Summer is upon us! You know what that means... vacations, travel and, if you're military it's pcs season! Bring on the car rides. lol
Besides being a total passion of mine, traveling is something our family is very well versed in.
Just last year alone we moved/traveled from Hawaii to Oregon to Alabama and then back up to Washington. To say it was interesting year would be an understatement.
I made the trip from Hawaii to Arizona, by way of Oregon, alone with the girls, who were 2 and 3 at the time. We picked up my husband in Arizona before taking the southern route to Alabama. On the way back west to Washington we took a more mid US way route.
That trip taught me a few things about traveling long distances with kids...actually it totally changed how I traveled with them period!
To help you learn from my mistakes here are my:
TOP 10 TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH YOUNG KIDS IN A CAR
1- Be Flexible
You will make plans and just like everything else after having kids it will change. Be prepared for it, accept it, breathe and go with the flow.
2- Careful What You Start
I had the misfortune of buying The Lion Guard soundtrack before we started our trips... you know that show. The one on Disney Jr? Can you guess what we listened to almost the entire trip? I am talking THE WHOLE TRIP! Needless to say I know every word of that soundtrack by heart and then some.
Learn from my mistake, if you have young kids and you are just trying to appease them or treat them to something special stop and ask yourself "is this something that I can live with them asking for/listening to/playing with/etc the entire way?" Yes? Do it! Not so much, then I suggest avoiding it.
3- Ground Rules!
So important even if you only have one rule. Eating vs no eating, coloring vs no coloring, reading vs no reading, tablet vs no tablet, tv vs no tv.... Tensions will run high the longer you are on road. Rules help easy that a smidge.
Oh and stick to them! They can smell weakness, yeah know and as the saying goes "give a mouse a cookie...."
4- Packing Plan
You wouldn't think it, but having at least a general idea of how everything needs to fit in the car is sooo helpful! The fuller the car, the more like tetris it becomes to get things in there. Having a general plan helps not only helps the loading up process go more smoothly with less stress and anger, but it also helps when it comes time to unloading and searching for things.
5- Go To Bag
If you are going to be on the road for week plus or even a few days, having one central suitcase that has outfits for everyone is super helpful. This allows you to go from needing to unload the entire car to only unloading the one bag and a few other essentials.
We had a one weeks worth of outfits in a medium suitcase and would rotate them out with the clothes in our larger suitcases, as we ran out of clean stuff. We also had a small reusable grocery bag with all kids needs, ie diapers, wipes, blankets, pillows, etc (Disney and Costco have awesome slightly over sized ones)
We didn't have the luxury of having a DVD player in our car, so we ended up needing other things to keep them occupied. Since we only had two kids I was able to put a bin/tote in between their car seats that could hold all their toys and some snacks. If it didn't fit it didn't come! Again back to #2 with this one. We ended up with toy phones that made noise, (surprising not the most annoying toy they had) cars, stuffed animals, magnet drawing boards, and other multi-use type toys.
Look and find books were very popular. Pinterest is chalked full of entertainment ideas, but we ended up keeping it simple. Some toys, a couple books that I didn't have read, and some no mess markers/coloring books. I will warn you cleaning up the back seat every morning got tedious, BUT it was worth it to keep them happy.
As you know, with kids, snacks are life! There are lots of options out there these days. You could get a cooler and pack fruits, cheese sticks, yogurts, ranch and veggies, milk and juice. If you don't want deal with a cooler there are plenty of other options: fruit snacks, pepperoni sticks, popcorn, fruit leather (loo's fav), gold fish/crackers, trail mix, and the list goes on.
I would suggest to referring to #3 on this one. Having a rule about what you do and don't let in the car, as far as food goes. This can save you whining and tears down the road, if you let them know from the beginning.
8- Pit Stops
You know your kiddos best, but let's be honest they can only sit still so long. We found that by letting them out each time we stopped, even if it was just for a minute while we got gas, almost reset their clocks. They lasted just a little longer the next leg. Now that is not always possible for whatever reason, so in those times we would at least roll down the window. You would be surprised what a little fresh air does for everyone!
9- A General Drive Plan
Again you know your kids best and every kid has their limits. We estimated we could get about 6-8 hours out of our girls a day, but we snuck the odd 10 hour day out of them a time or two.
It's important to be flexible on the road, but to also have a general plan of when and where you are going to stop for things like gas and food, even if it's just a time frame. For example, once we hit our rhythm we knew we would be stopping about every 3 hours. First 3 for gas, then lunch, gas again and then our next hotel. On our longer days it was more like 4 hours in between sometimes. Having just this general time frame gave us plenty of time to look for a good place to stop, before getting there without stressing about it.
Also when possible take time to relax. Schedule a breather day or even just a shorter drive day, so you can hit the pool or take in the sights. Your sanity and your kids will thank you!
The very best tip I have, is to give yourself, your kiddos and your spouse/partner grace.
The longer you are the road the more easily you will all become tired, irritable and loose your temper. It happens to the best of us. Take a breath, if you can take a pit stop and remember this will not last forever! You will get there eventually.
I would love to hear your tips! Tell me in the comments your best tips and tricks for travelling with youngsters. Oo or share what your favorite trip your minis has been to date or one that you have coming up that you are totally stoked about!
Happy traveling y'all!