The Holidays are here! A Road Trip Survival Guide with Littles
It’s November, I can’t believe another year has almost come to an end. With the end of the year comes excitement, fun, and maybe a little bit of stress (Hopefully not too much). When planning what the holiday season holds for you, sometimes there is that dreaded decision of do we pack up the kids for that really really long road trip?
It is tempting to just skip the big family reunions with the easy excuse of the kids don’t travel well. I was fairly traumatized after flying with Scotty this spring and then my husband mentioned a cross-country road trip….. I thought if we couldn’t handle a couple hour flight (sorry if you were on our final four flight where the toddler decided to scream literally the whole way home- yes he was napped and fed), we would never survive two days of driving.
To my pleasant surprise, road trips don’t have to be all that bad, and we found it easier than flying. For longer road trips this does require extending the vacation a day or two but I thought it was well worth it. This past summer we loaded up the mom cars with our good friends and took quite the road trip: Texas-> Smoky Mountains -> Asheville-> Back to Texas all with a 6-month-old, 1.5-year-old (ours), and a 3-year-old. Read on to see why when traveling with Scotty we prefer driving and how we survived the road trip with minimal tears and no screen time.
Road Trip Survival Tips
1. New Toys: Go ahead and get a few new toys they have never seen before. These don’t have to be fancy. Five Below, the dollar store, or target dollar spot can all have great finds. The key is novelty and not to introduce all the toys at once. I started with familiar toys and introduced the new items when he started to get clearly bored in his car seat. I kept one small basket of toys where I could easily reach into the basket and hand them to Scotty.
My favorites were the Melissa and Doug water Coloring Books (No Mess) and a Busy Book. I also love the idea of wrapping toys ahead of time so that the unwrapping/playing with wrapping paper can also buy you some entertainment. However, the forever procrastinator that I am did not get that far before we left.
I am mostly a battery-free toy advocate in her home. I will admit that I have a select few battery toys (the toy phone to name a few) that are for car trips only. Even if you go for a little screen time, this is the time to do it. The novelty will keep them going!
**SAFETY TIP-This is the most important time to make sure toys have NO small pieces or parts that can come off. Your child is alone in the back seat, no choking incidents on the highway!**
2. Stops: Plan plenty of stops and be flexible if you need to add more. Read your child’s cues when they start to become too fussy, they need a break. Look for neat parks or restaurants with outdoor seating so that stops include actual movement. Transferring your toddler from car seat to highchair and back is not going to make them happy. On this note, I have to brag about my husband and his friend who planned our road trip. I was very skeptical when informed we would be making this drive with 3 young children three and under but the stops were game-changing. A unique park in Little Rock, BBQ in Memphis, and all indoor eating no drive-throughs. Giving your kids a chance to get out of the car seat and stretch their legs is critical both for their safety and happiness.
3. Snacks: I kept a basket of pouches/easy snacks right next to the toy basket, again no choking hazards. Snack rules go out the window for us on vacation. All the snacks, enough said on that one
**SAFETY- You have to decide if your child is safe enough to eat in a car seat, this would not be safe for younger toddlers or babies**
4. Schedule: If you have a car napper, for shorter drives try to time it with nap time. We tried not to make stops during usual nap time as still getting a nap in was critical on our long driving days. No one is going to stick to their schedule 100% when traveling but keeping some sort of the routine for your toddler helps, A LOT. I know so many friends who try to leave early, hoping their kids will happily transfer to their car seat and just keep sleeping. NOPE, this hardly ever works. The end result? Your kid woke up 3-4 hours earlier than usual and your became incredibly cranky because of lack of sleep. Try to be at your destination close to usual bedtime and not to leave too much earlier than usual wake time. A well-rested toddler will travel better. Even if this means turning your pre-kid marathon one-day drive into two, it’s worth the night in a hotel.
If you have a baby used to white noise, we loved this susher when driving with Scotty as a younger baby.
5. Travel Potty: If your child is potty trained or working on it a travel toilet will be a lifesaver. This is a great example.
6. Don’t Black Out Their Windows: Let your toddler see out the window, all the new scenery can keep them entertained. This is a great example to point out cars, trucks, colors, and animals! Your child may even pick up some new words.
7. Accept it won’t go as planned, and that is okay.
Driving instead of flying doesn’t have to be all bad. You can be on your own schedule and have easy means of transportation with your car seat when you arrive at your destination. Popping a car seat in and out of ubers can be challenging. Kids come with a lot of stuff. The travel crib, their clothes, the car seat, the diapers, and if you are reading this you know how the list goes on. So, next time you try a family road trip, try these tips and let us know how it goes!
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