The kids and I are hopping in the car with my parents this afternoon to hit the road to Nashville. Surprisingly the kids do really well on long trips. They were both horrible in the car as babies and toddlers so it's been a really pleasant surprise to have them adjust so well the past year or so.
Here are a few tips that seem to help things run smoothly. None of them are earth shattering or remotely educational but they work for us.
1. Snacks // Everyone gets a lunch box packed with snacks and they get to hold it and eat it whenever they want. While I typically try to have something sustaining mixed in, this is not the time to fight them on veggies. Gummies and chips for the win. Also apple slices, strawberries, blueberries, squeezable applesauce, crackers, and Back to Nature chocolate fig bars. Everything is neatly packed in little snack size ziplock baggies for easy disposal.
2. Water bottles // I pre-fill two Nalgene bottles per kid (Wells has pink and Tagg has green). Both go in the cup holder of their booster seats. I think the chips counter-act the excess water and I'd rather have an extra bathroom break than dehydrated kids. I also keep several bottles of water with me that I can use to re-fill their bottles as needed.
3. Shoes and Clothes // They both were simple and comfortable clothing. For Wells I try to put her in a dress and for Tagg I always go with elastic waist shorts. It's more comfortable for a long ride and makes potty breaks easier. Especially the inevitable side of the road pit-stop. I also always have them wear rain boots or something super easy to slip on and off. They never wear them in the car but can pop them on quickly for stops. This also helps keep those out of the luggage with clean clothes.
4. Blanket + Lovey + Pillow // Each child has a travel pillow and they get tucked into a big fleece blanket with their favorite lovies. I like to keep it cold in the car so I don't get car sick and those babes get chilly. Cold car plus snuggly blanket is the perfect cozy combination.
5. DVD player // my car has built-in DVD players which is magical but I realize not everyone has that option. I also purchased a dual screen dvd player for my last car that changed the game. We have a pretty solid movie collection but I always take the kids to the library before a trip to rent some new ones. Novelty is always a good thing six hours in. I will note that they don't watch tv the entire trip, although honestly I probably would let them. I personally don't think this is the time for enforcing screen time. Because we don't have any real rules around it they usually watch something for a while and then talk or play together for a long while before picking a new movie out.
6. DVD case // I purchased a cheap CD book and took all the movies out of their plastic boxes and rounded them up in the soft case so it's super easy to flip through and find a movie. We let the kids take turns picking something out.
6. 20 Questions. This one gets old fast. For the adults not the kids so consider yourself warned. How many times are we all going to have to guess Ariel, Wells? Homegirl could play this game for 24 hours straight without getting tired. However, it works pretty well to ward off the are we there yet whines.
7. Count the Blank // We do water towers and whenever we collectively get to 10 we get a surprise snack.
8. Animal sounds // Every time you see an animal you have to make their sound. First to blurt it out wins. And it needs to be obnoxiously loud to ensure you startle the driver. A soft neigh or moo will not do for this fun game.
9. Ideal Go-Time // every child is different so you might have to experiment with this one. But our kids do best when they leave first thing in the morning. We're a get up and go kind of family. The later the start the whinier the trip. Plus they need as much downtime as possible when we get there so late night arrivals suck. Also, they don't sleep in the car so late night or over night driving doesn't work well for us either.
10. Trash bag // this probably seems like a no-brainer but I can't stand all the empty baggies floating around the backseat so I just tuck a little plastic grocery store bag into the door of my seat so it's easy to ditch when we stop for gas.