We’ve taken more road trips with tiny humans than I care to recollect at times. Some of those road trips have been stellar. Others have been…well, let’s just not talk about those.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way to help insure more successes than fails. It’s not full proof though, because two out of three of my small people loathe the car; although the 6 year old has (mostly) outgrown the consistent screaming for the entire duration (and yes, we’ve taken multiple 24 hour road trips…), but it’s still pretty solid.
1.) Stop frequently. We aim to stop every two hours with our kids. And now that we’ve got an infant again, we stop every hour. I know it sounds like a lot, and it is, but with frequent stops they get less antsy and it makes everyone happy. Plus, Sweet M hates the car like his sister. After 30 minutes of crying, we pull over. So that can even mean pulling over every 30 minutes for a few hours. But it’s better for everyone’s nerves.
2.) Make it special. Road trips are when I pull out the lollipops and movies. My kids don’t get much TV at home, unless it’s the middle of winter. And they get even less candy. So it’s a big deal for them, and can keep them happy for several, several hours. Sometimes we have to urge them out of the car at breaks, because they’d be willing to keep going! Find their currency; your kids’ might be different than mine. Maybe it’s a new Nintendo DS game, or new glitter crayons. Whatever it is, don’t question it. It’s worth your sanity.
3.) Help them understand the distance. My kids don’t fully grasp time yet. But they do know how long it takes to get to Target, the zoo, etc, or how long a Wild Kratts episode lasts. So we will often explain it’s like driving to the zoo and back home (2 hours) six times. So along the way, when she asks how much longer, I can answer, “We just need to drive back home, and then to the zoo and back two more times” or “Two more Wild Kratts episodes” and she can grasp that.
4.) Set yourself up for success. It may sound obvious, but seriously. It’s astounding how often I get overly ambitious and that gets me mentally depleted when things aren’t going smoothly. So instead, it’s far better to assume you’ll need more time, more wipes, more changes of clothes, more movies, more patience, and more potty breaks than you account for. Don’t go in with an expectation of knocking the whole trip out in a certain time because that will just stress you and your tiny humans out when the inevitable happens. I also split the big kids up so that they can’t antagonize one another as easily. I’m assuming when we have a 4th this will mean there will be baby in the back: likely more cumbersome for me, but I anticipate completely worth it. I also really like to think of things in absolute worst case scenario, such as: We are stranded 20 miles from a gas station with no cell service, a flat tire, and all the kids have explosive diarrhea. Then I mentally walk myself through how I’d handle that. After that, any little bumps that actually do occur, are no big deal. I know it could be worse, and that I could calmly handle worse.
5.) Enjoy it! J and I prefer driving at night when we are together and able. This typically means the kids are asleep and it gives us literally hours of unadulterated conversation with little to no interruptions, which we obviously don’t get much of at home these days. We also really enjoy finding fun, off the road little places to eat. Maybe you’d have fun visiting new parks during your breaks, making a pit stop at a zoo or museum. Whatever it is, remember that a fun drive to your destination and back home, really is a huge part of your trips entirety; you should enjoy it!
But really, just know that you can do it! I made my first 12 hour drive sans J when H and B were 22 months and 6 months old respectively. We survived well enough that I’ve been doing it ever since without much thought. It’s not always perfect or luxurious, but thus far, it’s always been worth it!