Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tips for Road Trips with Young Children

 I love road trips! When I traveled the country on two different professional golf tours with my dad (he caddied for me) we almost always drove the circuit which meant weeks at a time on the road. I've been to all but three continental states and pretty much all of them involved getting there by car. I consider myself a seasoned road warrior.

My husband's family lives in Ohio, it's about a 1,000 mile road trip. Us road warriors started making this drive when Haley was three and Harrison one. Pretty much everyone thought we were crazy and they might have been right! But, strangely we actually enjoyed these trips.

I love being in such a small place for so long with the three people that I love most in this world! These early age long road trips created a bit of an adventurous spirit in both kids and they are pros at traveling these days. My hope is that I can encourage you to hit the road with your kids and also give you a few tips to make traveling with kids just a little bit easier.

Snacks are a must:
I have one word for you when traveling with kids: snacks. I've found that bagging the snacks in individual portion sizes works the best. It avoids the inevitable spilled box of cereal if you hand a small kid a full box of a snack. Be careful not to do much sugar, if any. You don't want to get your kids all sugared up then expect them to stay still in a car. A small cooler in the back seat is also nice for fruit or cheese. I find it best to be in charge of the snacks by having easy access to them myself and handing them to the kids, otherwise they will eat them up right away. I always hide the snacks before the trip and keep them a surprise  It's kind of fun to buy things that I wouldn't normally splurge on for the trip as well.

We stop, we go potty:
One rule that we stick with is every time we stop the kids must try to go potty whether or not they feel like the need. I don't think there is anything more frustrating than getting a few miles down the road after a stop only to hear, "Mommy, I need to go potty."! So, this rule is a must!

Know your kid(s) and be prepared: 
Our sweet Harrison has been carsick ever since he was a baby. This can make road trips quite interesting. If the car gets too hot or we hit stop and go traffic, he would most likely loose his lunch! I got to where I could sense when this was going to happen and once I heard that sound, I turned around catching throw up in a bowl. This was not one of my more favorite memories of traveling with kids, ha! We always had extra clothes for both kids in an easy to access location. One time, it was a really bad episode and we happened to pull off the road in "who knows where" Illinois to discover a car wash. We actually sprayed off his clothes and the plastic part of his car seat to get rid of the odor. We were professionals at disaster control! Then, we saw a sign for a historic covered bridge and neat old town and went of a fun little detour. Now that's turning lemons into lemonade  This of course may not apply to you, but thinking of situations that can come up ahead of time is important and always have access to a change of clothes and wet wipes is a must.

Keep your eye on the prize:
We break up our treks to Ohio or Florida into one long day and a half day. So, the prize for the first day is finding a hotel with an indoor swimming pool in the winter or outdoor in the summer. The kids are always so excited to jump into that pool, and it's especially exciting when we are traveling in the winter. The second day's prize is, of course, making it to their grandparents house or final destination which happened to be Destin, Florida last summer. My mother-in-law is the master of making the kids welcome with many fun gifts as soon as we arrive. 

Overnight bag:
If you plan to stop at a hotel in route, I find it best to pack an overnight bag for that stop. That way we don't have to unpack a week's worth of luggage for that one night. Park close to the front of the hotel in a well lit area for the night. We generally choose a Hampton Inn or a Holiday Inn Express for that one night. They are almost always consistently nice and offer a little continental breakfast. If you are traveling in the north, then those hotel chains will most likely have an indoor pool as well. 

Take short stops:
It might sound like a good idea to stop at a park or somewhere to let the kids play, but when you're taking long trip you are eating up valuable time. You must keep the car moving forward as much as possible. Unless, of course, you see a giant watermelon, then you must stop. We'll take a potty break at a place with an indoor playground on occasion and let the kids play for a few minutes. Sometimes, we even just do some jumping jacks at a gas station. Try your best to plan for naps and fill up your car with gas right before. Nothing is worse than finally getting a youngster to sleep  only to discover that you are running low on gas. One time the kids were asleep and I was in desperate need of a potty break. Matt rolled into a rest stop and I jumped out as the car barely rolled to a stop and then Matt circled the rest stop until I came out. It actually worked and the kids stayed asleep!

We let the kids each have a small bag that they can fill with the toys they would like to bring along. This gives them some control over their domain. We also have a portable dvd player. I recommend limiting the movies that they bring. Going to the library and checking out a few new movies would be a great idea as well. We've had some fun doing a roadtrip scavenger hunt. On one trip to Ohio, I made up my own list of landmarks that we would encounter on the road, like state lines we would cross, rivers, and all kinds of things that I knew we would see on our journey. Haley really loved this and it kept her attention on the scenery. I love looking out the window and seeing small farms or big cities and wondering what life is like in such places. Of course, you can bring some books and read to the kids as well.

This is a great opportunity to bond with your kids and have their attention, so don't waste it. Start conversations and enjoy their fascination with new sites. I guarantee that they will remember these trips and I know that you will have many great stories from your adventures. This is what childhood is all about, make the most of it!

Do you have any road trip advice to share?

Thanks for stopping by and hit the road!

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