- Before you leave on your trip, a week or more before, start packing an activity bag. This should be a bag that the child is allowed to have access to, or one that you pull items out of for them during the trip. Items in this bag, should be all "new to the child" items. Items should obviously be age appropriate, and something that they are going to love doing. Ideas include (but are not limited to): Coloring books, notebooks (for drawing or writing), colored pencils, crayons (I wouldn't suggest regular markers, unless you enjoy graffiti in your vehicle), small hand-held games (anywhere from ones for $10 that have Yahtzee, Battleship, etc or Nintendo DS, our range would be more the $10 range!), card games, small toys (my boys would enjoy Hot Wheel cars, little army men, or Cowboys and Indians, etc.), travel bingo ( you can buy these, copy them off the Internet from several sources, or make your own!), plus MUCH more. You will probably want items that are relatively quiet. For obvious reasons. And all items you should not have to worry about. Example: if you gave them markers, you might be a little worried they would make a mess with them...
- SNACKS & DRINKS. This one seems obvious, but there is a better way to do it. DO NOT purchase snacks on the road. You are going to overpay BIG TIME. Instead a week before you leave, make a list of all good snacks to travel with. Like pretzels, fruit & veggies (grapes, apples, celery, carrots, etc), cookies (homemade or store bought), crackers, etc. All snack should be lower in processed sugar so your kids don't get a huge burst of energy while you are driving. Also, don't buy the small snack bags. MAKE YOUR OWN! This will also save you lots of money. Plus on everyone's baggie, you can put their name. Little kids think this is extra special. Drinks. Ah drinks... to be real here, I am going to tell you I give MY kids VERY LITTLE to drink while we travel. Reason, my oldest son has a bladder the size of a grape. You give that boy something to drink, he will have to go potty within 5 minutes. I am not exaggerating. Ask my extended family. My in laws took my oldest with them on a 2 day trip. I told them not to give him anything to drink. So what did grandpa and grandma do? The first stop they made, they got him a big drink! My SIL said to them, she heard me say he shouldn't have anything to drink. But they said he would be fine. Long story short, they end up pulling over on the side of the road and he ends of pottying in someone's yard. SO! Know your child's potty habits, and give them VERY LITTLE if their bladder is very little!
- Meals. If you can, pack them on your own. It not only means less stops, but it also means it will be cheaper, and healthier! Make a cold meat sandwich with lettuce and tomato, or something else easy, non-greasy, and not too heavy. Obviously, a cooler is a good idea here. If you have to use ice in your cooler, make sure everything is packed in Ziploc bags, to keep from getting wet. If you have to stop somewhere, make sure you eat as healthy as possible. You don't want car sickness or upset bellies.
- Make sure you have necessities handy. Necessities like Tylenol, kid's Tylenol, bandaid's, fingernail clippers, etc. You never know when you will need it! I know we usually need those things in the most unexpected time, like while traveling! Also, carry lots of wet wipes. This a re a blessing when you have an unexpected accident with juice or sticky fingers from that PB &J.
- If you have a long drive, discuss leaving after dinner time. If you leave in the evening, your kids will have had all day to get tired, and will most likely sleep all night in the car for you. This has been a wonderful time for us travel when we are going longer distances. This is only an option if you don't mind driving through the night. I would suggest doing the following: See if a friend or family member can take the kids during the day. You wake early that morning, get all of your packing done, then take a long nap. Then, when you wake up, kids are tired and you are ready to go!
- Traveling with a baby. This can be easy, or it can be hard! With my kids, it was easy for one simple reason. They were on a feeding schedule. By the time my #3 was 2.5 mo, we were going to drive to Florida (from Indiana, 19 hours). We ended up only having to stop ever 4 hours because that is when my son ate. In between, he slept!
- When you make your stops, make the MOST of them. Don't just stop for gas, and nothing else. When you stop for gas, make that a potty break, a food stop and an energy-out break, if possible.
- When you stop, use it as an opportunity to let your kids run! Make sure they are in a safe spot (not a parking lot). And let them RUN! We can't expect them to sit for 12 hours and not get antsy!
The last thing I will leave you with is that I suggest that you PLAN. Plan ahead on snack, activity bag, etc. If you have everything you need at your fingertips, your trip will go much smoother.
I hope this helps you. I know these things have really helped me. I am actually making a driving trip to Florida in about 2 weeks, and will be taking my 4 yo. I will definitely be following everything here!
Any of you have great tips for traveling with your kids??? Please share!