Last week we returned from a 9-day, 4-state, very busy road trip. If I remember right, we spent about 30 hours in the car over the course of our "vacation" - all with a 3 year old and a 1 year old. We stayed in three different places. We were busy almost every day, and the highlight of the trip was my sister-in-law's wedding. It was not a restful vacation, but here are some things that helped us stay as sane as possible:
1. Snacks - there's nothing like a special snack when kids (and grownups) are grumpy. We traveled with rice cakes, fruit, Cheerios, and plenty of milk for the kids to drink.
2. Music - for Christmas last year, James gave me an iPod player for the car. Now I can have playlists for specific purposes - cheerful kid music, nap time music, upbeat grownup music for fighting the sleepies, etc. Playlists are so much fun!
3. Audiobooks - I'll probably write more about this later, but this was our first time to use audiobooks on a car trip, and it was a BIG HIT. Seriously. Everytime we got in the car, Wendy asked to listen to her books!
4. Activity - kids can only spend so much time strapped into carseats and strollers before they melt into puddles of crankiness. We were blessed on this trip to stumble across a rest stop with a playground, and I'm pretty sure I heard angels singing. Twenty minutes later, we were strapping sweaty, happy, relaxed kids back into the car, where they promptly fell asleep.
5. Naps - speaking of falling asleep...nap time is sacred at our house, and the same goes for when we're traveling. The schedule is a bit more flexible to allow for activities, but we make sure there is a 2-3 hour chunk of time in the afternoon for the kids to relax. We retreat to our room, get comfy (i.e. crank up the AC & take off any uncomfortable clothes) and chill. My kids will not nap if there is anything distracting going on, so this time of retreat and rest is critical.
6. Laundry - packing enough clothes for 4 people for 9 days and various activities? No way. We would need a small Uhaul. No, instead we just planned on visiting a laundromat halfway through our trip to do the laundry. Sure, it's not very fun, but in less than two hours, everything was washed, dried, & folded, and we were good to go. Much easier than trying to pack enough clothes to last for the whole trip!
7. Solitude - this one is really more for me than the kids. I am an introvert. I easily get overwhelmed in certain situations, and I get pretty stressed out. All I need is a bit of quiet, alone time, with no one talking to me or requiring anything of me. This might involve a nap, it might involve reading, or it might just involve sitting and thinking. Whatever the case, a bit of solitude goes a long way towards restoring my peace of mind and making the trip more enjoyable for everyone!
8. Toys & Books - we only take a few toys and books when we travel, and they are carefully selected. They are generally ones that have multiple purposes and can be enjoyed by both Wendy and David. This time, I went a step further and packed a "secret" bag of toys and books for Wendy that I gave her one at a time while we were driving. Her favorite was this dry-erase book; she worked on her letters and numbers for hours!
9. Blankies - my kids both love their Blankies. Not only do we take their Blankies, but we make sure they are all tucked in with them in the car. It just makes everyone happier.
10. Humor - keeping a sense of humor and being able to laugh at the absurdities of traveling with children is essential! Baby wiped his snotty face all over the front of your shirt? Preschooler insisting on talking (constantly!) in an annoying squeaky voice? Might as well laugh about it!!
What strategies do you use when traveling with young children?
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