PLANNING A TRIP can be so exciting. You think about all the things you are going to do, make plans with friends and family, and daydream about the places you are going to visit. Everything is so exciting that sometimes you can't even find sleep....that is until you have to start packing. Then the headache starts.
Travelling with kids can be difficult but there are definitely some tricks to helping you maintain some of your sanity. It all has to do with being calm. Breathe! And planning ahead.
This week we are making the 14 hour drive to visit family in our home town. We make the trip at least 2-3x a year, and with 3 small children it sometimes can be a long one. With every trip things get a little easier, from hard learnt lessons and experience. We have become seasoned road-trip-with-kids travellers.
You need to learn how to become a over-packer. By over-packer, I don't necessarily mean 'pack a lot of stuff', but be conscious about what and how you are packing. You will need to not only pack all the essentials for your whole family, including your husband ( kudos for you if you have one that is a capable packer), but you need to pack smartly. I am not talking about the massive amount of clothing and toiletries for your vacation, but packing for the trip there.
Here are a few things that might help you from banging your head on the dashboard during your trip, or screaming out into the wilderness at a pullover.
1) Pack a DAY BAG
Anything can happen on a long drive. The worst are among car-sickness, bathroom accidents, and changes in weather, and did I mention car-sickness? I ALWAYS pack a full day bag for long trips. It saves me from pulling my hair out on the side of the road, and everything that is neatly packed in the back, to find something that I need in an emergency.
And it includes:
Wipes and diapers ( if needed)
A full change of clothes for each child ( in case of vomiting/ bathroom accidents)
A few plastic bags ( for diapers/ soiled clothes)
A few receiving blankets (great for wiping or to place on top of the wet seat that was once covered in vomit) or small towels.
A face cloth and a bottle of water ( to help cleaning up vomit)
A roll of toilet paper
As you probably noticed, my list has a lot to do with the probability of vomit. Let's face it, it doesn't take a mathematician to realize that kid + car = vomit. Be prepared!
* Be sure to put this bag directly behind the passenger side seat, you may need to get into it from the side of the road as you strip off vomit covered clothes.......
AND a nice addition to the back seat is a large plastic bowl or ice cream bucket....and you can probably guess what it is for.
2) Pack SNACKS
Kids are ALWAYS hungry during travelling and always at the worst times. There are many long sections of highway that don't have anywhere to stop to eat, let alone anywhere for bathroom breaks. Even when you do find a small town, finding somewhere to eat is next to impossible if you are there too late in the day or don't want to go too far off route. When you do find a restaurant you have to weigh driving by or taking grumpy car-sick or jet lagged kids inside or driving on. Only the very brave stop with a pack of tired and bored kids at a restaurant. Drive through is usually a big head-ache with the potential mess, and gas stations - well they boast a large array of sugary snacks. Don't get me wrong, If you are OK with feeding your kids beef jerky and chips for supper....don't pack snacks.
You don't need to go crazy when you are packing a lunch. Of course you want to stay away from things that will go bad like mayo, or milk products. Of course, if you pack a cooler with ice packs...you can definitely bring a broader spectrum of foods.
I would suggest the following:
Fruit ( halved strawberries, oranges, apples, bananas....basically any type of fruit)
Peanut Butter and Jam sandwiches
A previously cooled rotisserie chicken ( keep cold in your cooler)
For the kids I like to have one Gatorade bottle each 1/2 filled with water and frozen and then topped up with cold water before we leave. Not only does it stay cold for all or most of the trip, but the way that the top of the bottle is designed will help decrease spills. It's a good idea to fill a cooler with cold waters, juices or pop as well. Don't forget to use the washroom when you can!
4) PILLOWS & LAP BLANKETS
These are a definite must for long trips. Depending on how you position them, it helps to take the stress off of the kids necks when they are asleep. No one likes to see their babes with kinked necks and heads bobbling in their car seats. A lap blanket can me great for adding comfort to them and keeping them warm as they sleep. PLUS usually during long trips I don't like to have the heat beating on me as we drive, and knowing that I can stay cool in the front while the kids are warm in the back, is a nice comfort.
5) LET THEM SLEEP
We have found that starting our drive very early morning or late evening has worked best. You can pack the kids right into the car while they are still wearing their comfy jammies, you already have clothes packed in the day bag, and you can stow their shoes in the back seat under their feet. It seems like the most comfortable way for them to travel, you can avoid heavy traffic, and you can let them sleep their normal hours of sleep. The last thing you want to do is to have kids sleeping all day in the car, and then be wide awake and tired upon destination. Just don't forget to get enough sleep for yourself.
Good luck and happy travels! :)