Our first road trip was with Luke when he was just 6 weeks old. We took our usual winter trip up to Vermont which, on a good day, takes at least 5 and a half hours. We crowded into my parents’ Jeep with the trunk overflowing and Luke snugly in the middle in his car seat. We knew our little Jetta had no chance in those harsh mountain roads so we hitched a ride with them. Well, I can say we survived but it wasn't pretty. The last hour of this trip is through a winding back road with nothing on it and Luke basically screamed for that full hour. I am happy to say that we have this drive pretty much down pat at this point. On our most recent trip we stopped once each way for the bathroom and lunch and had no meltdowns along the way. I honestly never thought that was possible just a few years ago. I’m hoping that in sharing what works for us, you too, may be able to listen to podcasts and drink your coffee peacefully while cruising the backroads.
First and foremost, have a plan. Know where you can stop to eat and use the bathroom. On our way to Vermont we know every rest stop and know the best exits and the best restaurants. We usually try to time the drive so we stop halfway up there to have a sit-down lunch or breakfast. It’s a nice break for everyone to get out of the car and stretch their legs.
Secondly, come prepared. Every bag in my backseat is fully stocked and ready. I keep a diaper bag filled with diapers and wipes, an extra change of clothes for each kid, Motrin, Benadryl, Epipens, hand sanitizer and Band-Aids. You never know when you’ll need one of those. I also have a cooler with snacks and cold drinks for both the kids and adults. Each kid also has his or her own backpack filled with things they can play with easily in the car.
These are our go-tos:
Water Wow! Books by Melissa and Doug – These coloring books are no mess and fun and easy for the kids to do on their own. The paintbrush is filled with water and the pages dry so they can color them over and over again.
Etch-a-Sketch – This old school toy has become quite a hit in our house. We bring the regular sized ones away with us but they make travel ones as well.
Sticker pads – Both my kids love stickers. Bringing little travel books can keep them busy for a quite a while.
We also love to play games along the way. I Spy is a favorite and even though the kids still don’t really know how to play it correctly it keeps us all busy for a little while.
Last but not least, we have iPads and headphones set up. We bought these iPad holders recently that hang on the headrests (which work if the car seat is facing forwards or backwards). The kids have their own headphones (we love these) that we plug into the iPads so they can each watch their own shows without bothering each other. We buy all of our content on Amazon because we’ve found that way it’s available on most of our devices (Smart TVs, Fire Stick, phones and iPads). We make sure to download to the iPads their favorite movies or shows at the time so they’re available even when we hit areas with no reception.
It’s certainly not perfect and every road trip has its own snafus but it’s what has been working for us.
What do you find helpful for road trips with your little ones?