. Also, we say no DVD for the first 2 hours. It's something to look forward to. Good luck!

  31. Keep the DVD as a last resort, something to fire up only if all the other distractions and tricks are gone.

    Our kids are good travelers (in fact, several years ago the Rocky Mountain News featured our family as an example of people who are unafraid to drive long distances with small children). We've driven to CA from CO twice, for example. They sleep, play games, sing, draw, etc. On those big trips to CA, we stopped at several little towns we encountered to let the kids tear around on a playground for ten minutes or so. It won't put you seriously behind if you do it once or twice during your trip, so consider it if the weather allows. It also gives you a chance to stretch.

    Take a cooler of snacks and a roll of paper towels.

    I'm a big believer in road trips. I just wish gas prices weren't so high!

    Have fun!

  32. Oh yeah!! I forgot about our I Spy books! I bought new ones last year an didn't let them see them until we were in the car so they entertained them a little longer then usual.