Summer is in full swing and most likely we all have at least one trip planned. When you are traveling with small children it doesn’t matter if you are going for a short weekend or a full week – there’s a lot of stuff to take. In no time you will have the entire back of the car filled and things stashed under each kids feet too.
That’s just the way it is.
Over the years we have tried this traveling thing every which way. Flying/driving, eating in the car/eating in restaurants, leaving before the sun get up/leaving after a nice big breakfast. You have to find what works best for your family. But here are five things I’ve learned over the years are must do’s when traveling long distances in the car with our kids:
1. Leave Early. We get up really early, grab the kids from a full slumber, plop them on the potty and then in their car seats with jammies on and take off. If we time this right we can get about 2 hours down the road before we hear from them. I pack a bag of clothes and shoes for the day and have it in the front of the car with us. They usually don’t get dressed, or need a potty stop until lunch!
2. Pack Fresh Snacks. It is amazing what a little snack for the kids will do when the whining begins. It’s like magic. We pack a cooler in the back of the car with fresh food in it for the kids to eat from all day long. They can get whatever they want out of there any time they want. This is a huge departure from our normal snack routine at home so its a real treat. But if I packed junk food for car snacks we would all be so sick by the time we arrived at our destination we would need a day to recover. So to avoid that traveling all day crummy feeling take the extra time to prepare healthy snacks that won’t mess up your car. Some of our favorite in the car snacks are cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, grapes, apples, celery, broccoli, and energy bites.
3. Bring Breakfast and Lunch. This is such a time saver, plus it breaks up the day and gives the kids something to do. Instead of stopping for breakfast or lunch we eat in the car. We only stop for gas and potty. We pack bagels with peanut butter for breakfast and some fruit. I usually make up little plates or paper bowls for each kid from the front seat and pass them back. The process takes a while and the anticipation of your meal coming to you is really fun for some reason. Beginning the prep for a meal will end any bickering you have going on. For lunch I make pb&j, turkey and cheese, or energy bits with pretzels, goldfish and veggies and fruit. Then for dinner we will stop and eat a good dinner out. Hopefully by is time we have reached our destination, for the day at least. Then we run around a bit.
4. Maximize the Potty Stop. I detest using public restrooms with little kids, or without really. If you have ever been in a public restroom and heard someone saying over and over “don’t touch anything, don’t touch anything, don’t touch anything, I said, don’t touch anything,” it was me, hello! So all I have to say about this is that you have to stop when you have to stop, right? But make it worthwhile. Now is the time for everyone to get out of the car and stretch, for everyone to at least try to use the potty, top off the tank, and refill the coffee cup. And when you have really little ones, they may have to go to the potty one time, then walk around and try again. I find they don’t know how to do all of their business in one sit. I don’t know why this is but it is a joy killer to get down the road and hear “I need to go again” from the back carseat. So take your time and make sure you take care of all your business in one stop.
5. Take Along the Movies (and game machines). I’m not one to let my kids watch TV or play games all day, but in the car it’s a must. So many family cars have DVD players built in now, but before we got all fancy with one of those we used to strap a laptop to the seat back for their viewing pleasure. Or now you can watch your own personal movie on an iPad. I try to keep the other toys to a minimum because there just isn’t room, but we do bring every hand held device we have to share!
My Must Bring List
– Hand Sanitizer
– Potty Toppers
– Table Toppers
– Ziplock Baggies -I serve snacks in these for less mess
– Paper Towels
What have you found to be your saving grace on the road?