Ah, summer. Mornings at the park, playing at splash pads, and lots of time in the van making the rounds to visit family spread all over the country. Our average trip takes us 6 hours each way (or longer, depending on the number of bathroom breaks and the amount of traffic and construction that we run in to) and we make that trip at least 4 times a year so I’ve compiled a few of our survival tips to try and help our my fellow travelling mommies this summer. They aren’t rocket science but the trips that I’m properly prepared run so much smoother!
Note: please, please don’t tell me to “just go at night and the kids will sleep”. Mine will not. Trust me, we’ve tried and it’s been a miserable failure all around. Both girls stopped sleeping in the van shortly after 1 year old and there is nothing more painful to listen to than a screaming, overtired toddler trapped in a car seat.
- BRING SNACKS! I cannot stress this enough: hungry kids are cranky kids. I don’t do a lot of fruit while travelling – too much of a gross mess in the car seats so we save them for meal breaks – but we do bring dry cereals, Goldfish, raisins, pretzels, dried apricots, cereal bars, fruit leather/gummies. I try not to have it all be junk but a few treats can make or break our trip. I give the snacks in those special snack bowls with the lids that the kids reach through. It minimizes the mess if they get dropped.
- Bring lots of small toys to rotate. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out. We don’t bring teeny toys or things with lots of parts; we do pack a number of different Barbie dolls, Fisher Price Little People, figurines of all kinds, cars. I hand over a couple at a time and when they get bored, they trade them for new ones. This minimizes the mess (only a couple of toys can be dropped or thrown at any given time) and maximizes the entertainment time.
- Invest in some Crayola Colour Wonder markers and colouring books. The kids can colour but they can’t get marker all over their clothes, car seat, faces, each other…whoever created this line is a genius and should probably be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
- Buy some sort of toy where the kids can draw with a stylus and erase the board themselves. We have a few Leap Frog toys that teach letters and numbers and sometimes the girls play the games, sometimes they just draw themselves.
- Make sure your water bottles or sippy cups are really leak-proof. We only serve water so if there is a spill it’s not a sticky mess.
- Bring lots of board books so the kids can’t destroy them. The “I Spy” type books are a lot of fun!
- Don’t be afraid to fire up the portable DVD player and put on a movie or kids show. We all need a break! Personally, I aim to drive for at least an hour (preferably 2) before we put anything on – I did pack all of those toys, after all! – but if we’re leaving later than we intended or it’s just one of those days it will get turned on sooner.
- When the weather is nice, we have a picnic lunch outside (even if it’s fast food). Being out in the fresh air and sunshine puts all of us in a better mood! Plus you can have the kids dance, run around and get a bit of their pent-up energy out and they don’t have to sit perfectly still at a table.
- Be prepared: have plastic bags, baby wipes, kleenex, and spare clothing easily accessible. You just never know.
What are your best travel tips?