We survived our 1st family vacation/road trip with minimal battle wounds. My husband and I are still speaking to each other and still married. ;0) The twins turned two and we celebrated Luau style. Though it was a very long drive, we had such a great time, so I wanted to share with you how we handled it. Included below are both tips from what we learned on our trip, as well as the wonderful ideas/suggestions I received from all of you road warriors.
The trip to The Outerbanks, which usually took ~12 hours without kids, took 15 down and 16 back, so basically expect delays. We left at 1:30 AM and all three kids didn't fall back to sleep until about 3 AM, then awakened at 5:50 with the sun. My husband did crank out some good driving time at night. Had we been able to "check in" to our house earlier than 4 PM we would have considered leaving ~8PM after dinner and before their bedtime but who knows how we as parents would have survived without sleep. On the way back we stopped over night to break up the trip. Either way you do it, it's still exhausting!
My 5 1/2 year old did AWESOME! She chilled out in the way back and watched movie after movie with her portable DVD player and head set. We tossed her snacks that she usually could open herself and had her drink next to her in the cup holder. She completely loved her pillow pet and made every penny spent on it worth it! Basically for kids around this age or older, they do well with DVD's, DS/Leapster games, Tag readers, Crayola coloring books or sticker books. Have ALL of those supplies in an organizer (shoe box, tub, backpack).
Miscellaneous tips & for the younger children:
- Bring plenty of snacks in individual snack bags/containers (fruit chewies, pretzels, raisins, gold fish or maybe something new they've never had before), but don't get too much junk or they'll get sick!
- Bring favorite blankie/binkie or stuffed animal & tie it to the car seat if possible to avoid climbing all over the place (ie: shoestring).
- Have back up clothes in the diaper bag within reach for the unexpected diaper leaks (had 3), car sickness/vomiting (had 2) & spills.
- Do expect at least one child to be car sick and if you're lucky you won't have any. Keep the A/C flowing (not sure the age for Dramamine).
- Have spare blanket for above accidents.
- Bring child's pillow if they can't adjust to others.
- Use or borrow portable DVD player for other kids/twins which sits on the back of the front passengers head rests where 1 parent operates (very helpful if you have a remote to operate).
- Use DVD/CD organizer that attaches to the front visor for easy access.
- Have sing along CD's or just sing out loud~interactive ones like Wheels on the bus, Hokie Pokie (improvise), Head Shoulders, Old McDonald...
- Expect breaks every 3-4 hours and plan ahead to visit national parks, welcome centers, McD's play places, children's museum's... (one in Charleston West VA is free to COSI members).
- Try to plan potty breaks before nap time otherwise you'll have to stop when they're asleep with the likelihood they will awake.
- Use old diaper boxes for storage.
- Make a craft project (ie: shoe box/memory box).
- Keep Wet Ones/wipes close by & stocked .
- Hand sanitizer kept in car door.
- Paper towels for unexpected accidents.
- Pack a cooler w/at least one "healthy" lunch & enjoy a long break w/play time.
- Get toys that can attach to the seat belt.
- Expect your kids to have PTSD when they get back into their car seats for minor excursions as they think they're being harnessed in again for the long haul.
In addition, we used the magna doodle for drawing pictures and would have each child call out an object/name then Mom or Dad would draw it. Surprisingly entertaining for maybe 30 minutes.
We also played "beach party" before our trip to get the kids adjusted to their life jackets. We also got the twins acclimated to their Pack N Plays during nap time the week before the trip.
How about you? Do you have some great advice for traveling long distances with children of any age? Please share!