Before we took our trip to Oak Island, I was a tad nervous about how the girls would do in the car for 3 hours. We survived several recent car rides in the past, but those were never more than 1.5 hours. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time around, but I wanted to be as prepared as possible. Nothing is worse than being trapped in a car with two fussy toddlers. Except maybe babies. Trapped in a car with two fussy babies would be worse.
So, I planned in advance to be sure we were ready. I thought I’d share what worked for us since I know many of you may be planning some spring and summer trips soon with your family. I would be grateful to hear what tips you have, too!
Surviving road trips with toddlers:
Talk about it a lot in advance. I decided I was going to start discussing the trip with the girls a week before we left. They were happy about going to the beach, but I wanted to be sure they understood that it would take us awhile to drive there. My intent was to encourage excitement about the trip, but also set the expectation that we need to be patient during our travel. This helped a lot on the way there.
Don’t leave first thing in the morning. Pre-kids, Matt and I would likely hit the road at an ungodly hour just to get to our destination as quickly as possible. Now that we have children, I’ve learned we can’t just get up and go like we used to – at least not at this point. Knowing we’d all be stuck in the car for a few hours, I made sure the girls had an hour or two to play and get some movement in before leaving. You could also try heading out around nap time if you think they would sleep in the car.
Stop every hour or 90 minutes…unless your kids are sleeping (don’t you dare stop if they are asleep!). We stopped once when we were halfway there and it was a great opportunity for all of us to stretch our legs, use the bathroom, and have something to eat. Getting your toddlers back into the car after they just got out can be difficult. At least it seems to be like that for us. I anticipated this in advance and lured them back in with other things (see below).
Snacks! All of them. I made sure I had plenty of things to eat. I brought a small cooler full of cold items in addition to some dry goods. And, yes, there was a bit of candy, too. It was a good blend of everything. I cut up carrots and cucumbers in advance, several apples, grapes, and bananas. I also had cheerios, rice cakes, crackers, and almond butter packets. And I picked up some items the girls haven’t had before to keep things interesting. We had a few goodies like gummy bears, cookies, and Larabars. Yes, we had A LOT.
Cheap toys from Target. I went to Target before the trip and picked up some things from their $1 section. I kept these in a bag up front with me and gave one or two items at a time to the girls when they needed a distraction. These little lizards were a hit! I also picked up some coloring books and washable crayons.
Books, music, and DVDs. The girls like looking at pictures so I brought a few colorful books and magazines for them to flip through. They also like music (Ashlyn especially likes rock and anything “Frozen”). I also brought two DVDs to play on my laptop in case they started getting restless. Finding Nemo saved us at the end! I’m a bit more lenient with TV time when we are traveling.
So that’s what helped us. Getting there was much easier than driving home, probably because everyone was excited about getting to the beach. In hindsight, I wish we drove home around nap time or even bedtime to give the girls a chance to rest. It seemed much harder to keep them engaged on the way back.
Do you have any travel plans with your kids soon? What works for you during long car rides?