Graham and I both had to go to work in Phoenix last week, so we planned a family trip there from Chicago. We floated the idea of flying, but the reality was that we needed a car and a lot of stuff our kids require, such as two car seats, a stroller, a Pack and Play, etc. We decided that driving, although a long distance, was the best option for us to give us the flexibility we needed and the space to fit everything we wanted to bring. Along the way we learned many things that could make future drives flow more smoothly. I’m sharing these tips in hopes of helping other parents have a better time in the car.
Road trip tips:
- Take your time. You will have to stop a lot to change diapers, take bathroom breaks, walk the dog, and eat. Practice patience and give yourself enough time and then some.
- Don’t forget a changing pad or something to change diapers on. You’d be surprised how many rest stops or restrooms don’t have family bathrooms or even a changing table.
- Plan car rides for when your kids are more calm and less fussy or antsy. For us, this means the morning and early afternoons. By late afternoon/early evening they start to get anxious to leave the car. It’s not fun.
- Switch out toys every hour or so. I brought toys for the baby and V and then switched them out as often as needed to prevent boredom. I wish I would have brought more, but they both did great in the car.
- Bring plenty of snacks and water/drinks. Reusable cups are perfect. If you can pack healthy snacks in glass containers, even better, because most of the snacks and food options on the road are not healthy.
- Get a lap desk tray for toddlers to use as a table and to contain snacks. This prevented messes because it has a cup holder and kept V entertained because she could put her books on it and she could color. The tray was a recommendation from A Toddler and a Top Knot blog.
- Consider books vs. screen time. While we didn’t give V much if any screen time during the ride, we have in the past. I think long road trips are an acceptable time to bend the screen times rules a little bit if it means keeping everyone’s sanity. You can always reinforce your rules when you get home, if you have them. If you’re against screen time, coloring books and books that you can trace letters on are a great option.
- Keep your pup contained with a pet barrier (if you have an SUV). I bought this at Weathertech to keep Capone in the back. In the past he liked to jump into the front and eat our food or leave dog hair all over everything. With this rack he is safely in the back and has plenty of room.
- Pack a weekend bag in addition to luggage. Pack a bag with everything you need for the road trip (if it’s more than one day of driving), so you don’t have to unload and load multiple bags when you stop overnight. You can just leave your larger suitcase in the car if possible.
- If you’re pumping/bottlefeeding, check whether any hotel room you book will have a fridge to store any milk/formula that needs to be refrigerated. Also, if you pump consider whether a car power adapter would be helpful to you.
- Bring a Pack n Play or DockaTot for the baby to sleep/nap in. We brought both but she mostly slept in the Pack n Play.
- Bring an extra bag for dirty laundry and a small detergent bottle to hand wash clothing on the go. Babies and toddlers especially wll have accidents and spills. It helps to be prepared to do some laundry in the hotel room if needed. You could also use the hotel’s laundry service, but it’s typically not cheap. Some hotels might also have laundry rooms.
- Bring foldable, portable dog bowls. These are so easy to travel with and don’t take up much room. We also bring natural dog freshening spray for in between washes.
- Invest in a small travel baby booster chair to use for feeding. Instead of bringing her hair chair, we bought an affordable one to use for travel in the future. We find that it’s too difficult to feed her unless she’s strapped into a chair because the girl is on the move and won’t finish her meals otherwise.
- Have plenty of towels or napkins, wipes, air sanitizer and hand sanitizer.
And my best tip: Try to have fun and enjoy the journey! What tips would you add? What are your travel essentials?
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