I have had the pleasure and stress (mostly pleasure) of traveling by car in the last 12 years with my little ones from Long Island to Florida (yes, I did it alone, just me and 3 kids — call me crazy!) Virginia Beach, Virginia (again), West Virginia, New Jersey (8+ times), Pennsylvania (8+times), Connecticut, Baltimore , Lake George and Washington DC.
My children are now 12, 10 and 6 and quite used to being in the car since they were babies. We’re a great traveling team and it’s because we go into it with a great attitude of exploring a new place and being excited about the whole trip, start to finish.
Here are a few tips we find very helpful.
1) Drink water only in the car and not too much of it. Stopping every 2 hours at a rest stop is great for a stretch , but you don’t want to do it more often than that…. which leads to number 2 :
2) An empty plastic coffee can, Snapple bottle or small beach bucket can serve many purposes in an emergency (think being stuck in Brooklyn roadwork or at a toll booth)… a mini potty, a barf can, a garbage can…..
3) Media! Have plenty of DVD’s …better than just the ones you already own, go to the library and rent a whole bunch of shows the kids have never seen before. I find it keeps my kids quieter much longer. Put some new games on the ipad. Have everything charged and ready to go.
4) If you are stopping on the road at a hotel for 1 night before you reach your final destination, pack clothes and toiletries for everyone for just that one day , in a community bag. Then save the big luggage or individual suitcases for when you arrive and are settling in for an extended stay.
5) Snacks are good…too many are bad. Endless munching leads to tummy trouble, more potty stops, more crumbs in the car and less real food. Plan a healthy sandwich and fruit for your rest area stops if you aren’t going to buy. Oh, and lollipops are such a lifesaver, I just cant believe that they can calm a fussy 2 year old, or excite a 6 or 8 year old so much, but they do and they are not usually messy. I’ll worry about the cavities later. However, snacks are a necessity because gnawing hunger can take its toll, so packing some nutritious ones like nuts, granola bars, bananas and apples will take the edge off until mealtime.
6) Designate quiet time. Song time. Movie time. Game time. Often I will I designate the next, say, 30 minutes or until we reach the next stop, to be quiet time. Or we play a license plate or I-spy game . Then a movie, then quiet time again. Then we blast out some tunes and have a singalong. It really helps break up the trip. And it’s fun. Also, don’t be afraid to stop and enjoy the sites you come across. There’s no time scehdule so important as to miss a great site seeing stop, is there?
7) Travel clothes…my kids all travel in sweat pants (who wants tight jeans when you are sitting for so long?) and no shoes.They have small lap blankets too in case they get cold, or the blanket can be rolled and used as a pillow. I also wear sweats (but with my most comfy driving shoes). I can’t drive in shorts because my legs stick to the seat. and my hair is in a bun so its not hanging in my face. Just a personal preference , but whatever works for you. Be comfy. Be happy.
8) Sunscreen! What? In the car? Yes. Imagine the poor child whose arm (or cheek) will be in the sun for the next 5 hours as you are on one road for the entire afternoon. Another great idea are those child window shades you can get at baby stores. Helps with naps too.
9) A little surprise never hurt! I pack my kids 1 or 2 surprise bags….a new activity book, a small candy, maybe a toy car or doll (small), a new DS game, a small handheld game, a letter from Grandma, pen and notepads, anything they will like ….. this is fun to break out when they get bored.
10) Thoughtful packing helps. Large plastic bags packed in the suitcases are great for throwing dirty clothes in at the end of the trip. Disposable sample size skin care and toothpastes are great (less to bring home). Books for bedtime and favorite stuffed animals. A small extra pillow or 2. A battery charger for the camera. All medicines, vitamins, and extra bandaids. Kids seem to fall more on vacation for some reason. A nail file, hair brush, razors. A book light helps me read when the kids have gone to sleep already.
And lastly, a great sense of humor will make your trip a happy one to remember! Life’s really about having fun, so don’t stress. Just enjoy the sights and scenery and the precious time with your family.
If you’re looking to stay more local, check out these great towns in Suffolk County,Long Island for a day trip or few day stay!