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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Road Trip Tips


The long awaited post is finally here.

Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching and with that means summer road trips and camping--or maybe it means you want to take a road trip or go camping, but something is keeping you back. Namely your kids. Or rather, namely your chief fear of taking children along for the ride and adventure...which can be a scary proposition indeed.

But it doesn't have to be!

My little ones who are now ages five, six, and seven have gone on road trips and camping with us since I was pregnant with them. Now I'll be the first to admit that caring for a child while inside of me is a lot easier and less stressful than taking care of it after I've given birth to it, but with a few quick pointers I think anyone can have a fun and enjoyable time with small children while vacationing.

Pee stops, whining, and "are we there yets" included.

You think I'm kidding right?

Well you're wrong.


Let's begin with road trips.

The number one important thing to remember while driving for any type of long distance (one-and-a-half hours is a long distance for a child) is comfort. If you can keep your child's relative comfort in check, it will go a long way for both you and your child. While you can't totally eliminate whining, pee stops, and annoying questions, you can drastically cut down on the number of occurrences by following these simple measures:

  • Plan accordingly--know where rest stops, scenic overlooks, and Walmarts are. Even if you hate Walmart. Why Walmart? Because Walmart is everywhere and has everything.
  • Keep the sun out of your child's face.
  • Stock up on formula, water, and clean bottles/nipples if you've got a baby.
  • If breastfeeding, well dang you're just lucky. Breast pads and nipple cream?
  • If child is eating semi-solids to solids, bring extra baby food jars or dinners with you. My favorites were the kinds that needed no refrigeration or preparation that I could use on a whim. I stocked up on these.
  • STOP to eat or feed--rest stops and scenic overlooks are great opportunities for you and your children to get out and stretch your legs and/or clean up.
  • Bring extra diapers and wipes--in fact more than you think you need--and change that kid's diaper. Again, rest stops and scenic overlooks are great places to do this (just don't spoil the view).
  • For each day stuck in a vehicle, bring two extra pairs of clean clothes and underwear for ages 2 and under and one extra pair over the age of two. Dress your kid in the ugliest outfit first, and arrive in nicest if visiting family or friends. Why? Because spills, spitups and blowouts happen.
  • Bring a comfort item from home--this could mean a favorite blankie, a doll, a pacifier, or in my youngest's case a string to put in his nose.
  • Pillow for older kids to rest their sleepy heads on.
  • Blanket to keep them warm (the warmer they are the sleepier they are).

The number two important thing to remember for road trips is distraction. That's right, keep that kid occupied and you'll be less likely to pull your hair out at the end of the day:

  • DVD players anyone?
  • Favorite toys (keep to three maximum for older children). Suggestions: Cars, dolls, rattlers, stuffed animals, balls, action heroes, play thing that straps to a seat for infants, and more.
  • Simple games like goldfish, battleship, connect the dots, checkers, chess, poker...wait your parents didn't teach you that?, etc. Keep these games in a designated box or tote.
  • Silent distractions: Books, crosswords, puzzles, etch-a-sketch, coloring book with nine crowns (ROY G BIV Black and Grey), doodling pad. Keep these distractions in the same box with the toys.
  • Road games like ABC, license plates, and I Spy, cost nothing.
  • I wont admit to distracting my younger kids with food or snacks.

I highly recommend not traveling for more than eight hours in one single day if your trip is going to take longer than fourteen hours. This means that if it typically takes you all morning, afternoon, and evening to get to grandma's house, then start traveling at 8 am the day before and stop for the day at 4 pm. Do this twice unless camping or hotels are out of the question. Yes, this means that your usual one day trip now takes two days, but I promise you that it will be worth it in the end. I live in the Dallas area and it takes me 24 hours of straight driving to visit my husband's family who live in central Utah. We used to travel all day non-stop, but last year we got smart and spread the road trip over four days while camping for the night. We were all much more relaxed, happy, and less stressed when we arrived at our destination.

