Tim and I both grew up in big families that took long car trips for family visits/ vacations (I was in HS before I had any experience with air travel), so I thought we’d be pretty experienced for our own family vacations, but as it turns out, it’s a *little* bit different to be one of the responsible parties and not just a passenger along for the ride/ trip. Our first vacation after Evie was born was when she was 4 weeks old. Let me just say when the week was up we were so.very.glad. to be home. We’ve learned a few things since then about traveling with young kids- most of these tips are brought to you courtesy of Captain Obvious, but I wanted to share in case someone else found one or two of them helpful!
Start with a clean car- Sounds crazy, but I find it helps to have everything clean and tidy from the start, even though the chance of Cheerios getting scattered into every crevice of the car within minutes of leaving the driveway is pretty high.
Snacks!– Things your kids don’t usually get to eat. I like these lollipops and these fruit snacks (both are made with natural flavors, woot!). I can’t tell you how many times the phrase, “Who wants a lollipop?!” came to the rescue, especially while sitting in obscenely ridiculous traffic (I’m looking at you, I-95). When I was younger my parents would buy those miniature boxes of cereal for the early mornings on our road-trips and my siblings and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever.
Drinks– Did you know they make shelf stable milk in drink-sized boxes? I just found this out and my mind was blown. It was so much easier to just throw some small juice bottles and those milk boxes into a bag with the snacks instead of dealing with a cooler in the car.
Find good places to stop– We’ve stopped before at places way off the beaten path in Nowheresville, when we were desperate to find a gas station, or a parking lot where I could nurse, but now that smartphones are so prevalent it’s easy to look-up a kid friendly pit stop (Chick-fil-a, Chick-fil-a, Chick-fil-a, and P.S.- they’ve added iced coffee to their menu!). Also, Cracker Barrel comes through in a pinch when you need to stop for breakfast and you have the lingering odor of car-sickness permeating the air in your vehicle- air fresheners for sale in their shop are a Godsend. Francine mentioned stopping at a rest-stop with a playground- definitely a plus when the kiddos need a few minutes to let their energy out!
Book variety- Our girls like to look at books in the car but I have to be vigilant about switching them out every so often or else the books get rejected as soon as I dole them out from my car-attendant perch. Also, the “I Spy” books are great for keeping kids occupied!
Change of clothes handy +wipes/ wet bag– Well, self-explanatory. Don’t leave home without them!
Gear goes a long way– I think what made our trip to Ecuador back in the spring 10 times easier was that the needs of our girls were taken care of- a high-chair, extra sippy cups, crib for Audrey, a bathtub, etc. were all provided thanks to my kind sister and her family. When traveling sometimes less is absolutely more, but with young kids certain accessories make a vacation stay more relaxing- baby gates for a rental with stairs, a booster seat, umbrella stroller, Bumbo, sound machine…I seriously wish we had known about this travel bassinet when we took Evie to the beach as a newborn!
Color Wonder Markers (or whatever toys you like!)- I brought these along on our trip this year. Our girls both like to color and it wasn’t a big deal if the markers got lost or dried out, so these came in handy (obvious plus of NO mess!) during down time.
Kid friendly space– When we were looking at rentals for our vacation this year, some of the options looked like a meeting place for Hoarders R Us- knickknacks and paraphernalia everywhere! Not a great for little ones who like to explore. Give me a (clean) place with minimal decor and old furniture, and I will be a happy parental camper (in the bed & indoor plumbing sense of camping).
References to “special big-girl bed” and “blanket fort” for sleeping purposes- We had our pack n’ play for Audrey, but I was really uncertain how Evie would sleep in a non-toddler bed (she ended up doing really well), especially due to the sleeping arrangements for the first part of our trip:
Pool– this has been the first year we’ve been able to stay at the beach for several hours at a time with both girls, but that hasn’t always been and won’t always be the case (babies and sand aren’t always compatible). Staying at a hotel or rental with a nearby pool is so, so worth it (also, zero-entry pools are one of the best inventions ever).
Refreshment for the outdoors- Our girls aren’t quite ready to handle juice boxes on their own and they often drain their sippy cups faster than I can refill them, so these large plastic mason jar tumblers (with handles) served them well during every jaunt to the beach.
Well, that’s a wrap. If you have any tips or different experiences to add I’d love to hear them!