What strikes fear into the hearts of mother’s across the country? A road trip by yourself with your kids! I live quite far from my parents. When my husband’s schedule does not co-ordinate with seeing my family as often as I would like, I am left with the choice. Stay home and see them on major holidays or brave the trip by myself.
In my case, my family lives a good ten hours away by train, plane or automobile. I choose to drive because I have more control over the environment and timeline. While many of the trip preparations are the same, some are very different. Here are my traveling tips:
- If I am going on a long trip, I start with making sure everything possible is packed in the van the night before. I lay out the clothes they will be wearing, and have a checklist of the last minute things for the morning, for example, special blankets, noise makers, drinks, bottles. Everything else possible, is packed in the vehicle.
- Make sure that you put stuff in bags, not scattered and thrown in by itself. You will have a much easier time when it comes to unloading.
- Minimize: Pack Lightly!!
- What’s in the car? Keep a bag easily accessible with a change of clothes for each child, and several plastic bags. I have had one of them throw-up or have a bowel movement within moments of leaving the driveway. Being prepared helps the anxiety level.
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- Prepare your mind. You plan as much as you can, but do not allow yourself to get stressed out when your expectations are not met. That is a horrible way to leave your spouse and an awful way to start your trip.
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Several years ago I made a behind the seat organizer for my children. I have seen them available for purchase as well. This is a good one for younger kids. When your children are around two, you can tell them that if they throw their toys down when they are done with them, you can’t help them. However, if they tell you when they are done and hand them to you. You can put them in the pouch. Then the next time they want a toy, you are able to reach in the organizer and hand it to them.
Plan some activities for your kids to do while in the car. I have made the mistake of thinking that having a DVD player in the car was going to be the solution. Thinking the kids would never get tired of watching movies. Wrong. Not to mention the DVD player gets hot and tired :)
Although my two oldest children are separated by two years, they like to be the “same”. I am fortunate to have a great Goodwill near me. So I picked up some kid’s post it notes for ten cents a piece. My kids just love post it notes! I packed My Little Ponies, and cars in another pouch. Flashcards, and a flap book with state capitals. Mind stimulation is helpful. Find things that your kids will enjoy. In between videos, I would say, “It’s time to play with your ponies, and cars.” Or, “It’s time to write a note to Grammie.” Or, “Get out your flashcards let’s do those together.”
The DVD player of course is Amazing for traveling in the car!! If you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one. Many newer vehicles have them built in, which is really nice. We have that in our van. Try to start your kids off without watching a movie. Long trips need variety. See if you can make it at least a half hour up to an hour without breaking it out. Set the expectation before you start that they will not be watching movies the entire time.
What to do with a child one-year-old or less? I packed four smaller toys for him. Kids that age do not need a lot of variety. Especially near the end of the trip, they just throw it down.
This is another device that can be a lifesaver when you have kids in “the way back!” Hand snacks or books to a child sitting in the third row seat with one of these babies. I found mine at the Dollar Tree.
When I am on a road trip, I keep the snacks flowing. The conundrum comes in making sure the snacks do not create a time consuming clean up once you arrive at your destination. I pack lots of grocery plastic bags. The kids hand their trash to me and I throw it away. You could tie a bag to the back of a seat, but I find handing it up works best for me. I put my snacks in a small box, and make sure you open the bags. For example, fruit snacks, mini muffins, crackers in baggies. Crackers they do not have to bite (extra crumbs).
The Dreaded Bathroom Break
What do you do when you have to go to the bathroom? When your kids are younger, you can bring them in their car seat. When they are older, you can use a backpack or a stroller and get a handicapped stall. Tell your other children to face the wall, and not to touch anything. Then prepare yourself with disinfectant for when they touch everything. A stand-alone carrier like this one works well: Child Carrier
These U-shaped pillows may not look very helpful, but without them my kids are even more bent over. Maybe I just feel better, but I like them!
Please let me know if you have any more tips. Next time you see a minivan swerving, give a little grace. Maybe it’s a mom trying to get a snack for her kids on their way to grandma’s house!
Mentally preparing for the trip and bringing enough activities to keep the kids busy are two great ways to get through a long road trip with the kids.
I love this post, right now. I just have a 18 month old and an almost 4 year old and we drive a sedan. I have found that it is helpful to put the oldest on the passenger side so I can hand him stuff, for him or his little sister. I also like leaving at naptime, so there is less when are we getting there? I plan a few inexpensive snacks to bring from home that will save us time and money over picking something up and a Half Ice, Half Water Gallon sized water bottle for refilling the kids cups. also pack a little cash for picking up cold drinks or another little treat along the way.
The organizer is such a smart idea because then my son could get what he wanted instead of me reaching back all the time.
Nici @ Posed Perfection
Great tips, Sarah! I love the “grabber”. I would add children’s audio books, playing “I Spy”, maybe even having a checklist of things they may see on the road. They could try to spot the ABC’s in signs and license plates too. I always pack a roll of paper towels to take along, just in case ;-) Hope your week is going well.