Tips for Traveling with Littles

Having recently done a rather lengthy drive with the boys (6 months and 23 months) I thought I would share some of the tips that made our trip easier.
The trip up to my parents took 18 hours, and the one back south took us 28 hours. The extra 10 hours were taken up with stopping for a last minute visit with a couple friends, sleeping in the car and getting lost.

We started both trips with a prayer for safety and harmony. God was gracious in answering - on the trip home we came within a couple of inches of hitting a deer (and then saw about 8 more walking on the side of the road!) and there was another stretch of highway where there were about 8 serious looking car accidents in the span of 5 miles. We also all got along and liked each other at the end of both driving times ;)

Preparing for the Trip
In preparation for the trip I bought/made some 'special' non-sugary treats for Judah. This included crackers, cheese, sausage mini quiches, fruit leathers and apple juice. I cut the sausage and cheese into little cubes, perfect for his little fingers. I had a special little dish for his food to go into and I would put small servings into the dish and then pass it back to him. He was always free to ask for more, but I tried to not put too much in it to avoid having too much food fall on the seat/floor.

Since we were leaving on Christmas day we decided that we wouldn't give him a stocking that morning, and would instead give him little presents -one at a time- in the car. Most of the 'little presents' I used were items he already owned. Things like sunglasses, little cars, books, binoculars and a toy phone.
I think the only thing I actually bought for him for the trip was a set of mini glow sticks (from the Dollar Store.) Since we were driving through the night I thought he would have such fun with it, and he really did! He was fascinated with the 'light' and occupied himself for almost two hours straight with them. At the two hour mark he got oddly silent and I turned around to look at him and he had somehow managed to bite through the stick and had the green glowing stuff all over himself and the seat and door. The Glow Sticks are non toxic, but I think we'll wait til he's a bit older to give him those again.

On top of those items I had a few "Emergency" tools too - items that I knew would instantly cheer Judah up and pull him out of an oncoming bad attitude. These items included hand lotion (Judah adores having lotion rubbed on his hands!), gummy Dinosaur candy and lip gloss (shh! Don't tell Paul I am telling the world that his son loves lip gloss.) These items were used only a handful of times to retain their 'specialness' and they really did do their job!

As far as preparing and packing stuff for Wesley there really wasn't anything to do for him (6 months) I had a couple of car seat toys hanging for him and a pacifier, which he doesn't really use. He was rather simple to plan for in the car.

Including the Boys in Conversation and Songs.
We spent a lot of time talking with the boys and singing them songs. On the way up we drove through the night and it had been our hope that Judah would sleep through the night but that was not to be. Our social child slept for an hour or two max for the entire car ride. During the 4 hour stretch that I drove going up there Judah chattered with me almost nonstop while Paul slept.
We mooed and counted and worked on his letters and sang and were just goofy together. I think that making him feel included and important helped keep him cheerful and good natured when it came to sitting for so long.

Burning Some Energy.
We stopped every 3-4 hours for Wesley to nurse. While I sat in the (nice, warm) car with the baby Paul took Judah out and walked and ran and jumped with him in the parking lot of wherever we were stopped. Having that little bit of freedom, and the opportunity to use up some energy, was really good for Judah.

Keeping up with Judah's normal eating time and serving him hot meals.
To help keep things normal we stopped around meal times to eat - I know it would have been much cheaper to have just packed everything in the car that we wanted to eat, but to us, it was worthwhile to buy. Most places were closed on both days of our trip (Christmas and New Years Day) but to be totally honest our favorite place to buy food while on the road is Sheetz Gas Station. The food is fresh, hot and delicious.
We made one stop at a Japanese place and got sushi to go, but otherwise the rest of our meals came from Sheetz.

Diaper Changes and Dirty Clothes.
Keeping on top of clean diapers isn't so fun while in the car! There isn't ever a doubt when a diaper has been dirtied, but actually changing the diaper is a rather large task. I cannot bring myself to change the boys on the handy changing 'tables' located in most gas station and fast food bathrooms. It makes me cringe to think of it, and it is just not an option.
A friend gave me a fold up changing mat that holds diapers, wipes and anti bacterial hand gel. It folds up to the size of a large pocket book. I kept in the car door and when the boys needed to be changed we would do it on the passenger seat. We kept bags close by to put the diapers in and disposed of it as soon as we were able. The colder it got the more difficult it was to stand outside the car and change a dirty diaper, but that is how we did it for all the diapers we encountered.

We didn't do it this trip, however in the past we have 'lined' the car seats with a towel to catch any explosions that might leak through the clothes. I would highly recommend this!

A Few Other Things.
Once or twice we had to change an outfit because of a diaper mess or food mess. This was anticipated and an extra change of clothes was within easy reach for each boy.

We had a few other things for the boys that we kept within easy reach from the front seat. The snacks, toys and diapers were all kept close by, as well as Childrens Tylenol, Ora gel, bags for trash and diapers, winter clothes and extra blankets. We didn't bother with layering clothes for Judah while he was in his car seat. We dressed him in a long sleeved t-shirt and put blankets on him. When we took him out of the car we had his winter clothes right near by. It worked well for us.

I think the biggest thing about traveling with babies and/or toddlers is anticipating the various situations that could arise (exploding diapers, boredom, etc.) and preparing for those situations. Also, try to maintain as normal of a diet as possible while traveling


Stacy said...

Good tips! We did lots of road trips when I was a kid, and I NEVER slept in the car. I still can't sleep in anything that moves. When I was about 7 we drove from Michigan to Florida (24 straight hours), and my job was to keep the driver awake while my parents traded off sleeping and driving.

Crystal said...

So smart!

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