Friday, June 8, 2012

A Successful Road Trip {Yes, Even With Kids!}

We did it. A total of around 42 hours roundtrip after all was said and done, not including little trips while we were at our destinations.
Road Trip With Children
That is a lot of time in the car.
That’s a lot of time for an adult, but for a six-month-old? That’s, like, ten percent of his life!
(Okay, it’s more like one percent or something, but that’s still a lot.)

Good news for all of you parents who will face travels like this at some point – it went quite well. It was not without its moments. Squawking, crankiness, exhaustion…but it truly is manageable. Here are my tips for survival:  
Be prepared, but keep it simple. Make lists to help you figure out what you’ll need, but consider space. You don’t want to feel claustrophobic, especially if you’re traveling in a little car.

Possible Scenario: You finish packing and think you’ve got your bases covered and luggage scaled down to a manageable amount. You mentally high five yourself. Then your husband informs you that he’s bringing his giant emergency survival backpack for show and tell. You’ll be glad you kept the travel items to a minimum.

Be flexible. Accept that stops will be more frequent and last longer. Before children my husband and I would make great time on road trips by keeping our stops short. But trust me, everyone will be much happier if they can spend some extra time out of the car – even a baby who’s not very mobile yet.
Possible Scenario: You’ve enjoyed scarfed down your Chick-Fil-A sandwich, let your oldest expend some energy in the play area, nursed the baby, and completed potty runs. Just as you get ready to leave, the oldest decides she needs to poop (and already has a little). You will be glad you are going with the flow and not on a strict time schedule.

Consider investing in an iPad or other fun-filled device. I’m all for encouraging your child to read and be creative and not relying on electronics for entertainment, but when you spend that much time with a mobility-limited child, you will be glad you weren’t too strictly opposed to technology. Plus it reduces the amount of entertainment you need to bring, which means less clutter in the car!
Possible Scenario: Your child actually enjoys the road trip with minimal complaints. Your only tradeoff is having the dialogue from Toy Story memorized after hearing it played from the backseat 18 times. At least it’s not Spongebob.

Trust yourself to know your child’s needs, and do what works for your family. Some parents swear by traveling overnight so their children will simply sleep. Others – like us – may have a baby who wants (and needs) his bed for nighttime sleep. Don’t make matters more stressful by following advice that goes against your instincts. (That applies to a lot of parenting issues, doesn’t it?)
Possible Scenario: You’re nearing the end of the first day of driving and things have gone better than expected. You think, “Hey, maybe we can make it a little further than we planned. It’s just one more hour to the next town.” Right on cue little bubs begins a full-on screamfest, and as you try everything imaginable to calm him – from rolling down windows to singing horribly off-key lullabies – you seek your inner ‘happy place’ and wonder if perhaps it actually would have been better to stop an hour earlier than planned.

Don’t let your guard down. Remember that your preparedness should not end once you reach your destination. Be ready for the unexpected, at all times.
Possible Scenario: Your two-year-old eats too much fruit one night and gets the travel trots the next day. At church. Before making it to the potty. You will be relieved that you remembered the extra clothes.

And finally, remember that your goal is to have fun! All of the packing, organizing, and facilitating can get a little stressful.  As you embark on the trip back home, you may find yourself asking, “Did I really have fun?”
Then you’ll get home and start browsing through your photos and realize that you did. You totally did.