Summer is almost here and for our family that usually means a road trip or two. I want to share my tips and tricks for traveling with family and still liking each other when you get back home.
Things to do a week before you leave.
Manage expectations. Get out a map and show everyone where you are going and talk about how long it’s going to take to get there. I find it helpful to point out a known distance and compare it to where you are going. For example: “This is our house and this is the city we go shopping in that is an hour away. We are going here. It is going to take us x number of hours to get there.” If you are dividing the trip into multiple days then talk about that and may I recommend a camp ground or hotel with a swimming pool.
Buy food for the trip. Every family will do this differently but we like to do a combination of snacks in the car and buying food at restaurants along the way. I like the fruit, veggie, or yogurt pouches for in the car because they are relatively mess free. We also pack cheese sticks, nuts, and snack crackers. I usually dislike bottled water for the waste but it does work for a trip and we mix it up with bottled juice.
Gather activities. Our favorite things to do in the car include: audio books (we have an Audible and a Libby account), music (download stuff everyone will like), sticker books, coloring books (make your own by printing out things at home or just put blank paper in a three prong folder), movies on tablets, and various games. Games can be 20 questions (do categories so it’s easier for the little ones), find all the state license plates, find the alphabet on signs (mix this up by doing the alphabet backwards or finding the letters to everyone‘s name), make up silly names or phrases using the letters of the license plate in front of you.
On the trip.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are easy to take off and get on.
Get out and stretch at every stop for gas or food; this includes babies in car seats. Walk around a rest area for five minutes, make sure everyone tries to use the potty, and get the trash out of the car.
Consider how you might break up the trip with a fun thing every day you are traveling. For example, could you spend an hour at a city park or find a mall with a play area.
Pack pillows, blankets, and lovies so maybe, just maybe, everyone will take a nap and make the trip seem shorter.
Show the kids how to tell where you all are so you can avoid the dreaded, “are we there yet?” For example: “Right now we are headed toward St. Louis and we are sleeping in Kansas City tonight. Do you see the signs for any of those places?” If you are taking the US interstate system did you know that they very cleverly numbered? Interstates running east/west have their miles numbered “one” at the eastern border of the state and continuing on to the western border. So if you are at mile 100 on I80 in Nebraska, you have gone 100 miles into NE and have 355 more to go before you end up in Wyoming. The same is true for interstates running north/south with mile “one” being on the southern border.
Mix up the activities and alternate between family activities and solo activities to help keep the peace.
When you are near the end of a long trip everyone’s nerves start to get thin. Try to have extra patience with everyone, including yourself. When everyone starts to get cranky, and this usually happens an hour before we arrive no matter how long we have been traveling, we stop at a convenience store and let everyone pick out whatever they want to eat or drink. This gives everyone control over something and usually means we can finish the trip in peace.
When you arrive.
Let everyone out of the car and don’t expect anyone to unpack the car until they have had a run around for a minute.
Tips for infants and toddlers.
If you are breastfeeding, bring your pump and several bottles in the car. Pump while you ride and if you can sit next to your baby then give them the freshly pumped bottle as you travel. This means you don’t have to stop every time baby wants to eat. Bring plenty of bibs and change them often.
As soon as your child can stand consider putting them in pull ups while you are traveling. Finding a place to change a diaper can be tricky and using pull ups means you can change them standing up.
If my kid is close to moving up from a car seat to a booster seat, I hold off until after the trip because I think they sleep better with the slight incline of the car seat.
I like to put a washcloth or small towel under their bums because stuff happens. Pack replacements.
Stuff for a more comfortable trip.
A blanket. This can be used for a picnic, to cover a table at a rest stop, or to let baby stretch out on.
Plastic shopping bags. Use for holding trash or if you have a sick kiddo.
A public bathroom bag. I keep this in my car all the time and it includes: wipes, a Go Girl, hand sanitizer, pantyliners, and at least one pad. I got a Go Girl for camping but soon realized that I could use it anywhere I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, sit down to pee. It is essentially a funnel to allow females to pee standing up. Try it in the shower before you actually need it.
A general toiletries bag. Mine includes: a hair brush, a comb, a few hair elastics, and floss.
A small first aid kit. Some bandaids and wound cleaning wipes go a long way.
A small clean up kit. I have a handheld vacuum, some paper towels and disinfecting wipes in the back of my car.