Thursday, June 2, 2011

Traveling with tots

My husband and I both love to travel. A lot. For our honeymoon almost 6 years ago, we opted to take a road trip...from California to Maine, and back. We stopped at literally every tourist attraction on our route, and took a few detours to see more. It took us 16 days total.

We have been to many places since then, including 3 more almost cross-country road trips (from Cali to Oklahoma, and Cali to Nebraska), a trip over seas for 2 weeks, a week in Hawaii, and quite a few trips to visit friends in Las Vegas.

While having kids has slowed down the frequency that we travel, it has not stopped it completely. We now camp a whole lot more than before, because my son loves the outdoors. We have taken him and my daughter on 1 road trip so far to Branson, Missouri, and to Las Vegas on a separate trip.

I would love to say that I've gotten the packing thing down and now bring a very minimal number of items when we travel. I would also love to say that I've let go of bringing several pairs of shoes for myself, but really, when you are traveling out of town, you just don't know what the weather is going to be like :0)

Here is what I have learned in the past 2 1/2 years and over 6,000 miles of traveling with tots:

1. Bring their favorite snacks. Truck stops are usually pretty good at keeping kid stuff stocked, but it can get pricey having to buy snacks every 2 hours.

2. If it's a long trip, leave early in the morning. That way, the kids will likely sleep until your first stop when you need to fill up your gas tank.

3. Plan a play/stretch time. The kids (and you) will be less antsy in the car if they get a chance to run around for a few minutes. Make sure you play with them. My legs always get so stiff after sitting in the car for so long.

4. Don't bring crafts for the road! I did this, and it was just no good. I ended up with a million little fuzzy pom poms in the seat and on the floor of the car. You will need something to occupy them. My 9 month old is good with a water bottle, and my 2 year old likes stuff that makes noise. You can grab a handful of blocks and put them in a plastic container to double as 2 toys: noise maker, and stackable blocks.

5. Never underestimate the power of a headrest DVD player. This worked wonders on our big road trip. My son watched Toy Story for the first time, and the 2nd, and 3rd and 4th time...

6. If your kids are potty trained, have them go the the bathroom at every stop, not just when they need to go. This should help keep stops to a minimum (potty breaks and gas tank fill-ups should happen in 1 stop).

7. If you have a young baby that you still nurse, you may be able to add this to your gas stop, to also help cut down on the amount of times you stop.

8. Young babies, even though they can't walk or crawl, should still be let out of the car seat. My daughter was 3 months old on her first trip, and after 3 hours in her car seat, my normally happy, smiley baby would be hysterical.

9. Eat more than typical road food, or fast food. You will feel much better physically and mentally if you eat a somewhat healthy meal on your trip. If you don't have the space to pack a cooler for healthy sandwich fixings, consider stopping and having one real sit down meal with the family (our favorite is Cracker Barrel, as we don't have those in California!)

10. Remember, you are traveling with kids. It will take time, and a few trips, to figure out what's going to work for you. Take things slow, and if you arrive at your destination 5 hours later than planned, thank the Lord that you arrived at all :0)

Our typical Las Vegas trip goes something like this (and sometimes, it goes nothing like this!)

3 a.m.-run around like a crazy women because I've been up all night packing, only to find that I didn't grab diapers, wipes, extra clothes, and extra clothes for the extra clothes...
3:30 a.m.- rush husband to get the car packed, we're leaving soon.
3:35 a.m.-ask husband why he packed that already, I wasn't done with it
3:45 a.m.-clothes are packed, toiletries are packed. Check weather to see what shoes I need (yes, I do this)
4:00 a.m.-time to leave, rush around again because I didn't get sippy cups and snacks for kids. Oh, and feed the dogs and cats, and give them water.
4:30 a.m.-time leave (for real this time)
8:30 a.m.-first gas stop at our half way point, fill up the gas tank, wake the kids up for some breakfast and activity (usually this is just running around on the grass for my son, and holding my daughter)
9:30 a.m.-back on the road.
12:30 p.m.-lunch time, stop somewhere so kids can play again.
1:00 p.m.-back on the road
2:30 p.m.-We arrive at our destination!

Camping tips and what to pack coming soon!

What's your must have item/activity on a road trip with tots? Or even on a road trip with pets?

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