Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to road trip with babies: Take 2

This last trip was our second back home. Last year's, quite frankly, sucked. I read all the articles and sucked up advice like oxygen on how to road trip with kids and arrive with as many souls as you left with. First piece of advice? Drive while the kids are sleeping. Sounds smart, so we left at 8:00pm. And Syd cried starting at 8:15. Eli held it together until 9:00. C until 9:15. It was awful. Not only did we have uncomfortable, forcibly restrained children, but they were also tired. It pretty much went downhill from there. This year though, I thought it out like a rational person and thought about MY OWN KIDS (I know. Ground breaking!) And let me tell you. This trip made the angels sing. It was so perfect we probably won't remember it in two years. Here's what I think made the difference;

1) We left in the morning, like normal people. The kids napped at the same time they usually do (although they stayed asleep a little longer.)

2) We planned to stop. This one's a biggie. I was raised in a family that road tripped like a remake of Speed. We drove until someone fell asleep behind the wheel. If it was at a motel, great, but a lot of the time we slept in our seats on the side of the road. My family? They don't really get the appeal of this approach. So on our 15 hour drive, we knew there was a clean bed and a swimming pool waiting for us around hour 7. We made it to the hotel in good moods and with enough energy to play both ways. Nothing like jumping from bed to bed to burn off some energy.

3) I stopped being so frugal. I love the idea of packing sandwiches and healthy snacks, eliminating fries and huge food costs. My husband and kids love McDonald's. So last year I fumed while they wolfed down mcnuggets and my sandwiches went bad. This year, we played on the playground and I ordered a salad. Win win. To make up the money, I did insist on eating the continental breakfast. Not great, but free.

4) Supplies. There were a few that were especially pivotal in our trip's success.
  • For Eli, a lap tray and a cheap set of old-school style headphones for the DVD player. The tray let him play with cars, color, even nap comfortably and keep his stuff within easy reach. The headphones let him put them on and off himself, and control the volume when he was watching a movie.
  • I made him a travel size pillow that he used a lot to help himself get comfortable or to lay over his tray and take a nap.
  • For Syd it was the this bowl, which by the way totally works. I was skeptical but now I'm a firm believer. I hope the inventor is making a ton of money. I think we vacuumed up a total of 6 cheerios/puffs/edamame that had spilled out of the bowl.
  • I also loved her "wings", which kept her from having to stay in the neck-crinky position for too long.
  • We got each a kids Camelbak. New enough to want to use all the time (no juice boxes!) and didn't spill, ever.

5) The surprise bag. This one was probably the most effective and made the journey a lot more fun. I took a big tote bag and threw in there some toys I picked up at BigLots super cheap (a hot wheels motorcycle, a tube of tiny superheroes), a couple Early Reader books for Eli, a couple movies that were on sale at Target, a magazine I knew C liked, a new toy phone and a couple rubber duckies for Syd, some HFCS-laden fruit snacks, fruit leather, and a couple tubes of Pringles. And about every 3-4 hours someone got to pick out of the bag, but only if they'd been "a super good road tripper so far." They were all FABULOUSLY pleasant in anticipation of getting a turn. And if they got a turn, they also had a new fancy distraction for the next few minutes. I cannot recommend this one enough.

Looking back, these are the things I need to incorporate in every big road trip we make. Otherwise C and I yell at each other, Syd screams, and Eli whines. No one has any fun and it's really pretty miserable. We had a great time, the four of us on this road trip. There's a few things I'll probably add for next year.
1) Another screen/another portable DVD. Syd seemed kind of interested but couldn't see what Eli was watching.
2) Travel blankets and a travel pillow for the passenger seat. C tried to steal Eli's a few times, with no luck.
3) Books on tape. We downloaded a couple new albums, but I would've liked a book for when everyone was sleeping.
4) A "Motel Bag" We had to haul all of our stuff in each time and it was a pain in the butt. Next time I'll pack us each pajamas, a traveling outfit, bathroom stuff, and a couple toys. Easy peasy.

So that's it. The voice of experience. We'll see how next year goes. Anyone have any good travel tips for traveling with kids?


  1. Thank you, thank you! So doing the surprise bag. Think I will hit the library up for audio books. Where did you get the lap tray? My iphone is her movie player but maybe I should get a dvd player...

  2. . . . roadtripped like a remake of Speed? You say that like it's a bad thing.