Survive the Car Ride to the Outer Banks

describe the imageHow to survive the car ride: 5 ways to get you all there in one big happy piece.

Whether you're a family of just a few or you're toting a minivan packed full of Frozen lovers, a long road trip is bound to encounter a few bumps along the way.

Luckily, there are a handful tips you can follow that will help to make "Outer Banks or Bust" a little more fun and a lot less bust. Every family has its own road trip arsenal, but here are a few of the most common solutions and creative ideas we have come across to make for a successful road trip

First things first, SNACKS!

Toting a cooler and picnic basket chocked full of snacks from home is the easiest way to cut back on time being stuck at a restaurant and to be able to offer healthier options for your family than fast food. Also, easily retrievable munchies for boredom attacks are necessary.

Treats that travel well: string cheese, rice cakes, pretzels, bagels, sandwiches, slices of harder fruits like pears and apples, bananas, granola bars, cookies, raisins, cereal-o's and puffed corn snacks. Steer clear of yogurt, applesauce, anything super sticky, and soft fruit. And Sippy cups are good for passengers of all ages, even dad! Fill them with water instead of bringing juice boxes for less mess and less frequent bathroom stops.


For infants, bring along colorful-eye-catching toys that attach to the backseat and consider pre-recording yourself reading nursery rhymes and playing them aloud in the car. Your child will prefer hearing your voice and you can possibly avoid having to read out loud or sing Disney movie theme songs all the way to your Outer Banks vacation rental.

Some families with older children like to balance their entertainment time in the car between a book on tape and a movie. Choose a movie you think your family will love to watch year after year, like National Lampoon's Family Vacation, The Princess Bride, or Sandlot, and then only watch it on your road trips to create anticipation and excitement for the trip, along with creating a memorable family tradition.

Try to reduce the use of personal devices by creating engaging entertainment everyone can participate in and enjoy together. They'll thank you for it one day.


Keep the "are we there yet"s to a minimum with activities to sneak the time right past them. Give each kid a "trip notebook;" journals for the older ones and fun-colored notepads with washable markers for the younger ones. Have them write or draw about the places they see as you drive past or their favorite part of your last pit stop. Give them an incentive to fill their notebooks by the time you get back home. Hopefully this will keep them occupied and will be fun to look back on one day.

You can also photo copy a map and outline the route before leaving the house. Divide the total miles by 10 and place a number on each milestone. Give each kid a copy and let them follow your route on their map. Announce when you have reached the next number and play trivia games with upcoming cities and landmarks. This way kids will know exactly how many more numbers it takes to get to the Outer Banks without asking you that dreaded question. It might sound old school to some people, but a child learning to read a road map instead of relying on a GPS system is never a bad idea.

Be realistic, however. Don't expect small children and toddlers to sit still more than two to three hours in one stretch. Find rest stops with play areas, cornball roadside attractions, or farmer's market-type stops where everybody can get a little exercise in. And it's sometimes these types of stops where some of the funniest, most memorable family stories are made. 


Work with your kids before you set out on the trip to fill their own personal backpacks with games, coloring books, crayons, favorite snacks, blankets, teddy bears, and travel journals tailored to what each of them likes.

Establish a game plan. Designate responsibilities between the adults and older children: who will be driving and who will be the social director/snack distributor/trash collector/story teller, etc.

If applicable, plan your travel time around your child's sleep schedule. Leave before lunchtime, let them eat in the car and then take their afternoon nap, allowing you a window of peaceful ground covering.

Of course, safety first! Make sure all child seats are secured properly, as up to 70% of car seats aren't installed correctly.

And Last but DEFINITELY not least…The "Don't Forget" checklist:

  • Flashlight (useful if you break down at night…or for ghost stories)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Phone Chargers
  • An "old-school" paper map in case you get lost and the GPS doesn't get service in the middle of nowhere.
  • A ball to kick or throw around at rest stops.
  • Pillows, of course.
  • Plastic zip bags, a trash bag, and a plastic bucket, should anyone become car sick.

Don't worry, you're going to be fine. And just think…once you reach that vacation rental in Nags Head, you can get your toes in the sand and your happy family out of the car and into the North Carolina sunshine.

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