Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Surviving a Road Trip with Babies & Toddlers

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." - St. Augustine

I love to travel, especially road trips, but I often have to do it by myself as Daddy Ladybug's responsibilities keep him close to home. Most of my close friends and family live far away, so road trips have become a staple in my life. 

I used to do big road trips several times a year, but everything changed when I had kids. Kids make travelling a little more difficult, but not impossible. With a little planning and lots of flexibility and courage, travelling with kids can be a great adventure. My family travelled at every opportunity when I was a kid and those are some of the best memories I have. I hope to give the same opportunity to my children.

I took several road trips the first year with two little babies and managed to survive...even enjoy it. I'm not gonna lie - it's tiring, stressful and exhausting - just like parenting, but it has some amazing rewards too. Every year we take a few more road trips and it gets easier as I learn new tricks and they get older! This weekend was a long weekend and I took Lady & Bug north to visit their great grandma & aunts & uncles & cousins. It was about a 2400 km drive - about 30 hours of travelling! I've learned a lot of lessons from my travels and thought I'd share them with you. 

Here are some of the tips I follow when taking a road trip with babies & toddlers:
  • Have a plan - where you're going, where you're going to stay, where you're going to stop along the way. 
  • Expect that plan to NEVER go the way you want it. Keep your expectations low and be flexible.
  • Research. Spend some time looking at the best child-friendly places to sleep, eat & play along the way.
  • Plan to stop at tourist attractions that are age appropriate for your children. Make the trip entertaining and educational.
  • Be prepared. Think through various situations and make sure you have a plan for each of them - break downs, sickness, 
  • If you don't already know the basics of car care - learn to jump start your car, change a tire and check & fill fluids & tires.
  • Lots of remote places still don't have cell service, but make sure yours is with you & charged (bring the car-charger).
  • Bring the phone numbers of the place/people you plan to stay at or stop each night or your destination.
  • Don't forget to check in with those at home.
  • Plan 15-30 minute stops every 2 hours with babies (especially young ones that need to feed often) and every 3-4 hours for toddlers.
  • Expect the trip to take longer than it takes you to travel by yourself. I plan an extra hour for every 4 hours if it were just me.
  • I find that 5-6 hours is the perfect amount of time for travelling each day, but I usually go for 8 and deal with the crankiness!
  • Try to keep your schedule as much as possible if your children are scheduled in regular life. 
  • Try to eat healthy foods on the road instead of fast food. Everyone will be happier & feel better on the trip.
  • Find a good park every 3-4 hours for toddlers to get out and run. Have a picnic there or bring take out food.
  • Pack lots of snacks. Apples & muffins are staples on my road trips along with goldfish and home-made trail mix
  • Bring lots of water to keep everyone hydrated. Sippy cups are handy even for the bigger kids in the car.
  • Make playlists of kids songs that you can stand or adult songs that are fun for kids. 
  • Kids stories on CD or on your ipod make great entertainment for 2+ toddlers
  • DVD player is a life saver!
  • Bring a backpack with a towel (or change pad), wipes, diapers & a change of clothes for each kid and you. Keep it stocked and easy to take when you have to run into a gas station or restaurant to change a diaper or clean up spills. Expect to use this often.
  • If your children are potty trained, bring a little potty, wipes & changes of clothes. They don't always need to go when there is a bathroom and squatting in the bush can be intimidating for some kids.
  • Expect your vehicle to get very messy. I bring wipes, little doggy-do garbage bags in a dispenser & a mini vacuum to clean the mess at my destination and at home. It gets really bad!
  • I bring 2 playpens & bedding for both kids everywhere because it keeps their bed semi-familiar. A large dark-coloured sheet & thumb tacks is also a great asset for trying to get kids to sleep in unfamiliar bright rooms.
  • Don't forget the important comfort, special blankies or stuffies.
  • Take 1/2 the clothing you think you need (for you and for the kids!), I always end up not using most of it. I plan to wash clothing every 3-4 days if possible.
  • My children travel in light comfortable clothes - T-shirt, pyjama bottoms/leggings & socks. Shoes & jackets are off, but close by to put on when they get out.
  • Small cars, trains & figurines make great travelling toys (one for each hand) for toddlers. For babies, attach plastic chains with soft toys/mirrors/bells to keep them entertained.
  • Crayons & paper also work great to entertain kids.
  • If you have a car seat tray, you're lucky! If you don't they are a great investment if you do a lot of road trips or fashion one out of a cookie tray.
  • I always have to remind myself that I need to keep talking to them - they start to wonder if I'm there when I don't talk to them.
  • It is always easier with at least 2 adults in the car, but you can do it by yourself!

Road trips are a great way to see the country, meet new people & learn new things. 
Don't be afraid to travel with children!

Happy Travels!


p.s. I'd love to hear your travel tips!

1 comment:

  1. Taking a long car trip with my little ones is one of my biggest fears. Mostly because when my daughter was a baby and young toddler she screamed all the time in the car.