Yesterday we had our longest travel day by far. We were in the car for over 16 hours driving from Ft. Myers, FL to Raleigh, NC. We only took four, fifteen minute bathroom / gas stops and a 30 minute break for dinner. I’m happy to report the kids did awesome. I think there was maybe 15 minutes of tears the whole ride. Here are some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned about driving long distances with our young (1.5 year old and 4 year old) children.
- Pack tons of healthy snacks and some fun ones too. My kids know they only get goldfish when we’re in the car for a long trip. This makes them excited for their special car snack. And when we give Wilson an apple for a healthy snack, not only does it feed him, but it keeps him busy and entertained for 30 minutes. Win, WIN!
- I pack them ice water in their water bottles. It makes them want to stay hydrated more so than just a water filled sippy cup.
- Comfortable soft clothes or even pajamas. Once Jane wore as dress with a tutu bottom in the car. She got so hot and itchy from the tulle that she ended up riding home in just her underwear. Lesson learned.
- If possible leave right when they wake up. Get up and get everything packed and ready in the car. Get them out of bed, change their diaper or take them to the bathroom and then put them right in the car. It’s like exercising right when you get up! By the time the kids realize they’re driving in the car, its been an hour and you can hand them back their breakfast which will buy you another 20-30 minutes.
- Don’t give them something to play with or to-do right away. Let them spend time getting bored. Its amazing how they can busy themselves if you give them the opportunity to do so. Looking out the window, trying to take their shoes off and on, making faces at themselves in the mirror. They’ll think up things all on their own, IF you let them.
We also try our best to stick to their routine. Wilson still naps, so we try to stop at a rest area and eat lunch and run around and change his diaper just before nap. When we put him back in the car, we read him a couple of books, sing him his nighttime songs, give him his cup of milk with his lovey and he’s usually asleep pretty quickly. That being said, they still need to play in the car. Here are some ways they kept themselves entertained.
- Wee-Sing Songs and Finger Plays I highly recommend these CD’s for anyone with a one – three year old. The songs are interactive but most can be done from their car seats. There’s something about the kids singing on the CD that small children just love. Do yourself a favor and order Wee Sing Silly Songs, and Wee-Sing Singalong Songs as well.
- Melissa and Doug Memory Game The children were given this for Christmas from their cousins. It’s perfect for travel. Wilson loves to flip the pieces and see animals or boats, cars and planes. Jane loved to actually play it as a game.
- Melissa and Doug Re-Usable Sticker Pad These are great but not the way they were intended. For little hands, they’re too big and awkward for use in the car. Instead, I just give my kids a group of 5-10 stickers and they stick them on and off the car window. Great entertainment!
- Fisher Price Doodle Pro My Aunt gave these to the kids for Easter. They played with them for over an hour on at least 2 separate occasions on our 16 hour ride.
- Silly Putty– My friend Grace gave me this idea. Wilson likes to move and be busy with his hands. I’m told most boys do. Silly putty is perfect for him to squish, rip, and stretch. Surprisingly its not that hard to clean up off a carseat. Also, I found these tiny, 4 piece Mr. Potato heads are wonderful for taking apart and putting back together. Unlike blocks there are only a few pieces so they don’t get lost or dropped as easily.
- Clip Board’s with a single sheet from a coloring book or stickers. This way they don’t destroy the whole coloring book or get bored with it. With stickers and young ones, peel off the “frame or outline” sticker from around the actual stickers before you hand it back. It makes it much easier for little hands to get the “fun” stickers off the sheet without getting frustrated. Wilson played with stickers for well over an hour in the car.
- Books and Books on tape- For Jane she’s able to hear the “ding”, turn the page, and follow along. For Wilson, I’ll pass back one book at a time, usually those that he knows pretty well, and he’ll “read” them to himself.
- Play games or make up silly songs- At one point when everyone was getting cranky, we would all take turns making a lion noise, and then a frog noise, and then a cow noise. Jane would pick the animal and then we’d each take a turn and try and make our best animal noise. Wilson could even participate so it was great. Also, after about 14 hours, hearing your husband try to mimic an elephant as authentically as possible seems hysterical.
- Trader-Joes Lollipops These are wonderful for when things are getting especially rough. I try to limit it to one lollipop per trip and the kids know that. For some reason these aren’t that sweet and they aren’t that sticky. We have a strict “no crunch” rule. So they end up sucking on them for about 15 minutes.
- Movies- YUP! My friends will laugh at this because we never had a TV in our house and Jane had seen maybe 3 movies ever before this trip. So when she discovered there was a DVD player in our car and that she could watch “The Lion King” on it, she thought she had died and gone to heaven. We’ve found DVDs to be particularly useful for keeping her quiet while Wilson naps. We try to time them for just as he’s going down for nap.