Ah, summer is finally here. I am a huge fan of the season. Outdoor activities, watermelon, and family vacations. Family vacations really can bring about some of the sweetest memories, but now being a parent, I’m realizing it is anything but relaxing. Between packing, making arrangements, and traveling, it almost makes more sense to stay home sometimes. At least for us, our children have never had a good relationship with car rides, despite frequently driving 5-6 hours to see our family. While the trips are still challenging, I have put together a few tips car rides with kids!
- Be prepared. Depending on the age of your kiddos, this could mean different things. For little babies, this means backup clothes, food, etc. I even would use my breast pump in the car on long trips while the baby slept, so I brought along the whole pump and a car adapter. I also highly recommend a large Ziploc bag with a little laundry detergent in it to throw in clothes after a blowout. Now that we have toddlers, we have a change of clothes, plenty of diapers, and we definitely always travel with a portable potty. We have many times pulled over on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere to do the duty, but it beats having an accident!
- Snacks. Obviously, snacks on snacks. Long live the days of a clean car without any crumbs or old french fries to be found under the car seat. I make sure to not buy any snacks that could be a choking hazard, and that they’re easy to feed themselves. While I love to feed my kids healthy snacks, there is a time for whatever works, and this is one of those times. We usually bring along a water cup for each kid and try to avoid anything sticky while we’re in the car, if possible.
- Entertainment. Of course, again, this depends on the age of the child. For young babies, a few little toys should be good, but as they get older this becomes more challenging. I have tried to find things that would be entertaining in the car, but don’t have a ton of small pieces. My go-to car activities for toddlers are coloring, the water “paint” books, a doll or small car, toy dinosaurs, and books. We did recently, after several years of whiney car rides, resort to buying 2 DVD player screens to go on the headrests and so far that has been a huge help! I still attempt to get the kids to play or read initially and then we can watch a movie after that.
- Embrace the trip. Now that one of my kids is nearly 4, she is much more aware of what is going on. She is curious about where we are going and we have the opportunity to explain to her the different cities in Texas we travel to. We also are able to play “I spy” with her and point out different color cars or buildings. I anticipate many more learning opportunities during these car rides as my kids get older.
- Give grace and relax. Speaking to myself here, I always try to keep up the routine and some sense of normal while traveling. But I have learned that is hard to do. Many times we can plan a car trip during nap time, and then they will fight it the whole time and stay awake! Which then makes for a very grumpy kid once we arrive. I’ve since then learned to be forgiving of whatever changes will come about during the trip, whether that be lack of a nap, potty accidents, yet another snack stop, or the trip takes much longer than anticipated.
My daughter already tells me “remember when we drove to that other city!?” and we’re able to talk about it. So remember, you are making memories, even in the midst of the chaos. Hang in there mom and make the most of it!