Summer time means extra car time for many families. We’ll be hitting the highway for a few adventures this summer. It’s our first summer with a jam packed mini van filled with 4 kids in carseats, so planning and organizing have been a must for a comfortable ride. We’ve taken a few trips this spring with the crew. They weren’t as far as we’ll be going this summer or for as long, so it was good practice. Here’s a few tips for summer car travel with kids:
1.) Over organize!
2.) Bring a bunch of small bags for trash. Fill and toss one each time you stop.
3.) Plan around traffic not your kids sleep schedule – chances are their sleep is going to be totally off on a road trip so don’t bank on them sleeping at a certain time
4.) Stop places the kids can run around – rest stops can be overcrowded & scary with little kids but a Target/ Walmart where they can run the aisles is perfect
5.) If you’re trying to entertain them in the car focus on what you know they’ll like to do – for example if your kids love tablets, download every app out there! Maggie loves her animals and figures so I give her a bag of those + a few new trinkets/ animals from the $ spot and reveal new ones throughout the trip. Alex likes books & stickers, so I just load up on new ones before we go. Don’t bring a ton of stuff your kids have no interest in. Focus on their favorites.
6.) Those cardboard drink trays make the perfect play tray for a lap in a car seat.
Now for the GEAR!
With carseats, it’s safety first. Obviously make sure you choose safe seats that meet all size/weight requirements. Also, find seats that your kids think are comfortable. If they aren’t comfortable a long ride can be tough. We’ve tried a lot of carseats over the past few years and here are our current favorites:
For Miles (infant seat): We have the new Maxi Cosi Mico Max. We had a Maxi Cosi seat for Tommy too and loved it. They are easy to use, have great safety ratings and are so soft and comfortable for baby. These infant seats are also significantly lighter than most which makes carrying them around so much easier.
For Tommy (toddler, rear facing): We have the Britax Advocate ClickTight. We love this seat. It used to belong to Alex and we passed it on to Tommy. It’s very comfortable and has great safety features. The ClickTight feature is key if you have multiple carseats in a car because it doesn’t require latches to install it.
For the Girls (preschool & kindergarten): The girls now meet the height and weight for a booster, but at least for all the summer travel we have ahead of us, they are still in 5 point harness seats. I’ve always heard great things about Diono seats and a few months ago we decided to try them out. We have the Diono Radian RXT. They are awesome if you are trying to fit a lot of kids in the car because they are a lot more narrow than most seats. They go from birth on up, so they’re a good investment. I thought Maggie was going to fight me about staying in a 5 point harness (she’s 6.5 years old) but she actually loves the Diono seat and thinks it’s really comfortable.
Alex is in the Britax ClickTight Frontier Harness-2-Booster. It’s a ClickTight seat like Tommy’s. This is key for us because our back row only has one set of latches.
How do we fit everyone?
People often ask how we set up 4 carseats in the car. Right now we have Maggie and Alex in the 3rd row and the boys in the captain chairs rear-facing. The girls are right next to each other because there are only 3 sets of latches in our car (Town & Country). The latches in the back row are off center which puts the girls right next to each other. If you are going to ever have 4 kids in carseats in your car, I recommend looking into where the latches are. We have other ideas for good carseat setup in the car but we’re limited due to where the latches are.
The best new piece of baby gear I got for Miles is the Maxi Cosi Maxi-Taxi. When I switched to a Maxi Cosi seat when Tommy was born, the only thing I didn’t like was that I didn’t have a light weight stroller solution to pop the infant carrier in. If he was asleep in the carrier, I’d lug that thing all around town instead of waking him to put him in a stroller! When I was pregnant with Miles I spotted my pal Kate from Style Smaller with what looked like a Maxi Cosi infant car seat carrier/stroller (thanks to Instagram!). I immediately texted her and she told me all about the Maxi Taxi. It’s the BEST. It’s super light and folds flat enough that it takes up barely any room in the car and comes with us everywhere.
Another stroller we have with us for car travel is the Uppa Baby Vista. We can use it as a single, double or triple stroller. Depending on what we are doing on a trip, we are always using it a different way. A few examples:
We want both boys to sleep – one in Maxi Taxi and one reclined in the Uppa Baby Sleeping
Everyone together – both boys in the Uppa Baby
The kick board: always in tow because we never know when one of the girls might need a lift
I like traveling with the Uppa Baby Vista for the versatility. It’s really convenient to pack (all the pieces come apart and don’t take up much room. It’s nice to have so many stroller options while traveling with just packing one stroller (plus our Maxi Taxi). It also holds up really well with travel. We’ve been carting it on trips for almost 2 years (planes, trains and cars) and it still looks new.
When we got our Diono carseat, we discovered their great car accessories. We use the Easy View mirrors for both of the boys and we have a Travel Pal in the back for the girls. The Travel Pal holds so much and keeps it all organized.
Lunch boxes of Toys:
My kind, genius friend Meghan sent the kids a special surprise to pack for our summer trip to visit her family: personalized lunch boxes from Pottery Barn Kids. She picked out special patterns she knew each of them would love. They were so excited when they arrived and I was so excited the first time they packed them: they fit the perfect amount of toys for car travel. They are compact enough to not take up a ton of room and not give the kids the chance to pack every toy they own. They fit in their lap in the car to play with and I convince them to “leave a little room” in them for a souvenir! I am so happy they got these sweet gifts for summer travel.
We get a lot of questions about tablets for kids. For us, we like the LeapFrog Epic. My girls were never into tablets or really tv (their choice not mine!!) but they both love the Epic in the car and for travel. First off, they are an actual Android tablet now, so if parents want to use them on vacation they can too. Second, they are really easy for little hands to hold and use in the car. Third, they are easy for little kids to use as a camera. This is fun for making silly photos en route and for taking travel photos on the trip. Last, but certainly not least, I love the apps. They are really educational but still incorporate their favorite characters and lots of fun.
Snacks: My girls discovered Snackeez at a friends house this winter and then saw the commercials. They think they are “so cool”. I don’t really like bringing things that have to be cleaned on road trips, because honestly they just end up getting gross in the car long before we return home. Last weekend Grammy brought the girls a pack of Disposable Snackeez and they are my new summer car snack/drink plan. I can put water in the cup and a snack in the top and when they are done we can toss them. The girls are just excited they are still Snackeez.
For a few other posts on travel with kids:
Traveling With Little Kids
60 Places to Go With Kids
On the Go Snack Items for Kids
10 Family Activities to Do this Summer
Top Travel Gear for Babies
Flying with Children: Tips & Printable Packing Lists for Kids
Air Travel With Kids
10 Car Must Haves with Kids
Happy trails everyone!