Traveling with Littles is a series of posts by staff writer, Lauren James. She will be sharing her savvy and budget-friendly tips from years of practice with her own little traveler, now 8.
Spring Break is coming soon for many families, and with summer right around the corner the time for road trips and vacations is fast approaching. If you have a small child, a road trip can be a terrifying idea, but with some careful planning you can be prepared for almost anything. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler with kids in tow, or this will be your first time traveling with a little one, these are some tips I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully these will help make traveling on the road with your children easier on your ears and your wallet, and keep your child(ren) from asking “Are we there yet?” one more time.
Before the trip start gathering a few small toys that your child loves, small animals, cars, things they like to play with. Wrap each of them like a present, tin foil works great too, and put them in a bag. You could go get new little things, but if you start gathering a few weeks before the trip, they’ll be thrilled to see them again. Keep the bag within reach in the car on the trip, so that when they need something new to do, you can take something out of the bag. If you wrap it right, they’ll spend a few minutes unwrapping, which is usually the best part. If they want to unwrap everything that’s ok too– keep them happy. If they are little you could probably re-wrap as they unwrap!
Make a trip to your local library and find some fun story or music CD’s. Children’s Audiobooks are plentiful, and many are really good. Make sure if you get a book, that it’s age appropriate. Our favorites are by Jim Weiss, he has many for different age groups, but there are also lots of others out there! Stories are great ways for kids to be distracted, without looking at a screen, which can make some kids car sick.
Plan to stop
When you are planning your drive, make sure you plan to stop every couple of hours. Little legs need to move and stretch. Rest Areas are great places to run around and explore a bit. 10-20 minutes will do wonders. Promises of a snack waiting will help get reluctant ones back into their car seat.
At home, I’m not a big fan of screen time, and we discovered that more than one movie is too much for my daughter’s stomach. Whether you’re relying on a built in DVD plater, hand held game devices like Leapster or the DS, or the fun isomethings these are all wonderful distractions during a car trip. Keep in mind that part of the fun of a car trip is seeing what you can see along the way. Kids whose eyes are glued to a screen miss a lot that goes past them. We do movies when it’s dark and she can’t see anything anyway, and she’s allowed to be on her smaller electronics for about half an hour at a time.
Remember the road trips you took with your family? We used to play games all the time. When our Daughter was small we played a lot of I spy, and Car Bingo (with those boards that have sliding windows). Then we upgraded to the ABC game (finding the alphabet on signs) and I’m Thinking Ofâ€¦. (like 20 questions). Now that she’s 8, we like to try to see how many different state license plates we can find, and we play a game called The Minister’s Cat, which is an adjective game, each person says the sentence “The Minister’s Cat is a ______ Cat” filling in the blank with a descriptor, starting with whatever letter you decide to start with, usually A, then when no one can think of any more A words, move to B. We’ve never made it through the whole alphabetâ€¦ yet.
If you have kids who still nap, planning your trip to maximize the amount of time they’ll spend sleeping is a great idea. We used to get in the car right before lunch time, with a packed lunch, eat in the car, and within an hour she’d be asleep, and would sleep for nearly half the trip. Wonderful!
You may consider traveling during the nighttime hours, but be sure you don’t overdo it! No one wants to arrive at a destination on no sleep with wide awake and super excited kids! For some families it works if they get up super early, or start at 4pm before stopping at midnight at a hotel. Only you know what will work for your family, but proceed with caution if you plan to give up sleep to drive.
Before you go on your trip, make a checklist. I know it seems so orderly, but it’s worth the hassle so you don’t end up forgetting something!
Car seats should be cleaned up, and double check that it is secure and tight.
For little ones pack whatever lovies your child needs to be happy and comfortable. For an older child a bag with a few things from home can make a hotel room more comfy.
Wherever you travel a first aid kit is a must for any scraped knees that might happen during your rest stops, or booboos that happen as you are on the go.
Remember to pack more snacks than you think you’ll need-you can always eat them on the way home. A great place to stock up is Amazon.com which offers all kinds of portable snacks like bars, juice boxes, and nuts.
For older kids make sure you have all the batteries and chargers for your electronics so no one’s screen goes dark midway through a long trip.
For the littlest travelers make sure you pack a change of clothes and a few extra diapers just in case.
For the car make sure you have a few basics in case of an emergency. Some flares, a jack, and blankets for every person in the car.
Do you have any Road Trip Tips?