my top | my necklace | my shorts | my sandals
I have never really been a fan of road trips. I guess because I used to get car sick as a kid. Also, I’m super impatient. But we are at that place in life now [ahem, three kids] where driving places for a trip just, unfortunately for me, makes more sense.
So when my husband and I decided to spend a month in Colorado visiting family this summer, I tried every reasoning I could think of to figure out a way for us to fly. But with him still working remotely while we are here, including some work-related travel for him in between, and a few other factors, it just really did make more sense to drive. Needless to say, I was dreading being trapped in a car for 16 hours [each way!] with my family. I mean I love them, but that is a long time.
I posted on my Instagram a while back for suggestions tips on how to make the drive easier and this is my little compilation of what some of those suggestions and just generally what worked for us. If there is anything else that works well for you and isn’t included here, I’d love to hear it in the comments at the bottom of this post!
1. Break it up.
With a 16 hour drive, it is totally possible to do it in one shot. If you are have two capable drivers and no kids. Or you are just a glutton for punishment. Ha. We are pretty lucky that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law live almost exactly halfway between our house in Arizona and my parent’s house in Colorado, so we had a place to stay for a night. But honestly even if you don’t have a friend or family, I think it is so much better when you have small children not to push it and allow everyone to reset and stretch their legs and sleep in a real bed for a few hours, even if it does extend your travel time by a day.
2. Leave early.
Ok this may seem obvious, but when I say early, I’m talking like 3:00 am. This was a suggestion from my friend Jenny of Sonora Handmade. I have to admit, when I first read that one, I too was like, pssssht, yeah right! But then as I got to thinking about it, and it makes sense. My husband and I put the kids to bed at their normal bedtime and gave our older ones the heads up about our plan. We packed up the car the night before and then in the wee hours of the morning when it was time to go, we just transferred them all in their pj’s to the car and got on the road. They all did wake up [mine don’t transfer easily], but they also all did go back to sleep. Then when they woke up again for the day, we were ready for a pit stop, breakfast, and we changed their clothes for the day. On a normal day getting out the door with everyone dressed and ready is like pulling teeth, so this actually eliminated some madness. And, we got to our first stop earlier, so we could enjoy some daylight there, a proper dinner, and settle in for the night.
3. Plan out your stops.
Ok so this wasn’t a seamless operation for us, but for the most part, we had an idea of where we were going to stop each time. More importantly, we planned to take care of all the things at every stop, so as to cut down on multiple stops. Meaning, everyone went to the bathroom, if it was a mealtime, we all ate, breastfeeding and diaper changing for baby, etc.etc. Yes of course, this did make our stops take longer, but again it cut down on the number of stops we had to take.
4. Rotate toys/activities to beat boredom.
Let’s admit it, as modern-day parents, the iPad is most of our go-to-please-be-quiet-tool. I am as guilty as anyone. But in our house we do generally try to limit our kid’s screen time, especially since ours mostly use the iPad to watch their favorite PBS shows. At home and on the road, they each get to pick one show to watch and then they have to turn it off. On the road we are a bit more lenient and might give them another turn to watch something else and/or to play a game on it too, but we have them do something non-screen related in between.
For this trip, I got each of the bigger kids one new activity toy that they have never had before. For my 5 year old, it was a kit like this of tracing letters and a workbook for practicing writing. He was into it for what felt like about five minutes. In retrospect, it really is more of a thing I need to work with him on and not really an independent activity. For my daughter, 2.5 years, I got her a magnetic ‘paper’ doll kit. She also had a pretty short attention span for these. Her favorite part was throwing them all on the floor.
So we also mixed in a healthy amount of ‘I Spy’, which was actually fun way for all of us to pass the time together. There was also a lot of sleeping in our car, which brings me to my next point…
5. *Try* to stay on your normal schedule.
So as I mentioned, we left super early, but otherwise, we tried to keep them on more or less the same eating and nap schedule. In other words, no additional snacks or meals if it wasn’t that time, and also when it was naptime, it was quiet time in the car, and I would help them get settled in with their pillows and blankies to signal it was time to sleep. We did have a time change on our trip, but we adjusted for that over the next couple of days after we arrived.
6. Be organized.
Before kids, I would consider myself a pretty organized person. After three kids, more like the Hot Mess Express. Even so, I find that generally, the better prepared and organized I am for the day, the better the day goes. Same goes for trips. If your household is anything like mine, you are most likely responsible for packing not only yourself, but at the very least, all of your kids. I personally draw my line at the husband – he’s on his own. Anyway, thinking about and preparing all of the things you might possibly need for a trip takes work, and time. So start gathering what you need well in advance, make lists, and get together what you can early to make last minute laundry and packing less daunting. And at the end of the day, if you are not the mom with individual excel spreadsheet checklists for every family member [seriously, I read that once], don’t sweat it. If you forget something, chances are pretty good you can find it wherever it is you are going. You got this, mama. Good luck.
Now, as far as surviving once you finally arrive at your destination, I am still working on that one. 😉 Let’s just remember here, you are traveling with kids so this is a trip, NOT a vacation. Vacations are reserved for time spent without children involved. Perhaps another blog post on my tips for trip survival? Again, leave your best advice below!