I don’t know about you, but over the last few months, I’ve missed seeing my people! I’ve never considered myself much of an extrovert, but the inability to really connect face-to-face with some of my closest friends and family has been tough. Before the pandemic started, we had three separate trips planned between my family and my in-laws for visits and vacations, and as the weeks and months marched on, we slowly scratched each one off the calendar.
But in early June, my husband and I decided to be bold and plan what had previously been the unthinkable – an 18 hour road trip to visit his parents in New York. Now, I love a good road trip – the music, the long conversations, the snacks – but 18 hours felt daunting. And 18 hours with a one-year-old and a three-year-old sounded like Coronavirus-induced madness.
But we did it! And, all things considered, I think we’d do it again. As a chronic over planner, I read every article out there with advice for road-tripping with littles. For anyone thinking of planning their own car ride of epic proportions, let me give you the cliff notes version – most of the articles boiled down to three solid pieces of advice.
…and when you think you’ve packed enough, grab the Goldfish, and toss them in, too. Every article I read and every mom I asked for advice warned me that my kids would eat like never before, and wow were they right!
I try hard to choose healthy, low-sugar snacks for my kids, but for the ride, I decided to focus on survival mode (especially with a one year old who gets as much food on her car seat as in her mouth). The big winner: Pouch food (I packed fruit and veggies and yogurt). I bought one-way valve tops (thank you Amazon!) to limit the damage from little hands squeezing them, and they were a huge hit (with the bonus of a little extra nutrition).
I also packed toddler snack cups in an attempt to curb the inevitable Cheerio/Goldfish/cracker crumb disaster, but I’m not sure it made the difference I was hoping for.
Choose a Time to Start Your Trip
Think carefully about what time of day you plan to leave. Are you morning people? Is leaving at or just before dawn right for you? Maybe you want to sleep in and start the drive with as much rest as possible.
For this trip, we drove through the night. After two weeks of careful quarantining (both us and my in-laws), we ate an early dinner, put the kids in pajamas, and hit the road. The decision to pull an all-nighter was a tough one (we’re not 20-somethings anymore!), but with a potty training toddler and an active baby, we decided it was worth a try. Traveling at night meant my three year old could wear a pull-up without interrupting his hard-fought potty-training pride, and most of the trip would be at a time the kids were used to being still (and asleep).
Of course, the kiddos stayed awake until much later than usual (the younger one in a fit of giggles while the older tried to explain, “Calm down, please! It’s nap time! Shhh! Please calm down” – while I laughed hysterically up front). And they woke up with the sun around 5:30 a.m.
While the overnight driving was a challenge, listening to my three year old tell me in his hands-down sweetest whine (is that a thing?) that he just couldn’t wait any longer to see grandma and that, “Waiting is hard, Mommy!” let me know that we made the right call (for everyone’s sanity).
Pack, but carefully time the electronic devices
We live in the 21st century – embrace it and bring along the electronics! In our car, audio books are insanely popular, but we were prepared with TV and movie favorites, too. The three best pieces of advice I read:
- Download shows, movies, or audiobooks ahead of time – don’t count on being able to stream.
- If you have more than one kid but only one tablet, look into getting a device that can attach to a car seat so both can watch together.
- Hold out as long as you can on the electronics (there’s no going back once that tablet is out there), but when it’s time, go for it!
The time with family was exactly what we all needed, and our first-ever lengthy stay afforded us opportunities to enjoy a different daily rhythm and experience the area in a new way. Having conquered the drive once, we may just make this a regular summer adventure. Is your family taking any longer-than-usual road trips this year? Chime in in the comments below to share your story, too!