By Celeste Martell, shared with Joscelyn Ramos Campbell
My name is Celeste and my family and I have become quite the road trip travelers. I’m The Travel Mom Contributing Columnist on Mami of Multiples. On our trips back and forth to our cabin in Kentucky, trips to Walt Disney World and trips to visit my family in Nebraska (a 20 hour car ride), we have picked up a few tips and tricks that save our sanity.
With the upcoming holiday season, you don’t want to forget things to keep the kids entertained. If you are like me, you don’t want to solely rely on electronics. The kids get enough screen time on a good day, why add any more?
Before you start envisioning hours of minivan meltdowns and being asked "Are we there yet?" know that you can have a stress-free road trip with your little ones.
Preparing for the Trip
Check the car. No one wants to deal with a breakdown, but getting stranded with young kids is a true disaster. Be sure your tires (including the spare) are in good shape, and that everything from the windshield wipers to the air-conditioning system is up to par.
Put together a first aid kit. Pack it with Band-Aids, antiseptic ointment, fever reducer, any medications your kids may need, sun screen, baby wipes and even toilet paper (you never know when a public restroom might be out).
Plot out some fun. There is nothing that turns a frown upside-down more than a surprise, Planning stops at fun locations, like a children’s museum or an amusement park, will keep your kids excited for what's to come and [hopefully] stop them from asking 'Are we there yet?'"
Enjoying the Road Trip
Bring on the entertainment. Stock up before a long trip with a bag of small toys and treats from the dollar store. I love color pack books, magic pen sets and dry erase books. Every state or hour (you set the rules based off the trip), each of the kids chooses a treat from the bag, giving them something to look forward to and an incentive to behave so they can get their prize! Stock an iPod or smartphone with some of the kids' favorite songs and favorite recorded books. If you don't already have them in your vehicle, pack DVD players and iPads for your little ones. You can also download some cool apps for little kids. We like to save screen time for normal “quiet times”, like naps or after dark`. This allows us to limit screen time. There are other ways to keep the kids occupied that don't involve technology. Play games with road signs, other cars or the scenery. You can do anything from asking a toddler to point out the color of the road signs to having a preschooler read them to you.
Read a book. Bring some magazines and books. I love to spend car time catching up on my reading. I often don’t have time to myself to enjoy a good book. If you don't have many books at your house or don't have a library near you, you can get an app like iBooks or eBooks and you can read from there. Some of the books on iBooks are free. We like to make 1 hour everyday reading time. We do the same on road trips. My son can practice his reading of chapter books and my daughter loves to look at board books and sticker books.
Get creative. If you bring a notepad, you can write a story. I will have my school age son draw a picture for each state we are in. I will tell him to write his own story that reflects the surroundings. It can pass time and gets the mind going.
Mess around. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun. For example, you can play jokes, such as you can start crying and when someone asks what's wrong and say something like "Someone invisible is chopping onions"! It gets very annoying but it's funny.
Be realistic. Plan on stopping about every two hours. How long you can drive really depends on your kids' dispositions, but ideally you'll stop every two to three hours so everyone can get out of the car, stretch their legs and have something to eat.
Think beyond rest stops. Designated rest stops can get boring — and crowded, especially on holiday weekends. I ty to track down local parks with swings and slides. It gives the kids a chance to get some fresh air.
Stick with a routine. If you're stopping overnight, be sure to keep up the usual bedtime routines. It might be tempting to just put them right to bed after a long day, but try to keep up your standard routine, such as bath, books, nursing, etc. so the children are getting what they are used to getting at home. It’s also important to remember to bring bed time favorite stuffed animals and blankets from home. It will make for happier kids in the morning.
Don’t stress. Go with the flow. You will most likely have moments, or hours, where you will want to toss your seriously un-musical child out the window after their 500th rendition of Wheels on the Bus!! It's so easy to believe that your road trip will look like a Hallmark commercial, that it will be all sing-alongs and rainbows. That's not real life. Hopefully my travel tips will make road trips more enjoyable and create lifetime memories.
Happy and Safe Travels!