This past week my 100 year old great-grandmother went home to be with the Lord and we had a wonderful funeral/celebration of her life. While her age would make you assume we were expecting this (and we kind of were) I still wasn't logistically ready. I mean, with kids it takes me an entire day to get home from where we currently live. And to really amp things up we got a puppy a few months ago and he was added to my car full. So off I drove across several states with 3 kids and a puppy. Some people might call me crazy, I'm fine with that! Her funeral was just 3 days after her passing which gave me only 1.5 days to pack/get the house ready for me to leave and 1 day to drive. Here are a few of my tips for traveling in the car with younger children.
1) Pack a small cooler with snacks, drinks, and at least part of lunch. I included small bowls of fruit, (Danimals) smoothies, juice boxes, water, soda, squeeze applesauce, and cheese sticks. I normally include PB&Js from the freezer, lunch meat, veggies, apples, clementine oranges, and chocolate. Fill a few sandwich baggies with ice and place them on-top of the other ice in your cooler. This will keep the enclosed ice clean and allow you to freshen up the ice in everyone's cups (with lids that don't leak, I prefer the kid Nalgenes). If it's an especially warm day you should consider buying a new bag of ice a little over half way there, refilling the ice in the cups, and pouring the remainder into your cooler.
2) Pack a snack bag/basket of non-perishable items that you would be inclined to purchase at a gas station (at a considerable markup) but bought at a fraction of the price. Mine included chips, chex-mix, beef jerky, and organic candy (one of my children has a food coloring allergy).
3) Purchase a new DVD series of an older cartoon so the kids have something new to watch on the trip and you don't have to worry about monitoring the content. The Jetsons was the plan for this trip except it got bumped up a little over a week and I hadn't ordered it yet. Redbox is also a great source of new movies for the ride as you can return them at any Redbox after you watched them.
4) Fully charge and bring their electronics (mine have Kindles) but predetermine when on the drive they will be allowed. Make this known from the beginning of the trip so there is no question.
5) Bring an old ice-cream bucket (or shoe-box with a clamp on lid) lined with a diaper for kids who get carsick. It's larger than normal diameter is easier to hit and the diaper absorbs the liquid. Bonus points if you lined it with a grocery bag first for easy clean up.
6) Give kids who are old enough a small stash of their own supplies. My oldest had a pack of tissues, a pack of disinfecting hand wipes, and a travel pack of band-aids so that she could be of assistance to her sisters as a I drove.
7) Provide a mess free outlet for their creativity. My older kids used colored pencils on an adult coloring book and a pad of paper as we drove but my youngest used her color wonder markers, books, and papers in the car. This kept everything around her free from stray maker swipes. They also came in handy before the funeral at the family luncheon.
8) Start making a packing list weeks before your trip. This will ideally help you not forget anything. While we rushed to get packed and home we were planning to come home the following week for my
cousin's wedding and I had already made a checklist for that trip. I simply added a few things to it and got to packing. Categories on my list included: cooler, snacks, kids, me, dog, swimming, toiletries, wedding, car, and foods to buy when I arrive. This isn't fool proof as I still forgot a Father's Day present I had purchased, the kids' sound machine, and an accessory I wanted to wear at the wedding but it decreased what I needed to actually think about as I packed.
9) Spread lunch out over 2 stops. For example we stopped at 12:00 and I handed out smoothies, cut/mixed fruit in half pint jars, and some chips. We stopped again at 3:00 and I purchased sandwiches for everyone. They're going to want to eat something anyway, why not make it part of the plan.
10) Clean the car out, fill up the gas and wiper fluid, check tire pressure, and have your oil recently changed before you head off on a long trip. Thankfully I had just had the car serviced and most of this was taken care of. It helped that we were already planning a trip home the following week. I still needed to fill up the gas tank but that was easy to take care of as I headed out on my trip.
11) Keep a stash of grocery bags in the car. Fill one up with trash at each stop and toss them in the provided trash can to keep your car as clean as you can with small children.
12) Make sure your "Oh No" bag is refreshed. Mine is a combination of my Upchucket Bucket contents, a change of clothes for each kid, an extra kid cup, a bag of wipes, Pull-ups, 1 bath towel, 2+ trash bags, several grocery bags, Febreeze, a sweater/jacket/hoodie per child, and anything else I might need when I yell "oh no" when away from the house. I previously called it my back-up diaper bag but as my kids got older it's purpose has changed. One of my children also gets carsick so it's contents may be different that yours.
13) Pick your battles! This is not the time to make life harder on yourself. While I do regulate movie content and don't allow Kindles before a certain stop (so they have something new near the end of the trip) I don't try to limit screen time while on long trips. There is a time and a place for screen time restriction, driving across the country with a car full and no other adult is not that time!
14) Pray before you even leave the driveway! It makes all the difference!
Traveling with kids is always interesting but if you plan ahead it doesn't have to been as scary. Good luck on your adventures this summer!