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Road Trip Survival Tips {with babies & toddlers}

Growing up my family went on camping trips every summer, and we drove everywhere.  I’m talking 2 week-long treks around the country in our good ole Astrovan.  You know – the big box on wheels.  Spending all that time in the van made me a pretty good road trip passenger.  I learned to hold it a long time, read a real map, listen to all sorts of music, play car games, and sleep with my head leaning on the seatbelt.  Back in those days, we didn’t have GPS or iAnything.  Needless to say, those road trips are some of my favorite memories, and I’ve always wanted to share the love of long road trips with my kids one day.  Well, just to make sure I fulfilled my dream, God gave me six kids.  Road trips immediately became our only option of travel. {I don’t even want to know how much 8 plane tickets cost!}  We started the road trip training early with an 11 hour drive to Arkansas for a family wedding when the sextuplets were 8 months old.  Next up was the 17 hour drive to Colorado to visit grandparents when they were 15 months old.  We’ve also taken a couple of trips to Austin to visit more grandparents.  Now that I’m on the mom side of these road trips, I see how family travel can quickly turn into more work than fun…and how being stuck in a car with your cranky kids can just about drive you bonkers.

Well ladies, I’m here to tell you that you CAN survive a road trip with your babies and toddlers!  I’ve learned a thing or two on our family adventures, and today I’m sharing them in hopes you can use them on your next family road trip.  Did I mention that summer vacation is right around the corner?

Road Trip Survival Tips

Plan, Plan, Plan

I really can’t say this one enough, but I am naturally a planner.  Make a master pack list and start gathering a few days before your trip.  It gives you time to remember things you may have forgotten and figure out how best to cram everything into the vehicle.  Also, plan your stops as best you can.  I know with kiddos surprises come up, but if you can reduce the number of stops, you’ll arrive at your destination quicker which equals less time in the car!  I do this by combining stops.  Stopping for gas is a great time for everyone to take a bathroom break and do diaper changes.  Even better is to pick a gas station with a fast food place built in – kills 3 birds with 1 stop.

Ls in the van

Organize Your Supplies

One major benefit to car travel is there are no bag limits or extra fees.  So take advantage!  I like to categorize the bags I will have available in the front of the vehicle – snack bag, toy bag, book bag, medical supplies bag, ice chest…you get the picture.  Oh, and don’t forget a trash bag.  I’m always surprised by how much trash we produce just being in the car all day.

A friend gave us road trip bags for each kiddo one Christmas, and I love them!  I pack each kid’s stuff in their bags, and it saves me time searching for what they need during the trip.  If you’re stopping somewhere overnight, definitely have what you’ll need packed separately and easy to get to in the car {not buried under pac’ n’plays}.  You can even hang hooks off of head rests and clothing hangers to give you more space and options for placing your supply bags.

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Pack Your Food

This was the best tip someone gave me before our first trip.  I knew to pack snacks, but I didn’t think about packing meals.  I cooked waffles and grilled cheese ahead of time and cut them up and placed into individual bags for each kid.  Anything they love to eat that’s not messy will do.  Not only does packing your meals save you money, but it also saves time on the total trip and gives your kids something to do in the car.  If you really want to stretch it out, hand out one piece at a time.  I do like to leave one meal open for fast food since it’s a treat for my kids.  I travel with my kitchen shears for quick cutting into toddler size pieces.

Activities Abound

Unfortunately, your sweet darlings won’t sleep the entire trip.  When mine were younger they slept more, but I will say at almost 2 they still sleep a good amount in the car or are content with looking out the window.  I have heard that DVD players and iPads work wonders with kids stuck in the car, so if that works for you – then use it!  And know I’m a little jealous as those things don’t really work for me. {2 toddlers sharing a device while 4 can’t see it creates more trouble than its worth!}  Things I’ve used in the car to entertain are music, books, finger puppets, travel size Aqua Doodles, busting out new dollar store toys, and most of all, me.  Their favorite is when I’m doing the singing and reading and making silly faces and pointing out things we can see and playing peek-a-boo and jumping up from behind a seat {you can do this in a 12 passenger van}, so I try to be the entertainer as much as I can.

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Oh, and I almost forgot – snacks!  As far as I’m concerned, you cannot pack too many snacks.  This is a guaranteed win with my kids.  They get way more snacks when traveling.  Of course, I’m also not above letting them fuss a while in their car seats when I’m out of ideas and they’re just not happy.  There’s only so much you can do.

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Random Tidbits

Leave early and put them in the car straight from the crib.  They’re likely to fall right back asleep and traveling in sleepers provides an instant head-to-toe outfit with no shoes required.  If you have kiddos with car sick tendencies, wearing the plastic pocket bibs makes vomit clean up so much easier than when it gets in every nook and cranny of the car seat.  Also, don’t forget to hang an air freshener in the vehicle.  If someone vomits or poops – you’ll be glad you did.  And lastly, have fun and take lots of pictures!!  It is a vacation after all.

allison driving

Now that you know how I survive road trips with my littles, I want to hear from you!

What are your secrets for car trips with infants and toddlers?

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3 Responses to Road Trip Survival Tips {with babies & toddlers}

  1. Nicole Stanley April 18, 2014 at 2:21 am #

    Great post..very well written.The key to avoiding stress during family road trip is preparation and customizing the trip to our family’s particular interests and needs.

  2. Ruth Miller July 6, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    Great post!! We actually leave when we would usually put the kiddos down at night if we are traveling a long distance. We just do our normal nightly routine then just put to “bed” in their car seats. Downside we drive through the night so we get less sleep but it turns into fun because we turn it into a long date and load up on all those bad snacks we don’t normally have and talk. 🙂

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