Traveling with Kids

Soon I'll be leaving my hubby alone for the first time ever in about 9 years of marriage. The kids and I are traveling by car to visit with my father, who recently had a quadruple bypass. I confess, I'm not looking forward to the trip. Of course I want to see my father (and my sisters and other family members in the area), but I'm dreading the actual traveling. You see, we've never traveled more than 2 hours with our kids. After an hour and a half, my toddler starts getting antsy. Not having my husband there to back us up and keep us safe is also not my favorite thing. So this week I'm spending a lot of time prepping for the trip. I want to keep my husband as comfortable as possible, so I'm shopping for him. (I considered giving him money to buy food while we're gone, but he said he'd just buy a bunch of Top Ramen and take the rest of the money to the tool store.) And I'm trying to think of ways to keep the kids occupied on the trip:

* I must bring my laptop with me because I have to work while I'm away, so in a pinch, I can whip it out and let my preschooler watch a DVD. I want to try to avoid that, though. * I'm also bringing her CD player, with extra batteries, along with some new CDs she's never listened to before. * I'm bringing my toddler's favorite books, plus a couple of new books on his favorite topic: trucks. I'm bringing a large picture book of stories for my preschooler, plus a new "read to me" book. * I bought three new trucks for my toddler. I hope new toys will hold his interest longer. (And I wanted to buy a few for him to use exclusively outside, anyway.) * The View Master is coming along, too, with two new sets of slides. * I bought a travel sized Doodle Pro; my kids both love this toy and it will prevent crayons, markers, or colored pencils from rolling around and getting lost. * My preschooler will also have her camera along. * I'm also packing lots of snacks, including whole wheat Goldfish, Cheerios, breakfast bars, blueberries, and some Animal Crackers. I plan to keep drinks to a minimum so there will be fewer potty breaks, but I figure I'll stop and let the kids wiggle every once and a while. The trip will take all day, though, so we can't spend too much time outside the car. Also, I'll carry lots of hand sanitizer, wipes, and diapers. And, oh yes, I'll be praying a lot. Any tips for me??? UPDATE 6/16/10: The trip away from home was terrific. During the 12 hours it took, my toddler fussed only for 1 hour. I was really pleased. The new toys were a huge hit, as was the travel-sized Doodle Pro. I was glad we had snacks, too. On the trip back home, my preschooler also did great...but my toddler cried almost all the way. Perhaps I should have reserved some new toys for the trip back home...but I honestly think he was just too tired to play. Playing music helped some...Anyway, we made it home safe and sound!
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  1. I travel alone with Tyler to my parents house all the time. I usually get way over emotional before I travel because I HATE leaving the hubby. I found that if I gave him something to do he kept himself awake and was crabby upon arrival. If I waited till he got restless to stop, offer snacks, walk around etc then he either slept and then got restless or he stayed awake and was fine listening to his music ( LOTS of fun toddler music) and we made it about 4 hours before we had to stop.

  2. Thanks for the advice, Preemie! My kids *never* sleep in the vehicle, but I hope, hope, hope they will. The drive takes all day!

  3. Can you drive overnight? It's probably harder for you to do this, but we've found on lengthier trips, if even part of the trip is into normal bedtime hours, our daughter does better. In fact, we were driving back from a funeral last year--in a thunderstorm, close to midnight--and had a wreck (our vehicle struck a fallen boulder). Our daughter slept through the wreck, through the highway patrol taking us into town, all the way until Grandma came to get us an hour later.

    Sounds like you're doing everything right for trips, though. We frequently do day trips that may end up meaning we're in the car 6 hours in a day, and snacks, DVDs, music, toys (and our Labrador) all manage to usually keep the daughter happy. But, getting out to run around is a good thing. Sometimes, that's the only thing to stop the wailing.

  4. We're veteran road trip parents, and I have to say you're off to a fantastic start!

    I recommend avoiding (or at least limiting!) salty and dry snacks. They make the kids thirsty which then increases the need for bathroom stops. A lot of people stick with crackers, chips and granola bars for road trips. Including some fruit is a better choice. You mentioned blueberries. That's great! We always have apples and grapes on hand, too. It keeps them hydrated without necessarily needing the potty.

    Also, as your kids get older, the "entertainment" will change.

    We LOVE the Travel Time Bible ( Not only does it have activities, stories and games, but also a GREAT CD of kids' music that won't drive the parents crazy. :)

    And last but not least, our road trips wouldn't be the same without our V-Smile Pockets ( They can be expensive; we had a coupon and were able to get them for just $25/each. But they're SO WORTH it! I'm not a huge advocate of video games, but these are great, educational tools that travel well.

  5. Thanks, Liberty & Tanya. I thought about the Travel Time Bible, Tanya, but I think I'll wait till my youngest is older, so they can both enjoy it. It looks like a great product!

  6. Kristina,

    We have 4 children under 7 y.o. Our longest trips have been 7 hours or so to the beach (it takes longer because we stop). What has worked the best for us is hooking up a DVD player and letting them watch a safe children's movie. There are many out there with Bible stories or other safe themes for children. We usually put the movie in at the beginning of the trip and when the movie is over (2 hours later) we stop and let them run around, use the potty and eat if they want to. then back in the car, we give them an activity to do (books, coloring, doodling, toys etc). I let them eat whenever they want - it keeps them busy and their energy up so there is less crankiness. I think fresh and dried fruits is a better idea than the salty snacks. When I do take salty snacks I use a trail mix that has nuts, dried fruits and dark chocolate besides the salty crackers.

    One thing that we have recently started using and it has been fantastic is AudioBooks. There are so many options out there and my children love the stories and they keep them entertained for hours.

    I also give them little prizes (new toys, books, small things, or snacks) when we stop. I tell them in the beginning of the trip that we will make stops (we try to stop every 2 hours for about 15-30 min) so they can stretch the legs, run around, use the potty, change diapers, etc. and that when we do make the stops if they have behaved (no fighting, crying in the car) they will get a surprise. So then when we get back in the car after the stop they have a NEW something to look forward to. :)

    I do bring 2 or 3 new movies with us, as well as different CD (sing alongs or audiobooks) that are NEW and they have never seen them before. ANd I let them watch them over and over.

    I believe it's all about making the kids comfortable. it's really hard to keep them sitted for so long... another reason we don't do school. :)

    have a safe trip. :)

    PS not having another adult in the car to serve as a stewardess will be a challenge. I have given my children each a backpack with their toys and things and they carry it next to them in the car, so they can reach in and get their stuff whenever they want.