In fact, if you are just attempting road tripping, travel no longer than two hours from your home to test things out the first time. Go to a historic place, a state park, a hike, the lake, or even a museum for the day.


Money saving Tips:

1.) Pack a cooler with sandwiches and drinks, instead of spending your hard earned cash on expensive fast food and junk food..
2.) Stop at convenience stores for hotdogs and drinks. They are so much cheaper than stopping at a fast-food restaurant for a "value" meal.
3.) Heck, while you're at the convenience store (Quick Trip, Flying J, TA or Travel America, and Race Track are my favorites) purchase a sandwich or sometimes even fresh fruit. Might as well use the restroom while you're there too.
4.) Stock up on the free mayonnaise, ketchup, honey, and mustard packets the next time you're at a fast food restaurant. Don't forget the napkins. Even if you get weird looks and someone gets ticked off at me for telling you to do this.
5.) Don't drive around from station to station to save gas. For example, on a 15 gallon tank, saving 2 cents per gallon will only save you about 30 cents. To save a full ten cents per gallon will save you $1.50. Is it really worth your time, convenience, and sanity after you get lost or go out of your way to have saved that little? Personally, I'd rather go without the hotdog.
6.) Learn how to check and fill your oil/radiator/brake fluid/steering fluid/washer fluid yourself. A lot of places will do this for free or at a minimal cost, but it's better if you know how in case one of these needs attention and you're in an unfamiliar place..
7.) Never travel with less than 1/4 tank of don't need to pay anyone to tow you to civilization because you thought you could make it another 45 miles.
8.) Don't get gas in tourist towns.
9.) Wear your seatbelt and don't speed through small towns. Well really, you shouldn't be speeding at all, but I'm just warning you that there's a reason my husband and I call Dumas, Texas what we do.
10.) Rest stops/travel centers are your bathroom, snacks, travel information, picnicking, playground friend. Many even offer free WiFi access.
11.) Be realistic on hotel prices--$20 per night is not a good deal unless you're a hooker or a drug dealer. When you have to pay later with either a doctor's visit for bedbugs or an insurance adjuster for stolen property you'll be thanking me later. Try coupons and online deals instead and watch out for any room regularly advertised at less than $50 per night. Better yet, just go camping.

Speaking of camping, I'll have tips for that next time. And yes my friends, camping doesn't mean roughing it. Or at least it doesn't have to be.


Vanessa said...

Don't forget barf bags or something to puke in. We have garbage bags in our car for that very thing. Yuck.

Stacie said...

My family moved from So. California to Northern Indiana when me and my sisters were 12, 6, and 7. It took us TWO WEEKS.

Le'Ann Ruggles said...

Great tips, Allie! For those with teenagers... mp3 players and hand-held video games are sanity savers. (Coming from a Scout leader who is headed out on a camping trip this weekend.) Many happy travels to you!

DangGina said...

Oh, I wanna go on a road trip! And PS, these tips were helpful for adults too, not just kidlets. :)

Becky said...

Some really great tips! We have learned that traveling with children is NOT foot pedal to the metal but trying to enjoy seeing things along the way. And camping is a great way to go! Lot of history in road trips. And lot of good old USA. But do use distractions. Even my kids had headphones and music. Mother-in-law complained about them being out of it but it kept them happy!

Jackie said...

I LOVE these tips, especially since you could drive ALL day and still be in Texas!

Viv said...

OOOh I miss Dr.Pepper. Nobody drinks it here. Why not?! Road trips are so great in the summer- snacks and drinks are essential! =)

Screwed Up Texan said...

Lee'Ann and Becky! Great tip about the headphones/mp3 players!

Malina said...

Books on CD. For younger kids they have the readalongs with the book included. Kids 4 and up can listen without looking at a book for quite a while if it interests them. Roald Dahl, Magic Tree House, Harry Potter...

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