The stress of uprooting your life to move across the country is magnified when you have kids. No matter how young — or old — they are, they will be just as stressed about the move as you, if not more. In addition, they will be far more demanding than your spouse or even a pet. Kids need to feel safe AND be entertained otherwise they will spend hundreds of miles letting you know just how unhappy they are.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Start by figuring out the basic logistics of your move: how many days? Are you hiring movers or a moving company or driving a truck yourself? Then start planning the specifics.
- How many overnight stops will be involved and where will you stay?
- If you have a rental truck, will one person be responsible for driving the kids or will you switch off?
- Where are the rest stops on your route and which ones will you stop at?
- How many meals will you need and where will you eat them?
- What snacks will you need to have on hand?
- What toys, books, music, entertainment, etc., will you need on the road?
- What medications or other special items should you keep on hand?
- What items will you need access to your first night/day in your new home? (answer for each member of the family)
- What items will you need access to your last night/day in your current home?(answer for each member of the family)
Pack with Care
Use the plan you created above to guide your packing process. Most clothing, household items, furniture, toys, tools, etc. will be safely packed and stacked in your moving van, whether you move yourself or hire someone to transport your belongings. The things you identified as last night, first night, and on the road, will need to be packed separately and stowed where they are appropriately accessible.
If you plan to picnic on the road or have drinks and snacks that require cool storage, remember to leave room in your vehicle for a cooler and don’t forget to buy ice the night before you leave. Formula or medicines may also require refrigeration.
Make sure you have a good first aid kit and an emergency road kit in your car. You may also want to consider carrying paper maps or an atlas in case you get out of range of your phone carrier.
Pack all the batteries and chargers you will need on the road in one place. This includes phone, table and laptop chargers as well as batteries for handheld games, toys, and other items.
Print out an itinerary of your entire trip, including rest stops, food breaks, and any side trips/attractions. Include all information about the hotels/motels where you’ll be staying as well as restaurants and the location of gas stations, banks, and other stores you may need to visit.
Include Your Kids
The more you include your kids in the process, the more invested they will be in a successful move. Older kids and teens can assume responsibility for choosing, packing, and carrying their own belongings for the road. Younger kids can make choices about which toys or clothing they want to bring. In the latter case phrase it as “which two outfits do you want to wear on the road?” or “which three toys/games do you want to bring?” to impose limits.
If there is time for excursions on the road, such as a few hours at a riverside park or a visit to the largest ball of twine, sit down with everyone in the family to discuss which excursions will and won’t be on the schedule. Even if they don’t get their way, at least they will know you listened to their opinions.
Give each child at least one “job” on the road. Teens may serve as navigators or take responsibility for watching one of the younger kids at a rest stop. Younger kids may have the job of collecting and dumping trash or checking under the hotel beds to make sure nothing is left behind. Be creative, but give everyone something to do.
Start with these tips and you’ll be on your way to a cross-country move that is less stressful for your kids and for you!
You may also want to check out these road trip games to keep everyone occupied on the long drive: