We recently had our spring break and with that came the obligatory 8 hour road trip back to our hometown to visit friends and family. Last year I got a free pass because I was about 6 months pregnant. So, instead we did a “staycation” and went to a nearby hotel with a waterpark inside. The kids loved it and the best part was no long trip! I would highly recommend this, if this is an option for you. However, I couldn’t get away with that this year since I had an 8 1/2 month old baby boy who most of his family hadn’t had a chance to meet!
Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on traveling with kids by any means, nor do I know a secret magic trick to making your road trip with your kids 100% enjoyable, but I might can get you to about 75%, haha!
- Think Light. When it comes to packing, I use to bring everything I could possibly think of that we “might” need. Turns out we usually didn’t need it and, unless you’re going camping or such, then there is more than likely a Wally World nearby to pick up any necessary items you didn’t pack but ended up needing. I also try to leave as many toys/blankies/stuffed animals at home as possible. For one, you don’t have to worry about losing them and two, it keeps things less cluttered in the vehicle. Sometimes this can be a fight so I usually allow one or two to keep the peace. If you are going to be somewhere with a washer and dryer at your disposal then take advantage of the situation and pack light on clothes also. When packing just consider “is this a need or want?” and try to keep the ratio 80% need, 20% want. Also, try to condense things down into smaller containers/packages to save room. Remember also, not everyone needs their own bag/suitcase. I packed my stuff and the baby’s stuff together in one suitcase and my other two boys stuff together in another one. I had one other bag for lagniappe so anything I thought of last minute or couldn’t fit in the suitcases went into this bag. It seems crazy, but I just personally feel like, the less stuff you have with you in the vehicle, the calmer it feels!
- Don’t underestimate the power of electronics. Ok, ok…I know some of you are going to croak when I say this but…Let them have extra screen time! It really won’t do them permanent damage (I don’t think, but I haven’t actually read up on any studies) for you to compromise for one trip. I know in this day and age we are given “the look” if we let our kids have too much screen time but DVD players, Kindle’s, IPad’s, Nintendo DS, etc., can be your best friend if you just let them! Only allow educational videos, games, etc. if that makes you feel better about it. You can make them take breaks from it, but I bet about 45 minutes into “Are we there yet?” you are going to be glad to have something to keep them entertained! I also suggest for less clutter take DVD’s and such out of the cases and put them in a cd book of some type. I have one already in my car but forgot to do this before leaving. I deeply regretted it!
- Go old school. Ok, so compromising on your beliefs about screen time isn’t going to work for you…then go old school. Play games, read books, color/draw, make them take a nap, haha! I wouldn’t suggest bringing games because of the fact that it’s going to make it more crowded in the vehicle and pieces are likely to go missing (which will probably bring on a melt down). I would try games like I spy, 20 questions, punch buggy, etc. Now that last game isn’t going to work like it use to, so I changed ours to “punch buggy Dollar General” (those suckers are popping up everywhere!) This substitute will probably only work in the south though, so pick something that you are likely to see recurrently along your trip but not constantly. And lastly, there is no substitute for good old fashion conversation. This one is a little harder for me since I have all boys, haha, but if you can get your kids to talk with you then do it. No better time then when “stuck” in a vehicle together for hours at a time!
- Be Prepared. I try to have as much stuff packed up and prepared the night before as I possible can. Some things I like to do are have my kids sleep in comfy clothes (not pajama’s) so they are dressed for the day. I just wake them up to go to the bathroom and load them up in the car. I also, leave their shoes in the car the night before so that we don’t forget them and don’t have to fool with getting them on because let’s face it…you know they are going to kick them off as soon as they get in anyway. Now, two out of three of my kids are still in diapers/pull ups. This is where I’m going to add in another one of my “crazy ideas”. If you have one potty training then make exceptions while traveling. I have no expectations that my 3 year old is going to ask me to stop so he can go potty. Heck, I don’t have any expectations that he’s going to tell me he needs to go potty on any day! So to make it easier on both of us, you can bet I’m going to forget the potty training for a day! If your child will, then by all means pack them a potty in the back!!! What I decided to do was make a diaper changing station in the back of my SUV. Thankfully, I have room to do that, but If you don’t at least keep enough diapers/wipes/extra clothes in some form of handy tote so that you can easily carry them into a rest stop. Not having to dig around for all this stuff made it super nice while traveling. Also, if you are traveling with a baby have extra bottles, water, formula, etc. all together in one spot for easy access. My tote was big enough for all of that to be kept in one spot.
Make Shift Diaper Station
- Be Martha Stewart. Last but not least…come up with something creative and fun! I did gift bags for my two oldest boys (don’t worry the baby didn’t get jealous). I tried to keep the contents similar but they couldn’t be exact because of the age difference (3 and 8). I filled them with stuff from our local dollar store like snacks, candy, a small toy or two, a book/coloring book and also a small bag of cereal for their breakfast. My oldest thinks as soon as we get in a vehicle for a trip he needs a snack of some sorts. None of the stuff was too exciting, but when I stuck it all in a Minions gift bag…You would’ve thought I’d really done something! I brought the adults snacks too. This kept us all from getting the “hangrys”, haha! Having the stuff in a gift bag also helped my 3 year old communicate to us when he was wanting something else. He would just ask for his “present”. We gave him his bag of stuff and he got to pick out what he was wanting at that moment. This saved a lot of headache seeing as how he is prone to going into a full blown meltdown mode when we don’t understand what he is wanting at that particular moment! And, if you can, bring some form of cooler to keep drinks handy. Those gas station prices are RIDICULOUS…can I get an amen! Oh, and bringing snacks also helped with the aforementioned gas station prices. On an 8 hour trip, I didn’t buy anything from a gas station other than gas!
I hope some of these tips can be helpful to you on your next trip with the kids! There is nothing like experience to know what’s best for your family so try out your own awesome ideas. They say that they are only little once (one can only hope, haha) so most importantly…HAVE FUN!