Travel with Tots

Over the years, we’ve made numerous road trips that were long enough to require extra planning.  Let’s face it, if your trip is less than three hours, a long nap has it covered. 

Our first real trip was to San Antonio, Texas when our first son was 18 months old. We left before breakfast, drove all day, spent the night somewhere along the way, and finally pulled in late in the evening. 

Now we only stop for bathroom breaks and fuel. {Yes, every dad’s dream.} Hang in there, it does get easier.

Try these tips:

  1. Pack an ice chest with sandwiches, healthy snacks, and drinks. Grown-ups get the munchies too, so pack plenty.
  2. Plan fuel stops around nap times when possible. You want to take advantage of your stop to stretch little legs too. If nothing else, have your child hop up and down next to the car (closely supervised, of course).
  3. Keep an extra stash of toys in the front seat with you so you can keep everyone happy. Depending on your child’s age, pipe cleaners and rolls of aluminum foil can offer hours of entertainment. Remember to keep little ones away from the sharp edge on the foil box. You should do the dispensing, just in case.
  4. Buy a new, inexpensive toy before you leave, but don’t let your child know until several hours into your trip.
  5. Books on tape/CD/MP3 are life savers! Visit the library or rent them from Cracker Barrel. (You can return them in a different town. Cool, huh?) You can record your own versions of your child’s favorite books.  Children can follow along without your help in the car. If you are technosavy, bring along your favorite podcasts.
  6. Find age-appropriate car games.  Our 18-month-old was too young to do any one activity for long, but he did enjoy stringing cereal on a shoelace. As the children have gotten older, we’ve expanded the game. Every time they find a blue car they add a piece of cereal. The first person to find 30 wins. Here’s the fun part. When they see a red truck, they get to eat a piece of cereal. The variations are endless. Look for buildings, oil rigs, birds, RV’s, etc. You get the idea.
  7. Listen to different music. The Wheels on the Bus may go round and round, but after a few hours we were ready to Stop, in the Name of Love. Silly songs from the 50’s and 60’s can be a fun change. After all, who can sing about purple people-eaters and be grumpy?
  8. Pack anything the family might need before you stop for the night at the top of the suitcase or even in one small bag. You never know when a diaper will leak or car sickness will strike. If you plan to stop for the night before you arrive at your final destination, packing the essentials in one bag will make checking in and out of hotels much easier.
  9. Expect the unexpected, and plan for every contingency. That being said, sit back and relax. This year’s disasters will be next year’s fond memories. 
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