Spring break and summer vacation means road trips for a lot of families. I’m the queen of road trips around here (being single, I do ALL the driving) and with three kids of various age, I’ve learned a variety of ways to ease the stress (and save money) on road trips. Here are my top nine:

1. Pack More if You Can

Obviously pack what you need, but if there’s room, pack what you may need too. This helps save the cost of buying or renting things at your destination. This can be for anything from juice boxes and snacks to pool toys, extra sunglasses (for the ones you often lose) and sweaters. Despite a forecast of 85, there could be a chilly night and buying sweatshirts for a family of four definitely can add up!

2. Bring Breakfast

Save on food by bringing breakfast for your hotel room. You can treat the family to a breakfast out too, but having cereal, granola bars and fruit from home can save not only a ton of cash on food, but it can allow you to get going with your day and not have to stop for the meal at a restaurant. Of course, dry snacks in the car are a must for kids of all ages.

3. Bring the Chargers

Remember the phone and iPad chargers so you don’t have to run into a drug store. Bring along any batteries that you may need too – flashlight, camera, etc. since they are usually very costly on the road or at resort areas.

4. Be Flexible With Your Schedule

Often highway signs can lead to wonderful new places to discover and explore for an hour or two. If you don’t have to rush to be somewhere, take as many rest stop breaks as the family desires. My kids still remember an impromptu mini soccer game we had at a rest stop, alongside a stream, on the way to Florida.

5. Disconnect From Electronics

If the kids see mom or dad in the passenger seat on their iPad or phone the whole trip, they’ll likely follow suit. But if you are in areas that have more than “boring highway views,” make sure everyone is not missing out on the landscape. Suggest to the kids that they keep a diary of the car ride or document it in pictures. Or play the “I Spy” license plate game or car bingo. This will keep it fun and help the time pass.

6. Bring New Activities

Kids get bored with what they have at home every day. So new coloring books, books, toys, games, dry erase markers and boards, even new apps, will keep them captivated for at least a little while. Try books on CD or even new music. Older kids love headphones or movies. The library is a great resource for movies other than your own collection.

7. Let the Kids Have a Say

If they really want to stop, stop. If they want to check something out, check it out. It’s much easier when it’s a “family” trip and everyone contributes, than relying on mom or dad’s rigid schedule. This makes kids feel empowered and they feel special by being heard.

8. Make Surprise Goody Bags

I did this with my kids on the way to Florida from NY. I think I made 3 each and gave them along the way. Each bag had a few new toys, a book, some candy, and age-appropriate items for each child. They loved it!

9. Travel Comfy

Bring pillows and blankets, if needed,and travel in layers. No one likes to be cold or hot on long car rides. It’s all about being comfortable and happy and making that travel time fun too, not just getting from point A to point B.

Stress less, be flexible, take some deep breaths, work as a unit, eat and drink enough so the hunger fits don’t happen and put on some good music! Happy Travels!