Claire Caprioli

Road Trip Tips

Part 2: Entertainment

By Claire Caprioli

Welcome back! Now that you are prepared for the physical mayhem that could occur on a road trip, you can learn how to avoid the horrors of boredom. You know, the whining, complaining, muttering, bickering, screaming, crying, regression, and eventual total reversion to basic Neanderthal behavior. And that’s just from the driver. Truthfully, in an otherwise healthy family, there are few things more stressful than unhappy children confined in a car. There. Is. No. Escape.

Fortunately, with a little legwork and less than $10 per kid, you can have a (relatively) peaceful and happy trip arriving at your destination with most, or even all, of your hair still attached to your scalp.

All purchases can be made in one trip at Target, Walmart, Dollar Store, and the like. Here are suggestions for toddlers to teens.

For each child:

1) A lidded container, somewhere between 8×11 inches and 15×12 inches and 3-6 inches deep. Bigger is too bulky and smaller is not useful as a lap desk. This doesn’t need to be Rubbermaid’s finest, it just needs a flat lid that clicks on and off easily. In each container you put #2-7 below.

2) Any combo of a NEW activity book, coloring book, doodle pad, construction paper, lined notebook, book

3) Stickers, with which to decorate their own personal travel bins

4) Pencils and colored pencils (and/or markers if you trust your kids not to draw all over the car) Note: Crayons will melt in a hot car, and overly sharp pencils break easily.

5) A small toy or surprise (no noise-makers or make-shift swords!) This could be a small stuffed animal, plastic doo-dad, or better yet an easy craft with felt or origami paper. For something from home, take an old clean sock and a marker for your kid to make into a puppet.

6) A couple napkins, a wet wipe, a ziplock sandwich bag (for easy to seal garbage)

7) 2 or 3 healthy and not-so-healthy treats. I like life savers, granola bars, a small box of raisins, a stick or two of gum, fruit snacks. Pez dispensers can be a big hit, too. Note: Chocolate will melt! Nothing messy/sticky or that poses a big choking hazard (gumballs, popcorn, etc.)

Okay, this is the good part. If done correctly, you will get major fun parent points for hitting the HAPPY KID TRIFECTA: surprise, cool stuff, and control.

Surprise: Ideally, the kids know nothing about these bins until they find them in their seats in the car. Think like Santa and put them in the car the night before.

Cool stuff: New items geared to the interests and age level of each child are in the bin and ready to use. What’s not to like?

Control: Remember the snacks in each bin? It is COMPLETELY up to each child to decide when and how much to eat. They love being in control of when they can eat! Just explain that when it’s gone for one leg of the trip, it’s gone. (Have replacements in your suitcase for the trip home.) Yes, this can potentially lead to tears and begging when one kid sucks up his treats like a vacuum in the first 90 seconds, and another kid uses his notebook to calculate that he can consume one gummy bear every 30 minutes in order to last the length of the trip AND maximize his brother’s annoyance. It can also be a terrific learning experience about self-control and/or bartering with a sibling. Whether they are wisely pacing themselves or lamenting their gluttony, they still have plenty of other interesting items with which to occupy themselves.

Hint: don’t let the kids simply have all these items when the trip is over. Other than food, you can keep everything in the bins exclusively for travel. This way, you only need to replace a few things for each trip. The kids associate these items with car travel and may even come across something they drew during last summer’s beach trip (“Hey, I remember this! We pulled over in the pouring rain so Daddy could fix the tire! Remember when Suzie offered him a raisin, and he told her to shut the window, so she threw it in the mud? I drew a picture of him! Here’s the vein in the middle of his forehead!”)

Let the good times roll!

[Claire Caprioli is a long-time WBWC patient, mother of four, and a freelance writer, editor, and blogger.]

By |April 19th, 2017|Claire Caprioli|0 Comments

Road Trip Tips


Part I: Essentials

By Claire Caprioli

When you have four children aged 15 months to 8 years, the most reasonable and sane way to enjoy family time over the summer is with a staycation. Being neither reasonable nor sane in our house, we loaded the kids into the minivan for a 10-hour drive (in one day) to New York. Fifteen minutes into the trip, the baby vomited all over herself. The result of a rushed morning, she showed no signs of distress or illness. The child sitting next to her helpfully observed, “Hey, I can see the peach chunks from the yogurt she ate this morning!” One child in the back began dry-heaving. Another child requested an immediate opening of all the windows. My husband pulled over, his jaw clenching and unclenching, as he mentally calculated that to head home, clean up, and head back out would put us back in our current location 45 minutes from now.

I, Supermom, with a smile and dismissive wave of my hand, popped into action. This was, after all, just a routine and minor hiccup in the day. (This was also several years ago, so my exact words, attitude, and demeanor have been lost to antiquity.)

While windows and doors were opened wide, I headed to the trunk. I retrieved paper towels, wipes, baby wipes, 3 plastic produce bags, an infant blanket, a roll of lifesavers, and baby clothes.

In fewer than 10 minutes (no joke), we were back on the road (did you not catch the Supermom reference?)



As girl scouts, boy scouts, and Scar from The Lion King all know: BE PREPARED. With proper preparation, 90% of your work is done and all that is left is to 1. Prioritize and 2. Act.

The next few minutes went something like this:

Lifesavers were handed out to children (this is akin to showing a bird a shiny object. It serves as a distraction and is met with wonderment: “Wow, mom never lets us have lifesavers at 7:30am!”)

My husband held open produce bag #1 while I wiped up as much as I could with paper towels. The baby was removed from her car seat, wiped with baby wipes, and changed. Her dirty clothes were placed in produce bag #2. Produce bag #2 was tightly tied off and placed in produce bag #3, which was also knotted (this would need to make the trip to NY without creating an odor.) Wipes were used to wipe down the car seat, and all wipes were discarded in bag #1, which could now be knotted and disposed of at the next pit stop. The baby was dry, but the car seat was now damp. The thin infant blanket was folded in half and draped on the seat to keep the baby dry without being too bulky and interfering with the seat belt. Boom. Done and ready to hit the road again.

There were no further incidents on that trip. Incidentally, this exact incident happened again about a year later. So, BE PREPARED.

Experience is a great teacher. Had this occurred with our first child, we likely would have tearfully made our way back home. Preparation requires: thinking out scenarios in advance, knowing what you need, and having everything handy. If what I needed was buried under suitcases or scattered around the car, this would have taken much longer.

In hopes that I might save you from just such a tragedy, I offer you a peek into my car:

  • A mesh bag containing:
    • Paper towels
    • Baby wipes
    • Produce bags. I can’t say enough about produce bags—they are flat, a decent size, can be folded into tiny squares, and work great for garbage and a myriad of wet or dirty items.
  • Small plastic bucket within easy reach for kids, known as the “Puke Bucket” (name optional) which is lined, of course, with a produce bag
  • Tissues, also within easy reach of kids
  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer, napkins, straws, lifesavers in the passenger side door
  • Small duffle bag with emergency clothes for everyone (updated yearly), and towel/baby blanket

These items do not take up much room and always remain in the car in a known location. May your next trip be trouble-free, but if it isn’t, I hope these tips help!

[Claire Caprioli is a parenting and children’s writer who birthed her children at the WBWC. Part 2 of this article will feature keeping the kids entertained.]



By |March 29th, 2017|Claire Caprioli, Family Resources|0 Comments