Have a long trip to make for the holidays with your young kids? Here are a handful of tips to help things go a little smoother.
1) Make a plan
How far between stops? When is the next stop for eating, running/moving around, or potty? The point is not a strict plan, but to make sure as parents you are on the same page and have the same expectations. This is important for the peace of your little one. Know the plan so you can then be flexible. And add an hour or two into your travel time – it keeps everyone from feeling anxious.
2) Bring your own food
Stopping for food isn’t horrible, but if all your family eats for a day is french fries, chips, soda & candy, there is bound to be disaster (and it might take a day out of your vacation to recover). Try to eat food at least 75% of the time that you would normally eat at home. That way you can hopefully avoid little tummy aches. And long car trips are not the time for your child to try a new food out. Trust us.
3) Have a travel potty in the car
One you can use all by itself is ideal (we found a folding one that takes up minimal space). This helps with the “I gotta go!” when there is really no place to “go”. Even if your child is well potty trained, the portable potty can come in handy. For kids too young for a potty, have an extra diaper bag packed & ready. Wipes can save your life or at least your trip.
4) Plan for Entertainment
If entertainment is needed, use your hands as puppets (with or without actual puppets – without has been better in our experience, and simpler!) The puppet show is most fun with only sounds for expression – no words. We’ve even gotten each other laughing pretty hard at our hand-antics. Other family favs are “I spy”, finding letters/numbers in order, telling stories out loud, & singing songs as loud as you can. Audio stories are another good option. And for those with a way to play a movie, that could be an option as well. Babies can be entertained with a few ‘new to them’ items for the most part.
5) Travel at night
If you are able to start a long drive in the evening, you can have your little ones sleeping for most of it. Just be sure to take turns sleeping & driving consistently, so the drivers don’t get over-tired. We have found leaving an hour before dinner time, stopping for dinner (stretching legs) and then getting back on the road to be a very successful way for us to travel with our little ones.
The most important thing to remember when traveling with small children is to enjoy the journey. Keep yourself lighthearted, have fun & enjoy being (literally) close to your kids for a while. Memories aren’t just made while on vacation, they start on the journey to your destination.