Life & Leisure

The five essentials for car rides

It’s almost summer time, which means my family will most likely be traveling back to Morgantown more often since the kids are out of school. 

We love living in Gettysburg, but traveling to see family on a regular basis can be tough on our little family. With a 5-year-old and an 18-month-old who both get bored in the car easily, we had to figure out a way to keep them occupied and happy for the long car rides.

I think every mom and dad can relate to getting on the road and then five minutes into the drive the kids are already fighting or crying. So, when we moved out of state and knew we would be traveling back and forth to visit family, I scoured the internet for tips on traveling with babies and kids. 

This list is what I have compiled and what works best for my family. The five essentials for car rides, as I call it.

The first thing I pack my kiddos are drinks and snacks. It never fails that as soon as we get in the car, I hear my oldest one say she is hungry or thirsty. It doesn’t matter if we just ate before getting in the car or not, so this is probably the most important one on my list. This helps us stay on the road longer without having to make stops for food and drinks as often. I like to pack at least two snacks and a water bottle for each kid.

The next thing  I’m sure to  pack are books for them to look at. My kids have always loved books and that is especially true now that my 5-year-old is starting to read. I grab a couple books for each and this normally occupies them for at least a half hour on the car ride. Luckily, it doesn’t make my kids carsick, but if your kids are prone to getting carsick, I would skip this one.

Another go-to to pack are coloring books and crayons. I have a little foldable lap tray for my daughter in the car that is perfect for when she is coloring. This helps keep all the crayons from falling off her lap and gives her a hard surface to put the book on. This will also keep her attention for a half hour to an hour. 

I always like to throw in a few little dolls, Barbies or stuffed animals that they can play with in the car as well. Their little imaginations can take those toys and have them creating a whole story in the backseat of your car. 

I love it.

The last thing I pack is the kids’ tablet. I know this can be controversial, but it has been a great tool in our household. We use the tablet in the car so they can watch Disney movies or PBS shows and this helps pass the time for them. It also helps put them to sleep in the car. 

We haven’t started using a tablet for our 

18-month-old yet, but it works great for our older one. We did start using an iPad for movies in the car when my oldest was about 3 and we just bought a little iPad holder that would strap to the seat in front of her so she doesn’t have to  hold it or drop it. That was a game changer 

as well.

To help make life even easier when traveling and packing, we bought the kids little backpacks that we call our “go bags.” We pack all these things in that go bag and leave it packed in the closet for  trips only. Our kids have plenty of other toys, books and coloring stuff that we can leave a few stashed away in the go bags.

I hope these tips help you on your next long car ride with your kids. 

Ann Burns is a Morgantown native, raising two young children with her husband, Drake. She writes weekly columns for The Dominion Post. Contact her at