7 Ways I've Mastered Road Trips with My Family of Six

Baby asleep on our latest trip.Baby asleep on our latest trip.Last night my family of six rolled back into town, surviving a 20 hour (one way) road trip to sunny Florida all the way from gloomy Indiana. It's a trip I've personally taken yearly since I was a small girl, and over the years it's become a tradition my husband and I have passed down to our family. The only "negative" is that because of our family size and the cost of airline flights, we must drive instead of fly.

And while it's a marathon of a drive, I don't really dread it. In fact, with a little prep and planning, it can be actually fun! We manage just fine, because I always come armed with an arsenal of tips and tricks up my sleeve.

A few tricks I use when road tripping with my small children:

1. Leave before the sun rises.
I've found it makes the trip feel shorter if we can get a few hours down the road before anyone is begging for snacks, needs entertainment, or has to go potty.

2. Pack lots of fresh fruit.
For us, avoiding the junk food keeps the sugar highs (and lows) at bay. A 2 year old on a sugar binge strapped in a car seat? No thank you.

Related: 10 tried-and-true ways to make flying with baby easier

3. Break up the drive and spend the night at a hotel that has a pool, if possible.
After riding in the car all day, it can be hard to wind down to go to bed, especially in an unfamiliar environment. Swimming in a pool for a bit before bedtime is an awesome way to have some fun and get the wiggles out.

4. Install passenger-side car shades.
Nothing's worse than a tired baby that can't nap on the road because the sun is either in his eyes, or the heat is getting to him. Our minivan came with pre-installed shades we can easily pull up when needed, but similar type shades can also be inexpensively be purchased and installed as well.

5. Take frequent short breaks.
In the long run, I've found it keeps moral high to spend the extra 5 minutes at the rest stop, letting the little ones crawl around in the grass for a few minutes getting some much needed physical activity.

6. Anticipate traffic jams.
Before I leave town, I do my research and figure out where the construction is, and at what mile markers we might delayed. By knowing where on the map to anticipate traffic jams, I can make sure we have a full gas tank and happy bellies. Oh, and that everyone is properly pottied and diapered.

7. Relax, and go with the (traffic) flow.
While road trips can be super fun, there's also a high probability that not everyone will be happy at all times. It's OK to let the "crabbies" run their course, because this too shall pass (somewhere farther down the road).

-By Emily Elling
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