Keeping the car decent on a long drive (without leaving your kids behind)

Keeping the car decent on a long drive (without leaving your kids behind)

Joe and I cleaned out the car after we drove across the country from CA to AL for the holidays. It wasn’t pretty. Granted, it was the first time we actually took everything out of the car and vacuumed since we bought it in March – and after nine months of massive road trips and day long adventures, it was a mess.

A huge effing mess.

I’m sure I don’t have to describe for you the layers of crushed goldfish or nearly unrecognizable apple cores… the 15 bazillion teeny tiny lego pieces… the ripped books, broken crappy kid meal toys… and the trash. Just straight trash.

After cleaning everything (even the booster and car seat covers!) I vowed that it would never get this bad again. 

The battle plan

  1. Clean more often – after every trip (which for us is usually every Saturday), the kids are responsible for cleaning out the back seat. Everything except our box of water bottles comes out and is taken to its home (whether that’s the trash can or a bookshelf). If they vacuum the backseat too, I pay them for their work!
  2. Limit food – at first I declared a war on eating food in the car. For most trips, I stick to that guideline, but for 8+ hour trips, we make exceptions. When we eat in the car, we’re very diligent about getting all trash and food pieces out after eating. We don’t eat lunch and watch a movie – we just eat lunch. Today my three year old decided to drop a lid on the ground next to her and we had a big family discussion about how trash NEVER belongs on the ground – whether that’s in our yard, in our national park, in our house, and especially not in our car.
  3. Limit physical things – each kid gets a backpack and in it they have a water bottle, a book, and something to play with. On longer (8+ hours) trips I allow LEGOs, on smaller trips they are banned. We also use audio (books, podcasts, CDs), video (Amazon Prime downloads), and game apps (Math Evolve was a favorite this trip!) to help pass the time. Check out this post for a list of our most recent road trip entertainment favorites!

What sort of rules or rituals do you follow on a long car trip?

Back to Top