Our family has done a lot of road trips. The most common drive is from Portland, Or. to San Jose, Ca. which takes a single day of driving 12 hours. We were driving this before we had children, we were driving it when we had one child and here we are still road tripping with four children. One of the best discoveries was to stop not at state rest stops (sorry- they just are creepy) not at a fast food joint with a play area, but at a playground. Most cities have parks or schools with playgrounds available. I found this great website we will use to search for the nearest playground on our trip, http://playspacefinder.kaboom.org/ a mobile app is due out any day and I hope it is before we leave in July.
Something new we are going to experiment with on this trip is stopping for a swim. This web site will connect us with the nearest public pool- http://find.mapmuse.com/interest/public-pools. It is going to be a hot this summer and a nice refreshing swim should be perfect. I also have noticed how well my children rest after water play so we will try to swim before nap time or early evening if we are going to be driving late into the night.
A recent discovery of a stop we all enjoy are cemeteries. It's peaceful, not a lot of people, and a great place to take a stroll. We play a game and the girls look to find their first names. (since they each have very old fashioned names this is pretty easy) We can also look for shared birth days. We like to figure out people's ages when they died, notice their family buried near and take notice of the art of the gravestone. We have also done grave rubbings with a pencil and paper. We will use Google maps to find local cemeteries.
We are going also armed with Yelp to assist in finding restaurants and most other things. We hope to eat at a restaurant only once a day, (cost and children really do not want to sit in a restaurant after being in the car for hours) taking advantage of the complimentary hotel breakfasts and picnicking in parks. We will have a cooler and pop into grocery stores to keep it stocked. Think; fresh fruit and veggies, cheeses, bread/crackers, cold cuts, spreads etc...
Another invaluable app for pit stops is http://www.sitorsquat.com/sitorsquat/mobile/index. Public bathroom review and finder. Potty breaks will happen often and I hope to be able to lessen the possibility of going into somewhere disgusting. It is so hard to keep small children from touching anything - I start gagging and freaking out to be honest. Speaking of potty, our youngest is showing signs of toileting. I am not sure I want this to happen before we leave in a few weeks, but should it we will bring along our small potty to keep in the trunk. We also keep plastic bags for disposing of any wastes. Tip- on the road clean up works best if you line the potty with a bag before the child uses it.
Thank goodness for smart phones!