I just took a ten hour road trip with my daughter and I have to say it was way less stressful than I imagined. Because I was driving solo, I was a bit petrified about keeping her occupied for that length of time. This kid complains when we have to drive 15 minutes to the beach, after all. The key to a successful road trip is planning ahead to help minimize the stress (you can find out what not to do here). Here are some helpful tips if you find yourself preparing for a road trip!
Drive While Sleeping:
No, not you. Planning some of your driving while your child is sleeping is a life saver. While my daughter doesn’t typically fall asleep in the car, I knew that getting some sleep in would be helpful for both of us. We left at 3 am on our trip down, which bought me two hours of quiet. On the return trip, we left in the afternoon and made our stops early so that by the time it got dark, my daughter could crash. A sleeping child never asks the dreaded question, “are we there yet?”
I know that in some cases, this is an impossibility. Like driving in New York just about any time of the day. Before your trip, scan Google maps or apps like Waze. Both can give you a sense of trip length and what times are best to avoid major traffic. You might think that setting out on your trip bright an early is best, but that sometimes means lots of rush-hour traffic. Definitely best to know before you go!
This might sound a little frivolous, but a neck pillow is really helpful in facilitating said sleeping child. Know how uncomfortable it is to sleep sitting upright on an airplane? Right. Enter the neck pillow! It isn’t perfect but it helps a bit with rolling head syndrome. The more comfortable the child, the more likely they will sleep. Bonus.
Movies and More:
I’m not a huge fan of screens (see my post on screen time here), but a DVD player can really help keep your child occupied on the road. I really like using DVD’s with multiple episodes of a single show. Shorter shows can be great at holding your child’s attention a bit longer. I brought both movies and TV shows on this trip and it was great having multiple options. I also packed some coloring books, blank paper and crayons. When she got bored with the movies and TV shows, she worked on creating some backseat art. Crayons were my choice as they are much less messy than markers and more low maintenance than colored pencils (no, I cannot sharpen your pencils while driving).
Snacks, snacks, and more snacks:
I don’t know about you, but kids and snacks are like peanut butter and jelly. I don’t allow eating in my car, but in this case, all bets were off! It was all about survival, so I packed her backpack full of her favorite snacks. I loved using the pre-portioned snacks like bars and pouches. It’s so much easier to avoid disastrous spills. If you have multiple kids, pack each one their own backpack and avoid the single bag hogging. I also enlisted my daughter to help with packing the bag so that I was sure she would be happy with the selections.
Make Stops Strategically:
As much as I would have liked to make zero stops, traveling with kids is not quite as simple as that. You will definitely want to plan stops at appropriate intervals and in safe locations. Since I was driving solo, I always stopped at busy locations with lots of people. I also tried to space out the stops so that I could give my daughter a few minutes to walk around and stretch her legs. Major highways are usually the best when it comes to rest stops as they usually have the “all in one” stops which include gas, food and restrooms. Be forewarned that most do not include healthy options!
Make Certain Items Accessible:
With a full car, it would have been tough to dig through suitcases without making extra stops. I kept a few key items in a smaller bag in the front seat so that I could access them while driving if I needed to. Here were my biggest helpers:
- Wipes – Because, kids
- Extra water bottles: For thirsty kiddos
- First aid kit: For paper cuts and other life-threatening injuries that occur in the back seat
- Benadryl and Tylenol: For easy access in case of a true emergency
- Blanket: In case of chilly temperatures
- Portable Potty: When there isn’t a rest stop in sight
- Plastic Bags: To use for garbage
If you’re road tripping this summer, I would love to hear some of your tips!