Remember when road trips were fun? The music, the fast food, the windows down, no worries about how long the drive was taking or where the next rest stop was. Throw a toddler in the mix and everything changes.
Suddenly, instead of Led Zeppelin or Justin Timberlake, you're rocking out to the Caillou theme song and trying to find a decent spot to pull over and change a Pull-up. And as soon as you hit traffic, a little one in the backseat instinctively starts to scream.
And you vow, never again. (Yet you will, again and again, jump in the car to head off on a family vacation).
Next time you'll be a bit wiser than the last.
1. Pack Heavy
Depending on the length of your trip, pack to entertain. Pack reading books, coloring books, and crayons. If you have portable DVD player, use it, but save it for when your child is bored of reading and coloring. Once she starts watching movies, she won't want to stop. Pack her favorite DVDs and a special new one to keep her calm and entertained when she is about ready to lose it. Don't forget to include snacks and drinks in order to avoid unhealthy, quick food stops.
2. Leave Early
If you wake your toddler up to leave early enough, she may just sleep for the first couple of hours of your drive. This will make life in the car way easier on you. If you can't head out earl, leave right before nap time to help ensure she sleeps for at least part of the ride. Leaving at the right time means avoiding traffic, especially driving through or around big cities. Plan to arrive at high traffic spots before rush hour.
3. Plan Your Stops
Knowing when and where you are going to stop for good meals or potty breaks will help keep things moving smoothly. It will help keep your child from getting cranky with hunger, and will allow you to avoid an emergency stop at a gas station to let your child go potty. Avoiding these dilemmas will help keep your stress low, keep you and your spouse from fighting, and make a more enjoyable ride for all.
4. Keep a Sense of Humor
Something is likely to go wrong on your trip. It's inevitable. Your child will cry, have an accident, throw a tantrum. Being able to laugh at yourself and at the situation is important. Keep a sense of humor to help make it through with minimum stress and fighting, and teach your child proper reactions to situations. Overreacting won't get you to your destination any faster.
5. Accept Defeat
There are some battles you just can't win, especially when you're strapped with a seat belt. Pick your battles. Let her eat just French fries for lunch, or watch the same DVD three times in a row. You may have an annoying song stuck in your head for the first day of your vacation, but at least you all will have made it to your destination in one piece.
Traveling with toddlers is going to be a challenge, but if you're prepared, relaxed, and willing to be flexible, the drive will fly by and just may end up being the best part of your trip.