Saturday, July 21, 2012

On the Road Again- Traveling with Young Children

Posted by Heather at Saturday, July 21, 2012

Land, Sky and Sea!

Recently, our family took a three week vacation driving to Florida, boarding a cruise boat for the Western Caribbean, spending time with family in Florida, flying home to North Carolina and driving to and from Pennsylvania. One week of that vacation was spent as a family and the rest of the time I was on my own, flying and driving with Lil' Miss by myself. So, I figured I could share some "tips" for those of you hitting the road, flying the friendly skies or sailing the ocean blue this summer.

Some things that I did to prepare for our road trip(s):

-Before we hit the road, I pre-portioned snacks into reusable snack bags/containers. This way, there is no fumbling around with boxes, trying to hand something to the back seat only to have the kid drop it. Plus, *hopefully* a little less mess in the back seat. My kid loves to eat, so I had a bag/hour in the car at the ready to toss to the back.

-I saved random little toys that Katy has collected from kids' meals, party favors, etc. through the year to use as "prizes" in the car. Think bouncy balls, small candies, little puzzles, mini slinkies, etc. Then, I stuffed these little toys into old plastic Easter Eggs. Whenever Katy got cranky or fussy, I would give her one of these eggs to open- she got a treat to open and I got a few, much-needed minutes of respite while driving.

-I keep a bag of activities and books that only come out while we are traveling. This way, that makes them more special and more of a "treat."

-Several weeks before traveling, I gather a few of Katy's favorite toys (not all of them, just some of them) and put them aside for the trip. That way, when she gets into the car and sees the doll she hasn't played with for a couple of weeks, sitting in her car seat, she is more likely to hop right in and not cause a fuss.

-In the same vein, I also like to have a couple of "new" toys/books ready to entertain Katy. Katy has recently gotten into the Fancy Nancy series of books. Up until the trip, we had been borrowing them from the library but we didn't own any. So, before the trip, I went onto Amazon and ordered a couple of new ones, some of her favorite ones and saved them to be read on our travels.

Some things I did to pack for our road trip(s):

-I'm a bag person- just ask my family. When I have the space (i.e. not restricted by airline baggage fees), I like to pack one bag/activity/person. For example, extra pull-ups, wipes, creams, etc. go in one bag. Pool floaties, swim diapers, sun screen, sunglasses, surf shoes and hats go into another bag. That way, you always have a bag handy and it's literally, grab the bag and go.

-I always use the same black backpack for Katy's car activities and the same red backpack for her snacks. That way, there is never any confusion in our minds and you can easily go to the designated bag and find what you need.

-I always pack a combined suitcase the same. While the suitcase is opened, hubby's clothes go on the left, mine go on the right and Katy's is in the middle. I make sure that whatever clothing will be needed first, is packed on top. Shoes always go on the bottom. For example, if we were planning to arrive somewhere late at night, just in time to go to bed, I make sure that PJs and toothbrushes are right on top and easy to access. Other than the fact that I am a creature of habit (which, I admit, I am), I like to pack this way because sometimes (just sometimes!) you forgot to make something handy and you need to reach into a half-opened suitcase (because you just don't want to lug the whole thing into the hotel for an overnight stay!) and reach in and retrieve it by feel.

-On part of our trip, Katy and I drove from Charlotte to Beckley, WV where we stopped overnight and then continued our journey the next day to our end destination in Pittsburgh, PA. I made sure to pack just one outfit for each of us, plus pajamas and toiletries in an easy-to-access bag. That way, I didn't need to lug the whole big suitcase into the hotel for just one night.

Some things I did while driving on our road trip(s):

-I have a black backpack that contains all of Katy's "car activities." I made sure this was up front with me in the passenger's seat so I could easily access it and hand it to Katy's waiting hands.

-Along the same vein, once Katy was finished playing with a particular activity, I would then place it in a certain spot (outside of the bag). That way, when I went searching for a new activity to entertain Katy, I wasn't fumbling around with activities she had already played with (all the while, Katy is growing grumpier in the backseat).

-Also in the passenger's seat were the before-mentioned pre-portioned snacks, sippy  cups, juice boxes, etc. That way, they were just an arm's length away and easy to hand to Katy.

-I made sure to have not just one, but TWO sippy cups ready in the car. I've learned by experience that sometimes one falls and you just can't take your eyes off the road to go searching for it.

-I always drive with extra napkins/tissues/wipes- you just never know when there is going to be a mess to clean up!

-Since my daughter seems to be prone to throwing up, I've learned (the hard way!) to always make sure that there is a resealable bucket/container within easy reach. Enough said.

-I make sure toys, books and stuffed animals are positioned within easy access to Katy in the backseat. That way, she can grab the item herself.

-I didn't do it this trip, but I believe I would do it for the next time: I would use old blankets/boxes in order to fill in the foot space behind the driver's seat and the passenger's seat (Katy is positioned in the center). That way, if something were to fall (say, a stray sippy cup, like I mentioned before :-), it would be less likely to roll UNDER the seat, rendering it nearly impossible to retrieve while at a stoplight and/or without major excavation.

Some other tips I learned along the way...

-Every time we stopped driving for the day, I made sure to clean out all the debris and regroup for the next day of travel. This makes it way easier to get in and have everything reset and ready to go.

-I always made sure I had a full tank of gas the night BEFORE hitting the road. It's much easier to just get up and GO! than have to worry about the hassle of filling up the car, repacking, etc. and THEN get started. So, when I got off the highway in Beckley, WV for the night, I filled up the car and then headed to the hotel. That way, when we got up the next morning, we didn't have to go searching for a gas station and then hit the road.

-I always count the bags that I take into a place. For example, while we were on our cruise, I knew that we had four bags and I knew that I needed to leave with four bags.

-When parking a car that you are going to leave for awhile and then have to go back and retrieve, be sure to park it somewhere with something to remind yourself with. For example, when we parked our car and then left it for our seven night cruise, Ted parked it on level 2 (2 as in our daughter is 2 years old), That way, we had something to jog our memory when we came back to the parking garage and vacation on our mind.

Okay, so there you have it- travel safely this summer and happy trails!!


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