My husband and I recently “got” the chance to take a road trip with our now two preschoolers. We went to visit my brother one state over for a ceremony at his university.
The good news was the drive would only be about four hours long. The bad news was it would be the first road trip we’ve taken since Peanut was born.
Yeah, I know.
DON’T FILL THEM UP
The first mistake I made was to overfeed Pumpkin. The kids had gotten up early and while eating breakfast, I insisted that Pumpkin eat a little more “for the trip”. Within 30 minutes of beginning our drive, she blurted out, “My tummy hurts!” and hurled chunks all over herself.
She doesn’t get carsick, and hadn’t this time either, but since I overfilled her stomach at such an early hour, it was a puke bomb waiting to go off. If I had to do it again, I would have given her a light meal and then snacks along the way.
MOVIES ARE A GREAT DISTRACTION
We borrowed a pluggable DVD player from our friends and played a couple of movies for the kids. This worked out great, but the only drawback was changing the movies from the front seat required a feat of acrobatics I don’t currently possess. Also, pre-watch the movies you will be showing your children, so you won’t need to explain why that Fairy Barbie Mermaid Princess Movie is “scary”. Just shut your eyes, kids!
BURN CDS OR CREATE AN IPOD PLAYLIST OF THEIR FAVORITE SONGS
If movies aren’t your kids’ thing, music can be great too. My kids like hearing the songs they love while riding in the car, so it’s a no-brainer that you should have these songs on hand. You can’t always depend on the radio, especially if where you’re driving doesn’t get great reception.
KEEP IMMEDIATE NECESSITIES IN THE CAR, NOT THE TRUNK
This is big. As parents we tend to think, As long as I have (fill in the blank) somewhere in the car with us, we can take it out when needed. Not so when you’re road tripping with kids! At unexpected moments, one will want a snack while another one wants her blankie, all while you’re going sixty miles per hour and just can’t pull over.
All their necessities should be within arm’s reach, not in the trunk, where it might as well be on the moon. Examples of this might be: granola bars, water, blankets, a favorite toy or book, and extra movies for the DVD player.
FACTOR IN TIME FOR BATHROOM BREAKS AND STRETCHING
Instead of focusing on getting to your destination quickly, include extra time for bathroom breaks and stretching. It will be good for both them and you. It’s tough to be a kid and be strapped into a car seat for several hours with no way out. Happy kids = happy parents!
LET THEM SLEEP IF THEY WANT TO
Lastly, I know as parents we try to adhere to the Home Rules as much as possible, even while traveling, but if the kids want to sleep at some random point in the journey, let them. Don’t worry that They Wont Take A Nap Later or They Won’t Sleep Tonight. Take each situation as it comes. Odds are, you will be doing so much on your trip that the kids will need the extra shut-eye anyway. And if the kids do fall asleep in the car, bask in the silence—while it lasts!
If you’re going on a road trip anytime soon, best wishes! Once you get that first one under your belt, it will get easier the next time around. I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made and hope to do better the next chance I get!
Have you take a road trip with your little ones? What would you recommend to parents trying it for the first time?