The family and I just returned from our first long road trip together, 12 hours each way, and while we may have all been close to tears by the time our SUV finally rolled into the driveway, all in all, we had a pretty good ride – no huge meltdowns, no temper tantrums, and I think we even had a little fun.
A few tips for those other parents braving a long car ride or two this season:
1. Be Prepared
This one sounds really rather obvious, but I don’t just mean pack suitcases and plan for your trip. I mean REALLY be prepared. Have snacks, wipes, diapers, and entertainment easily accessible to you in the car. Keep at least two or three sippy cups full and ready to go to replace the one that will inevitably fall from their grasp (and it will fall. Often). Bring trash bags, paper towels, barf bags, and things you’ll need to clean up any and all potential spills and messy hands. We stopped for lunch and had to make a run to the car afterward through a torrential downpour; thankfully we had towels in the car so we could dry off! Lesson learned: you can’t over-prepare.
2. Know Your Route
Look at your route ahead of time. Schedule your departure (when possible) to best coordinate with naps and meals. Figure out how you can best minimize your stops – because oh yes, there WILL BE STOPS. Pick your stops wisely. If the weather is nice, I love stopping at rest stops – kids can run around outside, everyone can eat a picnic lunch, there can be bathroom breaks, diaper changes, fresh air – which, to me at least, is preferable over stopping at a crowded fast-food joint. But, the weather doesn’t always cooperate and sometimes a stopover inside is required. Lesson learned: love ’em or hate ’em, no one does family-friendly like Chick-fil-A. Stop there if you can.
3. Bring Things for Your Kids to Do
Another obvious one, but it still deserves to be said. We all know young kids have an attention span of approximately 1.25 seconds. Looking out of the window is only going to be fun for a little while, and organized games like “I Spy” will likely go over their heads. Be ready. Assemble never-before-seen books, coloring books (if you’re OK with crayons in the car), stickers, games, puzzles, things to occupy your kids for the ride. Our Aquadoodle, sticker book, and library of Little Critter books helped immensely on the road. We don’t have a DVD player or an iPad, but a movie or game is always a good distraction.
4. Lower Your Expectations
Above all else remember: You’re driving kid(s). There’s going to be fussing. There’s going to be some tears. You’re going to have to stop and change some diapers, nurse some babes, stretch some legs. Don’t kill yourself trying to make the best time possible. Relax. Enjoy the ride. In a few more years your kids will be able to tough out the longer drives a bit more; for now, sit back and laugh at the insanity. Life is about the journey after all.