There is nothing worse then sitting beside a screaming baby on an airplane, except of course being the parent of said baby. Traveling with kids is terrifying, stressful, and exhausting…there is no way of getting around that. As a disclaimer, I would like to say the following information is based off of my own experiences. Every child is different and requires different needs. But we all know what it really comes down to is preparation.
I currently reside in Georgia but most of my family lives in Pennsylvania. This requires a couple of trips a year for family time. We have flown before, but recently we have opted to drive since air fare (and airports) have gotten quite ridiculous lately. This is an 11 hour trip on a good day, with minimal stops. I have recently undertaken this trip by myself (with our 1 year old) twice so far this year and found some neat tricks I thought all traveling parents could benefit from!
Set a realistic timeline.
If your trip is going to take 11 hours, according to Google maps, you can just go ahead and add at least 4 hours on to that. Initially, this was so frustrating for me to do since I have always been about the quick refuel and pee break…no dilly dallying! Nowadays, my 1 year old tends to have a max carseat patience time of 4 hours (that’s even with me pushing it towards the end). We always break the trip up into two days, it worth doing and you can get a decent hotel on trivago for less then $100 per night.
Bring double everything.
I’m talking pacifiers, snacks, sippy cups, entertainment, etc. I’m not saying pack the whole play bin, but pack smart. I pick my son’s 4 favorite toys and bring them, rotating them throughout the trip. Also it is much easier to have an extra bag of snacks and an extra sippy cup full and ready to go when your toddler decides they want to throw it for fun… and then get upset they no longer have it. Logical, I know. But having to stop to pick up a sippy cup is not only annoying to a parent but may upset the kid who gets excited the car is stopping and wants to get out! It’s a recipe for tantrum!
Be OK with a messy car.
I’m not saying you have to be unorganized, I’m all for being organized. But if your kids are going to eat car snacks just go ahead and put towels down on the seats because there is no clean way to do it. If you have this through your head before you start it’s a lot less stressful…and it’s dangerous to constantly be reaching to your back seat to pick up dropped food! Invest in a battery powered Dirt Devil to keep in the car at all times if you really can’t stand the mess.
Dedicate yourself to stop times.
Excluding emergencies, don’t be afraid to just keep driving! Kids cry when they don’t get what they want and if they want to stop and you keep stopping you’ll never get there! I shoot for 4 hours max, 2 hours min. If we stopped at 2 you best bet we will not stop again until 4. This is where snacks and toys come in handy. Wait to give them to your toddler until they start wanting something. I’ve found if my little starts the trip with food in hand…the food is a lot less effective as a distraction 2 hours later.
Schedule your trip around nap times.
Leaving right around when your child naps will help knock out a couple hours (if you’re lucky) of driving in peace! Just don’t be upset when they wake up, because they will wake up eventually and may not be happy. Be prepared with a snack, sippy and a nice cheerful song or game for them to occupy themselves until you can stop. If you can drive at night even better!!
Even if your baby cannot walk yet the fresh air will do wonders. Restaurants can be very tempting because they are at almost every exit, but keep in mind going from a car seat to a highchair doesn’t allow much freedom of motion and chasing a wound up kid around a restaurant does not give you a chance to relax either. Most rest stops have picnic tables and pretty grassy areas so pack some fruit and cheese in a cooler and let the kiddos run for a half hour. There are a couple apps out there for finding rest stops. I use the app USA Rest Stops. Most rest stops are cleaner then restaurants anyways! And they ALWAYS have changing tables. Thank the lord.
It seems silly but any parent will tell you that it’s nice highchairs are provided at most restaurants but it’s super annoying there isn’t a clean spot to actually put your child’s food. Put it on a plate or a napkin, they think it’s funny to knock all their food on the floor…feed them piece by piece off your plate? just no….or say screw it and let them eat directly off the table…well even clean I don’t know what chemicals were used…so another no. These mats come in a variety of colors and shapes and they aren’t that expensive, easy to wipe clean and, the best part, they suction to the table. So no more entire meal landing on the ground! You can find them on Amazon, here.