Since before our children were born, my husband and I have taken an annual trip to Florida to see my parents and attend a sportscar race. This trip has evolved to become our annual family vacation, which we all look forward to. This year was a little different, however, because we decided to drive there. Yes, you read that right.
Three days and 2,000 miles each way, with an almost 3-year-old and an 8-month-old. And guess what? WE ALL SURVIVED! Because it went so much better than we thought it would, I obviously had to share my tips with all of you.
I think the most important thing to think about when you are about to embark on a long road trip is that at some point you will end up in the backseat. So pack it accordingly. Whether it’s to do the ol’ boob-over for the baby, or to entertain the kids with puppets for the last 30 minutes of the drive, it’s bound to happen.
We have what is considered to be a mid-sized SUV, and let me tell you the contortion it took to get into the tiny “middle seat” in the back while we were driving. Let’s just say we all laughed a lot, and I may have opened the sunroof with my butt.
We also decided to not make hotel reservations in advance. This way we didn’t feel any pressure to get to a certain place each night. We did stop to visit family in Mississippi. But we didn’t promise to be there at a particular time. This helped reduce stress. And it also allowed us to drive for as long as we wanted to. You can make up a lot of time after the kids fall asleep! Ours did reach a point where they were restless in the seats at night and couldn’t settle. This was usually when we were about done too.
Another thing that gets stressful, especially with a toddler, is potty breaks. To make these go smoothly, I packed the potty so that it was on top of everything in the back. I then had a plastic grocery bag containing a roll of toilet paper, extra baby wipes, disinfecting wipes, and extra plastic grocery bags. This was a lifesaver. We had to make several stops on the side of the road and in random parking lots along the way. There were also a few gas station bathrooms our toddler didn’t want to use because they “smelled bad” or she “didn’t like it.”
Don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of times we were ready to lose our minds over the potty stops. It sometimes felt like we had spent more time going pee than driving, but at least we were prepared.
Along the same lines, we found it extremely helpful to have a bag with the clothes and toiletries we would need during the driving portion of our trip. This way each night we just grabbed the bag and the diaper bag and were good to go. No need to lug multiple suitcases into the hotel each night. Extremely helpful when the kiddos are tired and cranky.
One of the biggest concerns any parent has when taking a long road trip is keeping the kids occupied and happy.
Our daughter had a backpack with things like Color Wonder markers and paper, a magnetic drawing pad, a baby doll, and a book. I also gave her a package of muti-colored Post-Its, which were a pretty big hit. We had a DVD player and some movies. But I didn’t have to bring those out right away. Honestly, the DVD player was a lifesaver. By the third day our toddler was definitely stir crazy! On the way home we only allowed it to be on a few times a day.
For the baby I brought several toys, a few of which made noise and had lights. Pouches of food and lots of snacks also helped. We made sure to stop and get out of the car for an hour or so at least once a day, whether it be a roadside attraction, Chick-Fil-A, or a Bass Pro Shop. This way the kids were out of the car seats, our toddler could stretch her legs, and we could usually find something to eat.
Was it all sunshine and rainbows? Absolutely not. We had our fair share of tantrums and inconsolable baby.
Will we do it again? Absolutely! The kids did so much better than we ever imagined they would, and we all enjoyed seeing some different parts of the country.