Surviving a Road Trip With a Toddler
If you, as a parent, are looking for proof that you are no longer an independent individual, take a road trip with your toddler. While back in your single days you may have been able to hop into the car for a six hour drive with one quick stop along the way, your road trips will now need to be planned with the same precision of a NASA takeoff.
I recently had to take my children to an appointment ten minutes out-of-town. When we were done it was rush hour and the traffic was awful. I vaguely knew that there was a quick way where we can avoid all the traffic so I told my kids we would take the faster route. What a disaster! There definitely is a quicker way, I just didn’t know exactly what it was. The ten minute ride turned into a forty minutes trip while I attempted to find my way home, without the help of my trusty GPS, which was sitting quietly at home. I didn’t mention to my children that we were lost, I do have my pride! After five minutes my toddler began to get edgy. I spent the next half an hour singing every song I knew, pointing out all the trucks as they drove by and doing the half-twist attempting to pass her anything I could reach that might entertain her. After we pulled into my driveway my nine-year old said “Good thing you went the short way. Imagine if we took the long way home!” That night I canceled my road trip plans. Well not exactly, but I realized that if I wanted to take my children on a long car trip we needed to be very well prepared.
Here are some things to keep in mind before you drive off.
Try to travel during nap time or evening time. You want to have a nice stretch when your toddler will be sleeping. Of course, never stop the car when the toddler is sleeping! He will wake up instantly.
Be prepared to stop make regular pit-stops. You will probably need to stop every 2-3 hours.
At every stop try to do something fun. Play tag, kick a ball around or ride the escalator up and down at the rest stop. You want to burn up as much energy as you can. During the winter you can stop at an indoor mall and let them run around a little. If you are very organized, and have the extra time, plan to stop in a museum or local attraction.
Bring along plenty of music CD’s and story on tapes. You can find some new ones at your local library.
If you’re sure that your children wont get carsick, you can bring a disposable cookie sheet for them to place on their lap and color on. This will eliminate the need to constantly pick up fallen crayons. Magna doodles and sticker books work well too.
To avoid fighting try to make sure each child has their own space. Bring along everyone’s pillow and blanket. Don’t forget your toddler’s lovey.
Eating keeps everyone very busy! Some ideas are string cheese, rice cakes, pretzels, bagels, sandwiches & cookies. Stick to sippy cups as opposed to box drinks or you will be sticking to your car!
Prepare a ziplock bag for each child containing a full change of clothes. Keep it handy in case of an emergency.
Dress your child in comfortable clothes or use pajamas for night trips.
You may want to consider riding in the back with your child so he doesn’t get bored or lonely. Keep singing “where is thumkin” and “99 bottles of beer”.
Be sure to pack diapers, wipes, blankets, pillows, tissues, bottles, pacifiers and a full change of clothes. Keep it all handy in a separate carry-on or diaper bag. You don’t to be on the side of the I-95 unpacking your entire suitcase looking for the wipes. (Been there, done that.)
Keep your chin up and you will get there, eventually! This is what family stories are made of. “Remember when John was two and he cried the entire trip from Chicago to New York and you kept threatening to leave him on the side of the road…” Happy driving!