This photo was clearly not taken at the end of said four hour drive. At that point I was too wiped out. This was taken before a short 15 minute car ride where I only had to answer about 2,000 questions. One of which had to do with why curbs are painted different colors. And so, with that, I found myself saying, when they spotted a UPS truck, "In reference to our previous conversation, the UPS truck is an example of a car or truck that can park in the yellow, commercial loading zone". My sister had joined us in the car at that point, and could barely contain her laughter at my apparently unrelated observation.
With that as a preface, I give you my top five tips for traveling by car with children:
1. Let go of your everyday rules. Usually we do not eat fast food. When traveling by car, we do (see #3 below). I fill their backpacks with activities, but other than the Magna Doodle (which you can see above), they don't get used very much since it's hard to write or draw in the car. I do let them watch downloaded episodes of Dora the Explorer on the iPad, which is a treat for them, but it can usually buy me a few hours with my son, and maybe one half hour with my daughter (she just not into TV).
2. Keep to some semblance of your "normal" schedule. If you normally eat at 7am, 12pm, and 5pm (like we do), keep to that. If your kids go to sleep at certain times, try to get to your destination with enough time for them to settle in before bed. The alternative is if you are blessed by children who do sleep in cars, you can plan your trips for nap or night time. I'm incredibly envious of you.
3. Get out the wiggles. Take breaks (every hour or two as needed) so the kids can get out and stretch their legs. I have never been so happy to see a McDonald's as when we are traveling and I see one with a giant PlayPlace attached. We pull up, let the big kids go directly into the play structure, and I put the baby on the floor on a blanket to stretch out. We do order food, but that is secondary to being active. We also like to stop at carousels, small trains, parks, anywhere where they are out of the car and using their little bodies. This helps us all to feel better.
4. Embrace snacks. Each of the bigger two have a backpack for activities, which has an insulated compartment for food and a holder on the side for a sippy of water. I love these:
This is my son's, since he is in a construction truck phase. My daughter has the polka dot one. I usually give an assortment of snacks, not "real" food: raisins, string cheese, nuts, fruit bar, pretzels, applesauce pouch... The more "fun" the food is, the better they do. Plus things that take a long time to eat, like raisins or nuts are good for keeping their fingers busy.
5. Do what you must. Yup, that pretty much sums it up. In general I am not a proponent of bribery, since it's just the other side of the threat coin. "If you clean up you can have a treat" is the same as "If you don't clean up you can't have a treat". In the case of car travel, bribery may come in handy. Or maybe it's just a special "treat" like a lifesaver to keep them sucking and quiet so they don't wake up the baby (again!). If car travel is not something your family excels at (and I'm grossly understating that in regard to my family), then just do your best to get through it. Almost any tactic is fine as long as you all end up in one piece at the other end.
I link to these awesome parties:
Sunday: I Heart Naptime, Stephany Hyder, Nifty Thrifty Things, Home Savvy AtoZ Monday:Between Naps on the Porch, Sumo's Sweet Stuff, Thrifty Decor Chick, Alderberry Hill, Debbie Doo's, Home Stories A to Z Tuesday:Coastal Charm, Tip Junkie, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Carolyn's Homework, Made in a Day, Our Delightful Home, A Bowl Full of Lemons, Get Your Craft On Wednesday: Savvy Southern Style, Crystal and Co, Power of Paint, Newlyweds Recipe Linky, It's Overflowing Thursday: The Shabby Creek Cottage, Made in a Day, House of Hepworths, the 36th Avenue Friday: Serenity Now, Tatertots and Jello, The Shabby Nest, Thirty Handmade Days, Addicted 2 Decorating, Funky Junk Interiors