It’s not something that most parents think of fondly, or anticipate with much excitement. Traveling with babies and toddlers for long stretches in a car that is. Sleeping in a different environment without all of the conveniences of home – including a baby-proofed zone. Some shudder deeply at such notions.
As the partner to a musician who tours quite a bit – we decided that we would always try to travel together, when time/work permitted. Of course it has been challenging, although being together as a family more often than not is totally worth it.
While the main theme throughout preparing oneself for more success and less melt-downs is obviously organization; making lists and not leaving packing till the last minute – there are a few key points that I’ve learned along the way. Perhaps those of you who are more adventurous or are perhaps in a similar family dynamic will find these 8 tips helpful!
For Those Really Long Car Trips...
You are going to need to need to pull out all the stops >>>
1. Plan Well
List out what you are going to pack and do all that you can the day before. I cannot stress this enough! If I make time to do that, I’m more apt to look like this (not just talking about showered and glossed), but way less stressed with running around last minute. Toddlers have a sixth sense when it comes to mom and dad needing to get stuff done. As in they will be all melty and clingy during peak hours of packing / trying to hit the road. Do yourself a favour and get a majority of the packing done while they are sleeping the night before!
2. Well Stocked Diaper Bag
Make sure to pack an extra set of clothes per baby/toddler in an easy to access place, (i.e: not in your suitcase). A few diapers for the babe and a couple extra pairs of underwear for our newly trained toddler are obviously a must. A compact case of wipes for snack clean-up, boogie faces and bum changes. A change pad or small blanket for quick changes. Keep a couple of new toys in there to pull-out when you are on the road, say – when a melt-down is about to erupt. Matchbox cars, a new mini plushie or small board book are good choices.
3. Don't Forget The Lovies!
Remember to bring their favourite lovie (our little ones happen to have a thing for the larger the better, which works out for long-trips because they double as a pillow for them), and blanket. They’ll be much more comfy and at ease for sleeping, or just chilling out and watching a movie or playing with their little toys.
4. Snack Packin'
Pack a ton of low-mess snacks and water and other favoured drinks. (I always include some almond chocolate milk for them as a treat to give at some point). Meals too if you’re thrifty like that. I fill up two medium sized cooler bags, 1 with the drinks the other with snacks. If I’ve really prepared well – we have a separate hard case cooler that I can put our lunch and dinner in. Remember ice packs and ice will keep everything once and fresh.
5. Toys et al: Within Reach
I fill up each of their knapsacks with toys that are easy to play with in a car seat. The Leap Pad and iPad are obvious ones – those go in the console between the driver and passenger seats. Magna Boards, Doodle Boards, books, matchbox cars, little dolls and play food go over well for us. As do crayons (in a pencil case) and construction paper on a small cookie sheet. Easy access is key. You don’t want to be arching your back every which way to hand them things.
6. Avoid Meltdowns: Try To Keep To Their Sleep Schedule
If we leave for a long car trip first thing in the morning, we pull out the big guns so that they stay awake until their regular afternoon nap. Car games, like “I Spy”, sing-a-long songs, audio books and some precious screen time all go over well. If it’s nice weather we have a picnic lunch at a rest stop somewhere pretty. In the winter we tend to indulge in some take-out and have a pit stop at a restaurant. Pack a picnic blanket and a ball!
7. Headphones = GLORY BE
Since we’re talking about long car rides here, like 7+ hours, I highly suggest investing in some quality child headphones. All I’m saying is that you might want a break from all of the kid stuff and listen to something a little more sophisticated. Also? Your little ones will be way more engaged with the headphones, because they can hear better, especially in the case of having more than one little one with a screen on. Occasional early morning screen time at home is when we bust these out for our little ones too.
8. Be Prepared With Sleeping Gear
In our case, traveling by car for more than seven hours usually means we’re going to a friends family home where we’re going to need an air mattress, extra pillows, blankets, a cot and a play-pen. I never leave home without their turtle constellation night light and I amp myself up to know that I’m going to bed with them the first night of arrival as we’re in a new environment and they just want their mama or daddy to sleep with. We do lots of co-sleeping away from home.