Hello there. Your (usually) friendly KWSB co-editor here, Cat. I recently took a long road trip (from south-central Kansas to central Texas) with my husband and our two young daughters, ages two and four. Before we left, I decided I’d write a post about how the trip went, and it would either be what not to do, or what to do, depending on the outcome. Fortunately, all went MUCH better than planned, so I have a few tips that might help you out should you hit the road with small children in tow this summer.
1. Lower your expectations.
No, seriously. Instead of imagining long chats in the car while holding hands with your significant other, your non-sticky faced offspring snoozing peacefully in the back seat, picture non-stop screaming while stuck in rush hour traffic and project vomiting coming from the back seat. (Happened to us once.) Yes, family road trips can be wonderful, fun-filled, bond-creating experiences, but don’t be surprised if things don’t go as well as planned. Just take a deep breath, and as long as you arrive at your destination safely intact (physically, not necessarily mentally), count your blessings.
2. Pack healthy, strategic snacks.
The last thing you need is a cranky, chocolate-faced toddler melting down from a sugar crash two hours in to your eight-hour drive. Invest in a small cooler, and keep healthy things in there like string cheese, yogurt tubes (if your kids can handle these) and water. Other healthy snacks we packed were bananas, raisins, and these lemon meringue water things from Nature Box (love that company).
3. Leave your OCD at home, but bring cleaning supplies.
As a parent, you probably gave up on the idea of having a clean vehicle years ago, but even the most laid back mom or dad can suddenly FREAK OUT when they see how much junk has accumulated on their floorboards after only a short trip. To combat the mess, bring along some plastic trash bags, and plenty of baby wipes to clean up sticky/stinky messes along the way. Dump trash every time you stop, and you’ll at least stay ahead of it a bit. (A bit.)
4. Limit Electronic Gadgets, if Possible.
I know, I know, many of you are rolling your eyes right now. I seriously debated getting a couple of cheap tablets for my girls before our trip, but decided against it. Why? Well, my four year old could maneuver one just fine. But her younger sister (two), would struggle, and it would have been a pain constantly turning around and fixing her game. And I couldn’t just get one for the older child, and leave little sister out. Oye. So I packed books, crayons, stickers, magna-doodles, and other random entertaining items in a big tote right between their car seats. And you know what? They were fine. For five hours. Really. We watched one movie on the portable DVD player when it got dark, but they nodded off before it was over. Only you know your kids, but at least give them a chance to fend for themselves before handing over a gadget.
5. Enjoy the ride.
No matter what happens, try to just enjoy being with your family, and know that bonding is taking place, whether you really are deep in conversation with your loved ones, or frantically trying to hold a barf bag over your little one’s mouth. I’d been working a lot before our trip, so I truly enjoy time away with just my little family, not many other distractions in the way. And if nothing else, enjoy the feeling of finally getting home after it’s all over, and know that your not doing this again for a long, long time.
What about you? Do you have any tips or maybe even road-trip disaster stories you’d like to share? We’d love to have you as a guest blogger! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.