When my husband first suggested we take a road trip to visit his sister and her husband I told him he was nuts. Traveling with 2 kids under 3, the youngest of which was not yet a year old yet, was not my idea of a vacation. After a few months of talking about it I decided we should just go for it since I had already accepted the fact that it would probably be one of the most stressful trips we’d ever take. So, over Labor Day Weekend we packed up the SUV and drove 500 miles from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.
Tips For Road Tripping With An Infant & Toddler
- Set a Packing Day.
Packing for the family was a time consuming job. I made a packing list for each person and crossed everything off as it was packed. I then had a last minute list for right before we left for important things like medications, emergency frozen breastmilk (just in case), and the toddler’s Elmo (super important). We had the car almost completely packed, except for our last minute additions, before the kids even got in the car. It was a lot of prep time the day before but made leaving a lot more simple and less stressful.
- Leave in the middle of the night.
We pretty much never wake our children from sleeping and just let them wake on their own so I had absolutely no idea how this would go. We woke the kids up around 1:30am after putting them to bed at their regular bed time (before 8pm for us). We fed the baby, changed diapers, and got right in the car. Our hope was that they would fall asleep for most of the beginning of the drive and thankfully they did and were pleasant.
- Don’t Feel Ashamed Of Extra Screen Time.
The car DVD player was essential to everyone’s happiness. The toddler was the only one watching it since the baby is still rear-facing but it helped keep her quiet and pleasant between stops. We purchased a DVD of one of her favorite cartoons (Shaun The Sheep) and some learning DVDs from Leap Frog. We ONLY allowed the screen time in the car for the long stretches of driving and don’t keep it in the car for every day use.
- Bring Earplugs or Headphones.
Seriously! The kids will get bored which may result in random noise making that drives you bonkers. Or they may be pleasant as long as their favorite CD of nursery rhymes is on that also drives you bonkers. Shove something in your ears and then zen out while the kids enjoy their noise.
- Supply New Books & Toys. As long as it is new, its exciting. Plus you don’t want to bring along a bunch of favorite items from home in case they get lost along the way. We only brought our daughter’s absolute favorite Elmo that she sleeps with every night from home and the other few things for in the car were new and revealed at different times when the going got tough.
- Make Frequent Stops When The Kids Are Awake. If one of the kids is napping then just keep on driving. Making stops added an extra 4 hours of travel time on for us but was essential in keeping things pleasant. Use your smartphone to look up interesting restaurants, playgrounds, parks, tourist attractions, etc. to make the most of your stops. The playgrounds were great for our toddler to run off some pent up energy from so much sitting.
- Keep Essential Items Separate.
Keep anything that you’ll need to access often separate from other things you’ve packed and easily accessible like at the passenger’s feet. Diapers, wipes, water, snacks, new toys, napkins, blankets, medication, phone charger, wallet/purse, etc.
- Expect The Worst.
This way the travel part will (hopefully) end up going a lot better than you expected! We want to be able to travel with our kids and have a lot of places we’d like to visit one day. Now that we’ve got this long road trip under our belts we look forward to checking off more places from our wish list.
Have you ever been on a road trip with young children? Let me know what worked for your family so we can keep it in mind for our next adventure!
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