Road Trippin’ with Toddlers

I took on an ambitious task this past weekend–driving with my four and two-year-old to visit Daddy in New Orleans where he lives during the week. Usually, my husband is the one commuting, flying in every weekend, but the opportunity arose for us to visit him. I’m always up for an adventure and what an adventure it was! I learned a few things along the way that I think may benefit any mom on a road trip with little people.

1. Start talking about your “adventure.” I called it an adventure because it just sounds cooler than a trip. And the kids associated the word adventure with the Cat in the Hat and Dora & Diego. It was going to be fun and exciting, and I wanted the kids to be just as excited as I was.

2. Take a trip to the library! It is a great, FREE resource for DVDs for your journey (you almost have to bring some sort of DVD player with you on this long of a drive). We checked out a handful of books and DVDs we hadn’t seen before and separated them into two bags, one for the way there and one for the way back.

3. A good list is a must. “But I’m not a list person!” Too bad. You’re traveling with kids, so this is a must. I always joke that I should have been a Boy Scout because I usually prepare for anything. I never leave the house without a container of baby wipes and an extra change of clothes for my little ones. I started my list about a week in advance. I have a chalkboard wall in my kitchen (which I highly recommend) and every time I thought of something I needed to bring, no matter how random, I wrote it down. I’m proud to say that I didn’t forget anything (except for one of my brown boots, but that was ok).

4. Have a few “surprises” for your tiny travelers. My kids are obsessed with Max and Ruby right now, so I gave them both a Max and Ruby doll right as we pulled out of the driveway. It was a great way to start the trip! Fellow blogger Megan suggested a “surprise suitcase.” Her parents always traveled with one when going on road trips with her and her sisters. When things started to turn sour, out came the surprise suitcase full of new, exciting activities. Great idea!

5. Make stops! Believe me, I would have loved my 10-hour drive to have only been eight, but I realized that this was my children’s first road trip, and if something went bad or their memories of it weren’t that great, it might make future travels much harder. So, we stopped at almost every rest area. We took a picture with the Blue Angels statue in Pensacola. We drank free orange juice at the Florida state line. We ran laps around trees, park benches, you name it. I realized that just because I was feeling fine didn’t necessarily mean that my kids were. They needed fresh air and to stretch those little legs (of course I only stopped at well-populated areas at night to get gas).

6. Check in often. I talked to my hubby quite a bit, and took pictures when I pulled over and texted them to friends, so they knew exactly where I was. This made everyone (including me) feel safer that many people knew my whereabouts at any given time.

7. Talk with your kids! I know this sounds silly, but you would be surprised how many people just expect kids to sit quietly in a car. Chances are you’re going to encounter a few miles of boredom, no matter how many toys, books, and movies you pack. We talked about what we were going to do when we saw Daddy, what we wanted to do when we got home and what the signs on the road said. We counted cars, cows, stars–you name it. We played the alphabet game, reviewed letter sounds but most of all, we sang. And we danced. I can only imagine what the truckers thought of us….

I don’t plan on making a 10 hour/575 mile journey anytime soon, but I’m very glad we made the drive, and the kids seemed to have a great time seeing their Dad in “Daddy’s Place” (not Daddy’s home, he lives with us, this “super-commuting” can be confusing)!

The one thing would I recommend not leaving home without? The CLAW! (I’m saying this in the alien’s voice from Toy Story.) It was a life-saver! Every time Henry dropped a blanket, toy or sippy cup, I grabbed the Claw and was able to reach it.  And, the kids were super impressed with my clever robotic arm and robot voice.

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