I haven’t traveled to a lot of different places but I sure have logged a lot of hours driving to places. Each year, we drive to Vancouver with…only…bathroom breaks when we get gas. Yup, no over-nighters, just straight driving and stimulating conversation along the way. The last part is a total lie. I’m usually asleep.
When my daughter was eight months old, we planned to do our annual drive to the coast. No sweat, we are just adding another person in the car and a ton of luggage right? Total amateur fail. Our trip was horrific. She (obviously) did not understand why we were in the car for-so-freakin-long; she was uncomfortable from being in a car seat for so long; she needed to be changed more often than we would stop for gas and bathroom breaks; and she cried a lot when she was not happy with the situation/temperature/taste in music/etc.
This year, we learned. We planned to travel with her again at 21 months old and we went to Kelowna. You can say we chickened out by a couple of hours but we feel we learned and know better. Here are my tips on traveling on a long road trip with a toddler:
PLAN YOUR TRIP IN ADVANCE
This is probably the hardest part of your entire pre-travel trip. Obviously, you will want to know the route you are taking and how long it is going to take. After that, you will want to take a look at a map to see possible places to stop and rest. These are actually places to rest and stop. Bonus points if it there is something to do to entertain your toddler. For example, we chose to stop at the Enchanted Forest on our way to Kelowna. Grace loved it. #nailed it. Only thing that was off was we didn’t take into account the time difference and we arrived before it opened. #fail. But we made the most of it and ate outside prior to going in. #adjustments.
PACK WITH PURPOSE
Honestly, I might have overdid it with my packing. Overdid it in the sense that I overthought it. I had separated everything into categories, subcategories, and placement of the actual bag. Because we drove a truck, I wanted to make sure I had immediate need things in the back seat and non-immediate things in the back of the truck. This was important to me because I wanted to have the things I need at arm reach and when I reach for them, I didn’t want to go through layers of crap I don’t need. Totally overkill and insane to some but definitely helped my sanity.
BRING EXTRA CLOTHES
You already know that kids are dirty. You might think that they can’t get that dirty during a road trip in the car but man, are you wrong. The only way they won’t get dirty at all is if they are given no food or drinks during the trip. (I strongly recommend against this.) You will want to pack some extra clothes for your toddler and for any kind of temperature or temperament of your child. This is also a good idea if you stop for at an impromptu water park or for ice cream.
HAVE CHILDREN MUSIC
Children’s music might be annoying to listen to for hours on end but it is the lesser of two evils. The other evil being a whiny, crying toddler. To prepare for our road trip, we put 100’s of children’s songs on a flash drive for the car. We were READY to listen to the songs and be reminded of our children. Then, our daughter only wanted to listen to “Muffin Man.” So awesome.
HAVE ACTIVITIES IN THE CAR
I created a lot of different busy bags (later blog post), sensory boards, magnetic play boards, books, and knickknacks for our trip. I thought I had it covered for our seven hour trip. What I didn’t account for was how long she would play with each thing – about a whole five minutes. Thank goodness, we also downloaded three seasons of Peppa Pig on an Ipad. This was our backup and was only for emergencies. After our second pits stop, we decided it was an emergency and she was entertained by Peppa Pig for a whole two hours. If you are going to download some cartoons, make sure you download a lot. You might find yourself in an “emergency” situation as well.
Last word of advice is to lower your expectations by a lot. Don’t expect to make good time to get to your destination. It won’t happen. If it normally takes you seven hours to do a drive, it will take at least 10 if you are quick with rest stops and activities. Best to enjoy the journey and make some new memories. Your kids are only young once, you want them to experience things through their own eyes. You also want it to be a positive and with the less amount of stress possible. Good luck!
This blog post was originally posted at Milk + Confetti. Check out the site for more mom related stories and advice.