When I was a kid, flying in a plane wasn't even a consideration. Anytime we went anywhere, we loaded up the car and we were on our way (there was one trip where we flew to LA and drove to Vegas...but that's a post for another day). I honestly don't remember complaining too much about being in the car. Now, my mom and dad might have a different memory of those road trips, but I'm telling my side of the story :) Our biggest complaint was when we were driving with Pap Pa (my dad's dad) and he did NOT like to stop. We would have a scheduled lunch stop and you better use the bathroom while we were there because it would take a natural disaster for us to stop again! That was the only problem, holding it until we got to our destination. Ahhhh...the problems we had as kids :)
Fast forward 20 years and here I am with my own kids and I have gotten quite spoiled by flying with them. When we're in the car, we consider a trip to the zoo (about 40 minutes) a long drive. I let the girls watch a DVD to keep them happy on the way. Isn't that crazy that 40 minutes is a long drive??
Well, we've taken a few long trips with the girls. The first was when Maddie was just under 6 months old. We drove from Houston to Knoxville for Thanksgiving. Maddie was still a baby so she slept a lot. We made a stop every 3-4 hours. The stop would consist of us getting gas in the car, getting some food, using the bathroom, nursing and changing Maddie. Then we'd get back on the road. Life was good.
Now our girls are 2 and 4 and they are opinionated!! They no longer sleep most of the trip, they need more entertainment to keep them happy and they F.I.G.H.T. So, this past summer when we drove to Gulf Shores, AL we knew we had to do some pre-planning to satisfy all the girls' needs. It was a lot of work and took a lot of planning and a little bit of money...but it paid off BIG TIME!
I'm going to turn this post into a few-part series just to keep this from getting too long...but for today I'm going to give you my top ten tips for traveling with kids.
10. Do NOT start with movies right off the bat! If you do this, you will only have movies going the entire trip. Some of your kids may be ok with that, so ignore this. For Sadie, however, if she's watching a movie, she will NOT go to sleep! Also, once one movie ends they just want another and another and nothing else we have planned for the trip seems as good as watching a movie...we try to save this for desperate times!
9. Plan car-friendly snacks. Since Sadie is probably the messiest eater of all time, I really have to be careful what we bring. This means no crackers, no breads, no cereals, nothing that gets too crumby or sticky. Some of our favorites are fruit snacks, apple slices, grapes, cheese sticks, pretzels (mini ones, not sticks...those get crumbly easier), individual packs of m&m's, chex mix (yes, it's a messy one but it's a special treat because we don't eat that much at home). We keep a cooler up front between the front seats with cold snacks and water.
8. Be prepared to sit in the back seat with the kids. Sometimes kids need something a little out of the "norm" to feel special. I take along some books (we have a stock pile of books at home they've never read so we bring plenty of new ones and some old favorites!) and will sit in between their seats and read to them.
7. Expect your kids to be cranky and unhappy. If you go into the trip expecting cranky kids, then the trip can only go better than you're expecting, right??
6. Have special "trip-only" toys. I have a magna doodle, a Mr. Potatohead, a Crayola dry erase crayon board, some magnetic paper dolls, and finger puppets that we used for our last trip. I think some of those things have made it to their play room so I'll have to come up with some other ideas for our upcoming trip...but, by bringing along toys they aren't used to having, they keep their interest longer. You could even consider "hiding" some of their favorites 4-6 weeks before the trip so if you get it out in the car, they'll be super excited to play with it! Don't give them all the toys at once, or even at all. Save them in a bag for when you need something. If the kids are happy looking out the window trying to find alligators as you drive over the bayou, by all means let them!
5. Have a stock pile of napkins/wipes at the ready. You just never know...be prepared!
4. Plan to stop every 3-4 hours. If the kids don't get a break from sitting in their car seats, they're definitely going to be fussy. Go ahead and just be prepared to stop at regular intervals. Get them out, let them run around or even bring along something to do while you're stopped (bubbles, a frisbee). Play tag, play Simon Says, play follow the leader...just get them moving!
3. "Choose an activity" cards. For the last trip I wrote out some activities on little pieces of paper. They included things like "read 4 books", "sing songs with Mommy", "play with Mr. Potatohead", "Tell stories", etc. If Maddie was acting bored, I would let her chose one card out of the bag and we did whatever was on it. We only had to do this 2-3 times (and that included the drive there AND home!)
2. Treat bags. I put together treat bags to give to the girls at regular intervals on our last trip. I'll go into more detail on these on another post, but I had to put them here. The girls knew I was putting them together so they were really looking forward to them! Each bag contained a small toy or activity (I shopped at the dollar store) and a snack. I'm sure these bags are what saved our trip (and our sanity)!
1. Keep a potty chair in the back! Of course this is good in case you just passed that "Last exit for 120 miles" and THEN the kids decide they have to poop. But also it's good because kids are just more comfortable going in their potty instead of in a gas station potty. AND Mom and Dad don't have to kneal in a nasty bathroom to hold little ones on those nasty toilets! Along with your potty it's a good idea to keep a pack of wipes or tp, and little bags to carry any solids to the bathroom when you get to a good stopping place. We didn't come prepared with the bags on the last trip so Eric had the pleasure of carrying the little potty insert into gas station bathrooms :) Oh, and don't forget the Clorox wipes with it too. It's always nice to know you have a clean potty!
Ok, that's it for now...let me know if you have any other tips to add to the list! 12 days til our trip, I can use all the help/advice I can get!!!!