Wednesday, July 9, 2014

4 + Tips for driving across the country with your mother and 3 children under 8.

Don't.

Haha.  Just kidding. That wouldn't be a very good post, now would it?

A month ago, the kids, my mom and myself, left for "up north" as we southerners like to call it, and we traveled successfully for 3 days and 28 hours total.

I drove all 28 hours.

Here are 4 tips for making it that far, and keeping your sanity.

Chicago, anyone?
1. A good navigator.
My mom was great. I'm a talker, so she stayed awake and chatted with me the entire time. She even bought one of those airplane neck pillows and never used it.  She also had contacted AAA and got these fancy Triptiks that told us exactly where to go and and how far it was to our next destination. I could have just used my phone's GPS, but the Triptik is a cool perk of anyone's AAA membership, and it sure beats waiting for your GPS to "locate."

2. Food. Good food.
We packed ham and cheese sandwiches, carrots, celery, apples, strawberries, trail mix and water in a cooler with ice packs.  Everyone had their own reusable water bottle that I filled up each day. (An example here.)  I bought milk for the youngest one when we would stop at gas stations, but in a pinch I got some shelf stable milk boxes that I tried to keep cold too. On the first leg of the journey, anytime the girls were hungry my mom would grab something from the cooler between us, pop it in a plastic container, and then I'd hurl it at my oldest daughter in the back of the minivan. No joke.  On the second half of the journey, I got the girls their own cooler for the back and just had them grab snacks when they were hungry. It was probably safer that way. But they ate what I gave them in the first half, because that was their only option. On our last day traveling up north, we stopped at a gas station and had some chips. A lot of chips. And I felt yucky. So pack some healthy snacks if you don't want to feel yucky while driving.  If you stay at a hotel, pick one with a fridge so you can keep the food cold and refreeze your ice packs overnight.

3. Minimal stops.
Unless stopping and seeing things along the way is a part of the trip. But for us, it wasn't.  The real excitement was getting up north to my mom's house where the girls could run and play, so minimal stops was important.  I would fill up the tank and drive as far as I could before one of the kids had to use the bathroom or the youngest was crying, and I had to stop to see what was wrong. I still have my almost 2 year old facing backwards, so sometimes she was just annoyed that no one was looking at her. We (I) drove at least 8 hours each day, and not stopping every hour to use the potty is a real blessing when you are trying to get somewhere.

4. Distractions.
Distractions are what some would call activities. You could encourage your children to spend 8 hours staring out a van window while you roam the country, but I'm guessing that wouldn't last long. Instead, pack a variety of things for the kiddos to do.  We packed a DVD player with a car charger and dual headphone jack (we started out with 2, but my oldest seemed to think that the brand new one was "dirty" and washed it with a baby wipe, and the picture hasn't quite come back yet), a Nook with new games, a Leap Pad, several stuffed animals, a bag full of mini dolls, a few crafts from Jo-Ann's, reusable sticker packs from Melissa & Doug, a container of markers, coloring books, board books, plain notebooks, and some soft blankets for cuddling with when the A/C got too cold or they were tired.

Some other tips:
-A good night sleep (which I didn't get. The first night C threw up all over the hotel room. Twice. and the second night she kept waking up so I had to keep getting up off the foot of the bed I was sleeping on with my other two girls to get her back to sleep.)

-Coffee (I don't drink coffee, but I'm guessing some might find it handy)

-Good tunes (the only cd we brought along was the FROZEN soundtrack, which was fun to sing along to, many, many times. Really, it was. I also had some Raffi and other Disney songs on my phone, which I was able to play via an auxiliary cord. I also downloaded a few podcasts for those especially long intervals when there isn't much to say anymore.  I downloaded some from Maternally Yours Radio and Snap Judgement.)

-Comfy clothes. You're going to be sitting for a long time. Get cozy.

-A small overnight suitcase or bag with just the essentials for staying in a hotel. Or at a friend's house (much cheaper and more fun). You'll be thankful you thought ahead to pack just what you needed, instead of lugging in a giant suitcase and rummaging through it when you're tired each night. And you'll probably realize that you didn't need everything you packed in that giant suitcase anyways. 

-Comfy car seats for the kids. Safety and comfort are important. I had the two oldest in the third row of our van and the youngest behind the passenger, rear-facing in the middle row. Here's what we used:
My Ride 65 rear-facing for the youngest (almost 2)
Diono Radian RXT for the middle child (almost 4, in the spring pattern)
Graco Highback Turbo Booster for the oldest (7)

I do wish I would have brought along our extra Bubblebum booster for the in-between times. It's so little and handy to have an inflatable booster, so that you can safely put another friend in the van between the girls in the back.

And there you have it.

Some tips for making your long, long drive a successful one!

Feel like I missed something?  Add your thoughts in the comments! Happy Traveling!

~Patricia

(Note: All the links are my Amazon affiliate links.)


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