This is piggybacking on my post about Surviving a College Graduation with Preschoolers., but I wanted to expand on what I said for traveling.
Last year we took our then 3 year old boys and 18 month old daughter across the country to Columbia, South Carolina. Keep in mind we're in Austin, TX, so that's a long drive. It was about 3-4 days of driving for at least 4-6 hours a day.
Here's the things I did to prepare:
1. For the months ahead of time I scoured the toy clearance sections, Goodwill, dollar stores, and the Target dollar aisle. As I had money and as I saw a great deal I would buy little toys. I found Thomas trains clearanced for a dollar. I found lots of stickers. I got coloring books, special Batman markers. A box of dolls from around the world for $3.
Shop the after holiday sales. Most every major holiday has special toys for them. So you find the Easter Kelly doll a week after Easter for $2. She's cute and orginal. The box of cool Valentine sticker cards for 25 cents. I collected all of this into a giant box.
2. Haunt Half Price Books and garage sales and other places to get cheap books. My kids love books. This is a great way to distract them. If you have a supply of new books they will have the fun of discovering the new books. I love getting the clearance 50 cent books.
3. Have a special backpack appropriate to the size of your child. I found some great toddler backpacks that my kids can carry even when stuffed full of every toy they can think of. Make sure they know they're carrying it (if you have more than one kid, it just doesn't work to carry their backpack).
4. Get a large supply of snacks. I grabbed every single coupon I could find for individual sized snack bags (the 100 calorie bags are more expensive but the perfect size for little ones). and bought them all
Now, here's what to do while you're on the trip.
1. Know that you will be stopping often. So, work that into your schedule. Don't think that little bladders can go for 4 hours between stops. Recognize and work it in.
2. Stop at the Welcome Centers as you cross state lines. This is a great cheap way to get entertainment. My Mom did this with us, and we loved to gather brochures for all the places we wanted to go. Your kids will love the chance to stretch their legs, and some of the better ones will have drinks to get (Thank you Mississippi!). You can also usually get a free map of the state, which can be very helpful.
3. Have a cooler full of juice boxes. I froze a bunch of juice boxes and water bottles ahead of time so that when we left I didn't have to get ice as well. It keeps stuff cold longer, and forces you to not drink it all the first day.
That's my tips for traveling, this Works for me! See more ideas here.