travelling with kids staying sane

Traveling with Tiny Humans

Tips for Getting to Your Destination With A Few Shreds of Sanity

I live in Wisconsin.  My parents do not.  So visiting them involves a bit of driving.  When it was just me, some great tunes, and a little bit of a lead foot, I could make the drive in about 5 hours.

I haven’t made the drive in 5 hours in years.  Driving with kids involves a lunch break, a bathroom break, a meltdown-because-the-sun-is-peeking-through-the-sun-shade-into-the-baby’s-eyes break.  This trip is now edging closer to 7 hours.  I love my kids and husband, but I do not want to be stuck in a car with them for more than a half hour, much less 7 hours.

What do I do to make these drives flow as smoothly as possible?

Embrace Technology

I have an older tablet that is reserved for extra special treats… and road trips.  Many new Disney movies come with code for a digital copy, so I download a few movies to the tablet.  I also have the PBS Kids app on the tablet.  Binnybeans can watch a few movies, play some games, and stay occupied in a way that doesn’t involve pissing off her brother.  I don’t let her play with this tablet all the time, so this extra tech treat keeps her happy and quiet.

Keep the Kids on Schedule

Well, as much as possible.  Even though Budgie is enormous for his age, he is still not even a year old.  He can’t go long stretches without eating, and he still doesn’t like sitting in a crappy diaper.  So I try to keep him regular by staying on his regular schedule.  He normally eats lunch about 3.5-4 hours after breakfast.  So if we get him up early to get a jump on driving, I’m not going to make him wait until his normal lunch time to get his next meal.  Also, if your baby gets a bottle before their nap, give them the bottle!  Budgie eats solids, but there’s something about taking the bottle that calms him.  I’m not going to assume he’ll be full of solids and cool without his bottle.

Know (Roughly) Where You’re Stopping

So if you know you’re going to stop 4 hours into the trip, find out where you’ll be 4 hours in.  Google Maps can help with that.  This way, if 4 hours puts you in the middle of nowhere, you know to stop before that.  Find a decent sized town close to it and make a point to stop before you get stranded in the middle of corn country without a McDonald’s for 20 minutes and a 4-year-old who needs to pee NOW.

Let the Kids Run Around… In an Appropriate Place

Give the kids a chance to move.  When you stop, make the most of the fact that you’re stopped.  Stop at a restaurant with a play land.  Have the kid run wind sprints between the gas station building and the sidewalk.  Or if you’re me, stop at IKEA and let your kid go nuts in the Småland.  It’s so win-win.  I get an hour of beautiful browsing and she gets to tear through a supervised play land for an hour.

Drug the Kids

I’m not saying to slip Benadryl in their sip cups.  Nonononono.  What I am saying is to be prepared for illness.  On my last trip, Budgie came down with an ear infection and was teething as I drove down there.  There was nothing I could do.  I had no thermometer (to realize he was spiking a fever), no baby ibuprofen (to calm that fever and make him more comfortable), no Oragel… nothing.  Another time, Binnybeans got car sick and I had no Dramamine.  Now I always have one age-appropriate pain reliever, Dramamine, and a basic first aid kit (including a forehead thermometer).  In short, make sure you’re able provide basic comfort care for your kids in the event of illness… which may include giving them medicine.

Let it Go

And when it doesn’t go according to plan (your kid has an accident and the clean clothes are buried in the trunk, the baby gets sick, etc.) just go with it.  Take a cue from Elsa on the tablet and just let it go.  There’s no good in getting upset when you can’t get over to the exit in time or when the baby pukes all over himself.  It happens.  Address the problem, do what you can to solve or lessen it, and keep on driving.  Don’t stress about it.  A trip isn’t sanity-saving and stress-free if you’re losing your mind and stressing out about it.

And with that, I’m about to pack a snack bag.  Mmm… gummy bears.