Listen, this post is not going to send you looking for one of those grocery getters with a third row of seats just so you can cram in a few more ankle biters on your family trip to Super Dandy Wilderness Resort. It will, however, give you a few tips to slightly ease your road trip pain without using Benadryl, ear plugs or idle threats.
On our recent family trip from Charlottesville, VA to Hilton Head, SC (an 8 hour trip according to Google Maps), our SUV hosted my 2.5 year old son and my almost 4 year old daughter. These people are tough customers and I was on my game this time with planning ahead due to some rough experiences in the past. Surprisingly, this was our best trip yet (we have made this trip multiple times with them), so I thought I would
beg for validation share my tips with you!
1. Plan Meal Stops Ahead – In the past, we have always just used the navigation to find food stops along the route as we go and as we feel like stopping. This time I researched ahead by finding a breakfast stop that was 2 hours into our trip (we left the house at 6am) and a lunch stop that was approximately 3 hours farther down the road. What I found out is that A) The 3 potty-trained bladders in the car only needed these 2 stops and B) Toddlers thrive on stopping every 2-3 hours. Granted, my daughter was telling me 10 minutes before we hit the McDonalds for breakfast that she only had ‘Five Patience’ left, whatever that means, but it worked out with very little whining. I was also able to check out the websites for our chosen Mickey D’s and Chick Fil-A for creepiness ahead of time from their websites. We knew the weather was supposed to be good so we picked a Chick Fil-A with picnic tables outside and a Barnes And Noble next to it so the kids could stretch there legs for a minute in the kids section (I’m sure they loved us there). Meal Highlights included Girl telling me of her using a plastic knife ‘I learned it from myself’ and Boy announcing when the hotcakes arrived ‘I love chocolate!’ (???). Girl also thanks Daddy ‘…for taking us to Old McDonalds’. No matter how many times I tell her, she takes the ‘farm to table’ concept one step too far here.
2. Drawing Boards – This was a bigger hit for my daughter, as Boy was in an open-mouthed, Kipper-watching trance when the boards came out, but he did do some crayon drawing on the way home. I had ordered some cheap little lap desk things from amazon.com with pockets for crayons and markers and put plain white paper on top of each. In no time, Girl was showing me Christmas trees, rainbows and floating heads she had drawn. On the way home, I got a little too comfy in the front seat and didn’t notice that an extreme quiet had started to permeate the back seat. I soon did a sleep check and realized that Girl had colored the entire palm of each hand and proceeded to smear blue washable marker on her face, carseat and even inside each nostril. This is still a good tip — just use crayons only to avoid this little setback.
3. Don’t Rush Stops – As I mentioned before, we tacked on an extra 30 minutes to our lunch stop by playing at the train table in Barnes and Noble. We also fed french fries to the birds in the picnic area at Chick Fil-A and my son identified all of the Chick Fil-A chicken face logos or ‘birds’ as he called them on the chairs, cups, fry boxes, wrappers etc. – and there are a freakin’ ton. I mean a near disturbing amount once you start to take a census. While you may be itching to get on the road, remember that happy kids who have had a car break will be much happier when they get back in the car. Bonus: Activity can sometimes encourage a poop so you won’t have to make a poop stop later if you’re lucky.
4. Use Snacks And DVDs Without Guilt – Not much to say here. No one is judging, in fact providing a steady stream of snacks will keep things like this from happening. Boy yells ‘STUCK STUCK!’ as he tries to retrieve something from his carseat. He then pulls a petrified snack from 2010 from the depths of his carseat and announces ‘I Got IT!’ triumphantly before it disappears into his mouth. DVDs in the back seat = Ability to listen to This American Life and laugh like the nerds that we are.
So 10.5 hours later, we arrived at our destination, but it wasn’t so bad. There was little to no whining in the car, the breaks were spaced evenly so we were never in the car for too long and the kids were entertained with DVDs, art and some other goodies I brought like magnet boards and books. There were naps too of course. I didn’t plan nearly as well on the way home, but we stuck to a similar stopping plan and my kids have short memories, so the same entertainment worked just as well on the ride home. I’ll close with this photo of left over Wendy’s chicken nuggets and a banana shoved into my door pocket just in case you were starting to put me on a toddler road trip planning pedestal. That is my foot straddling my purse and a ton of other crap that got piled on me since I still need to work on toddler road trip snack and entertainment organization. There is always something that pecks at me.