Albuquerque moms, does the thought of a road trip terrify you? The packing, the fussing, the hours stuck in a small space with your kids…
You’re in luck. Our family has made road-tripping a regular part of our lives. Most recently, we took a three thousand mile drive with our three kids. Our biggest trip so far- for the wedding of my middle sister. We drove from here to Philadelphia, returning through Mississippi to see grandparents. We traveled with a two-year-old and an infant. And yes, that was crazy. (Even for us.)
We’ve found a lot of ways to make road trips easier. Take a look and see if any of our ideas will work for your family!
Road Trip Essentials
You already know about car seats and seat belts. Depending on the distance and your budget, you can also pack things like a first-aid kit, repair tools, or even a portable air pump/car battery charger.
Consider what you’ll do if your car breaks down. Do you have insurance that covers towing your car to a repair facility? New Mexico has long stretches where you won’t be close to any towns, so it may make sense to choose a level of coverage that will pay for the cost of towing more than just a few miles.
You and your kids will get hungry and thirsty. Try to buy disposable water bottles at the grocery (cheaper than at a convenience store) or fill your own bottles the night before. Water doesn’t spoil, and if a child drops an open bottle, at least it won’t make your car smell like spoiled milk.
Another way to save money (and probably eat healthier) is to pack the car with snacks before you leave. Besides, your kids will inevitably get hungry ten minutes after you leave the gas station, and you can stave off a tantrum with a well-timed granola bar.
Think healthy (or not)
Check to see how your health insurance handles medical needs that strike when you’re out of town. My daughter had an ear infection one New Year’s Eve in Missouri. Consider packing medicines that you might need in the middle of the night for a fever.
You may also want to ask your doctor or pediatrician if there are limits on how frequently you need to stop to stretch your legs.
Road Trip Entertainment
Entertainment makes a road trip MUCH more pleasant for all of you. Nothing shrinks a minivan like a screaming child.
No matter how great that toy is, your child will get tired of it after an hour or two. Try a combination of different kinds of entertainment–e.g. a few small toys, one book, and one activity book. Toys that are quiet and don’t use batteries are especially helpful. Our kids loved Mr. Potato Head. (Sorry, Audra.)
Audiobooks decreased the conflict between siblings noticeably on our Christmas trip. (For ways to save money by checking audiobooks out through our library, click here.) You can all listen as a family or download them to a tablet or phone.
Kids who have trouble falling asleep in the car can get fussy. You may want to have some lullabies downloaded to help soothe them to sleep.
Limiting screen time is great, but movies can be an important tool for road-tripping families. One of our most important tools has been our portable DVD player.
Think headphones (for the kids)
Why headphones? For one thing, your kids don’t have to agree on. For another, headphones mean you don’t have to listen along, and you can actually have a conversation with another adult! If you have multiple kids, get a splitter that allows multiple headphones.
Road Trip Problem-Solving
The more time you spend at a stop, the longer it will be until you pull into your destination. Sometimes it’s worth stretching your legs and keeping kids out of the car awhile longer, but sometimes you need to be as efficient as possible. What slows your family down? Choosing snacks? Kids who eat at the speed of a sloth? Breastfeeding?
Spend some time brainstorming solutions. My husband, king of finding the right tool for the right job, realized that with the right adapter you can plug a breast pump into a car’s cigarette lighter. On one trip, I was able to pump (sitting in the back) and then feed the milk to my infant with a bottle, all while we were driving. It’s less snugly than holding a baby, but on some road trips, saving time is worth it.
Pack some kitchen trash bags. In the past, I used bags from convenience stores for trash. One incident from our Christmas road trip changed that. My youngest suddenly said, “Mama! Mama! I don’t feel so good!”
You can guess what happened next. Although the grocery bag worked ok, I would much rather face messes like that with a durable trash bag.
When our kids were younger, we had a grabbing tool in the front so that an adult could reach dropped toys.
Are there traditions that will sell your kids on the trip? We stop for donuts on the way out of town.
Road Trip Ready!
I hope this leaves you better equipped for your next road trip, whether your destination is as far as the East Coast or as close as Santa Fe. Happy driving, everyone!