School is almost out for the summer, which means it’s road trip season! I have always loved taking my kids on road trips, both long and short. Some of the most fun activities we do all summer are day trips to nearby attractions, where we can spend time together away from home and still sleep in our comfortable beds at home at night. I’ve partnered with Mott’s and Dollar General to share five tips for day trips with young kids that have helped us create a super enjoyable road-trip culture in our family. I hope they help you get out on some adventures of your own!
Attitude is Everything
Don’t dismiss this as a cliché. The number one factor in assuring you and your kiddos have a wonderful time together on a day trip is to head into the experiences with a positive attitude!
One big way that I have found to set myself up for success is to focus on gratitude: taking time to appreciate the small moments, the minivan that I love that can carry us to our destination, the warm summer sun, recognizing the sparkle in my kids eyes as we get on the road. Preparing with an attitude of gratitude can not only change our attitude, but our entire experience and the fun memories surrounding the trip.
Stock up on Snacks
I’m pretty sure the term “hangry” was invented because of toddlers and young kids. They’re not the only ones who can get a little off kilter when they need a snack, but they sure can manifest their hanger in frustrating ways. The best way to avoid the hanger is to stay ahead of it by stocking up on great snacks.
We love stopping at Dollar General on the way out of town to grab bags of popcorn, pretzels, and other treats to have on hand in the car and during the outing. It is also the perfect place to pick up some bottles of Mott’s 100% Juice, including the exclusive Apple Mango juice 8oz 6-pack that my kids love. It is a little tangy, and super refreshing for a summer outing and they love that they each can have their own.
The Drive is Part of the Fun
In addition to our snacks and drinks, we also grab some of those amazing mess-free marker books to keep the kids entertained in the car. I try to remember that the day trip begins the moment we get into the car, rather than the moment we arrive at the destination, and that helps keep the energy fun and happy along the drive. (In the past we’ve gotten small toys or games for the drive as well, and this year we’re sticking to coloring books that feel more like consumable goods.)
I want my kids to love going on adventures, and that means driving around sometimes! By making the car ride really enjoyable they learn that it can be fun to road-trip, and that will pay off as we are able to continue to do fun trips and activities throughout the years.
Take Your Time
No one likes the feeling of being rushed or in a hurry. When planning for your day trip, try to take reality into account and realize that it will take 30 minutes to get shoes on and into the car, then another 15-20 every time someone needs to go to the bathroom.
Build some padding into your activities and drive so that you can feel relaxed and not stress everyone out by herding everyone through the day. I like to assume the mantra “We have plenty of time!” as I approach a day trip with my little kids. Saying this aloud several times to them (and myself) throughout the day helps remind me that the purpose of the adventure is the moments that we get to experience together. There is no finish line to the zoo, park, lake, or beach. The activity is there to be enjoyed, and it will be much more fun to really see and experience a small piece of it than try to rush like a mad woman through the whole thing.
Let the kids set the pace, and enjoy as much as they will. I always feel satisfied by the outing if the kids are engaged with the experience, even if it happens to be kicking rocks along the parking lot for 10 minutes on the way inside. They’ll remember and appreciate the patience.
Review and Report
One important and easily overlooked piece to a day trip with the kids is taking a little time to invite them to talk about it and reflect on it with you. Asking open ended, thoughtful questions can get them thinking more deeply about the experience, and give them time to learn from it.
“What was your favorite part of the day?” “If you could go back tomorrow, what part would you want to do again?” “What do you think about ______ thing we saw?” “When you’re telling your class/friends about today, what will you tell them?”
Following up on the experience helps to build some memories and allows the kiddos to feel the positive feelings of the adventure all over again. As you continue to talk about those fun day trips, they will easily become excited and enthusiastic about sharing more fun activities together in the future.
Well, I’m thoroughly ready to hit the road and see some fun things with my kids this summer. Some of my very favorite Austin area day trips with the kids are: The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary , Enchanted Rock, Wimberley and Blue Hole, Hamilton Pool, Picking at Sweet Berry Farm, Pedernales Park, and Fredricksburg.