Travel Tips for Tots

I don't know any parent that doesn't have some hesitation about road tripping with young children.  Be honest, the "are we there yet" and "I have to go potty" and "I'm borrrrred" choruses aren't what we want to listen to while driving through the countryside for fourteen hours (been there, done that!)!

But, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be painful.  In fact, it can be FUN!

I've put together a list of things I did to prepare to take my kids halfway across the country, by myself, with a dog, while seven months pregnant.

Yes, I'm serious.
Yes, I lived to tell the tale!

TIP #1: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

I cannot stress enough how a little prep work made this trip a success.  If I had relied on stopping at fast food restaurants and only playing "I Spy", I think I might have gone crazy...and the kids would have come right along with me!

Being prepared with activities, a few surprises, and plenty of snacks made all the difference!

TIP #2: Bring Toys and Car-Friendly Activities

Chloe and Ryker loved playing with their drawing tablets, and it was a "mom" favorite, too!  No mess, no clean-up, no searching for lost crayons.  ;)

The kids both loved playing with colorful pipe cleaners and looking through favorite books.  Chloe also enjoyed spelling words and names with a set of plastic alphabet letters on a dollar store tray.

TIP #3: Plan Surprises Along the Way

Plan something fun at milestones during your travel.  At 222.2 miles I whipped out some new dollar store toys for each of the kids and a small treat.  Bonus if you wrap the gift first.  The kids will love it!

TIP #4: Bring Snacks and Spill-Proof Drinks

I dished out food and snacks (from the collapsible cooler I kept in the front seat) using mini plastic cups.  Goldfish crackers, yogurt covered raisins, and fresh grapes were among their favorites.  Think like a toddler and imagine how you might make a mess with your food.  Clean up not so bad?  Then it's a good snack to bring along on your trip!

Don't forget to bring something to drink.  Even though my daughter is six, I brought a sippee for both her and Ryker that I refilled with juice or water whenever we stopped.  Keeping extra bottles of water and juice in the back is a must!

TIP #5:  Take Picture and Enjoy the View

Don't forget to enjoy the sites during your road trip!

Unless you're driving in circles around the Hawai'ian Islands, I doubt your entire trip will be photo worthy (lucky you if it is!).  However, enjoying a change of pace and fresh landscapes is a great way to relax a little and let your mind wander.  It's also the perfect opportunity to teach your children about the amazing country they live in!

I pointed out farms, fruit groves (smelled so good driving by!), livestock, various native plants (Yucca, anyone?), natural and man made land formations, bodies of water (Virgin River was a fun one), and anything that seemed interesting.  Chloe learned to ask questions about anything new she saw, and it was a great learning experience for her!

"Picturesque" Beaver, UT gas stop

TIP #6:  Get the Wiggles Out

Although it set us back an entire hour, one of the best things we did was stop about 2/3 through our trip for potty breaks, ice cream, and PLAY TIME!

I knew traveling with kids would mean more stops for potty breaks and getting wiggles out, but I also knew that my young children (6 and 2) would need a bigger break at some point to totally recharge.

After some much needed play time, the kids relaxed and enjoyed an in-house movie!  We're fortunate enough to have a built-in DVD player and screen in our family car, but iPads and other devices are a great idea during down time.

TIP #7:  Bring On the Snuggles

Don't forget to bring your child's favorite snuggly items.  You'll be kicking yourself later for forgetting Bunny Bun or Blankie.

For this long trip, I also bought both kiddos a super soft blanket and stuffed animal combo from Costco (that they picked out before our trip) that they had to wait to enjoy.  These "treats" were great as a new toy AND some extra snuggle time during the late afternoon hours.

Traveling with a pet can prove a bit of a challenge, as well.  I purchased a fresh water/food dish combo from the dollar store and remembered to bring her leash, bed, a few of her favorite toys, and enough pet food for the trip (I measured out enough for the length of our stay and put in a large plastic ziplock bag).

Pixel, cruising in style!

I won't sugar coat it...the trip was loooong.  I was tired, my bum and hips were sore, and all I wanted to do was take a nap...

...sounds like a normal day during pregnancy, honestly.  HA!

TIP #8:  Bring Your Sense of Humor

As a parent, a road trip with little ones can be especially exhausting.  The best advice I can give you is to bring plenty of snacks, snuggles, and your sense of humor!  Just know that there will be soggy diapers, endless "Are we there yets", and maybe even a few melt downs.  Realizing ahead of time that it's all about the kiddos, and that you're not going to reach your destination any time fast, will ease your stress level and expectations.  You might even have a great time!

TIP #9:  Night Time Light Show

Traveling through the night?  Don't think your kids will fall asleep as soon as the sun goes down!  Instead of fighting those wide awake kiddos, plan your own disco party!  Armed with glow sticks from, you guessed it, the dollar store, you'll be jive talkin' and movin' to the groove in no time!

(I'm pretty sure they named me "Mom of the Year" after I pulled over to whip out the glow sticks.)

Final Thoughts

If asked whether I would attempt such a trip again, I wouldn't hesitate to say, "Heck yes!"

Traveling with toddlers and young children (even pets!) has it's challenges, but I was happily surprised by how much fun we all had!  I was able to bond with my children, even educate them, in a unique way that really could only happen while spending hours upon hours with each other in closed quarters.  It was wonderful to watch them have new experiences, especially my six year old who was enthralled by all the different scenery and landscapes.

Our trip was a success, and I would do it again in a heart beat!  It would have most likely been a disaster, however, if I had not thought ahead and made sure the kids would be well fed and entertained throughout the drive.

May the force be with you!