Sunday, June 23, 2013

tips and tricks for traveling with kiddos

Sooo, we just got home from road tripping it up to Niagara Falls and Canada with two babies, two and under.
And let me tell you. 
It was a blast. 

It might scare you. 
It might scare you enough to make it a once a year type thing. 
It might scare you enough to not go at all. 

But it doesn't have to be like that!
It can be awesome. 
It can be a totally fun family adventure that you can repeat once a month, rather than once a year. 

Now, I'm no expert. 
But, I can share some tricks that we've learned along the way to help make your trip back home for Christmas actually fun, instead of completely dreading it for a month beforehand. 

Let's get started. 
Tip #1: plan, plan, plan. 
Do not wake up the day you are leaving and pack. 
You should have the majority of your luggage packed in advance. In fact, your car should be packed as well. 
We pack the snacks, luggage, and travel documents all in advance. 
And we have the car gassed up and we check the air pressure in the tires the day before. 
The ice chest or travel cooler is clean and ready and sitting by the fridge door the night before. All the cold items are in one location in the fridge. Grab and go in the morning. 
All the suitcases are packed besides toiletries, which are done last minute and zipped into the outside pockets of suitcases. 
We always leave very early (I'll get to this in a minute) so our kids go to bed in the "car clothes" that they'll wear the next day. We like our car cold so this involves long sleeve shirts and fleece pants with socks. Comfy. 
Keep toys and snacks handy (I keep it behind my seat) but out of reach of toddler's hands. 
And your cell, maps, and coffee in the front with you :)
Tip #2: travel during sleeps/naps. 
This is a no brainer, right?? Mike doesn't mind driving in the dark so we get up around 3am (coffee has been programmed the night before and travel mug next to it) and we throw the kids in the car (inside lights off and car already started) and go! That way, we've got a good four hours before they wake up for the day. Both boys wake up during the transfer from bed/crib to car but go straight back to sleep. As MV is getting older, he stays awake longer but is very quiet, when we remind him that Jack is asleep. He eventually falls back to sleep. Either way, four good hours of silence is golden. 
If you aren't early risers, then plan to go right at nap time. Pack them up with pjs and bedtime friends and you'll have a couple hours of peace. 
Just remember the key to traveling during sleeps is to not stop! :)

Tip #3: timing is everything. 
Now, this might be a bit controversial but it works for us. 
We "time" things. If you space out treats and snacks and movies, the kiddos last longer. Withhold your treats. Don't give away all the goodies just because they are fussy for the first 15 minutes. 
So, an example of our schedule. 
Like I said, we get up around 3:30am. Throw the kids in and they sleep for at least three hours. Then, we pull over around 7am, pull out the pre-made breakfast (or McDonald's!), nurse the baby, and I take over driving while Mike gets a nap. As soon as they are fed, the boys can go a couple more hours until we need to engage them again. Maybe around 10am, we pull out special snacks. Things they don't get everyday. No sugar...that's a disaster waiting to happen in a confined space. But, since we don't do a lot of processed foods around here, goldfish and pretzels in funny shapes go a long way. Or Fruit Loops. We sort them into colors and count them out together. It sounds silly but it works really well for us. And for the baby, I usually crawl in the back (keep the middle seat free of clutter when you pack) and give him one if those squeezy packs of applesauce to tide him over until lunch. Lunch gives us a chance to stretch our legs at a rest stop and we play chase for half an hour and then pack back in. We usually turn on kiddie music then until nap time. After an hour or two of napping (make sure you don't need to stop!), the last couple hours before dinner are when we pull out all the stops and let MV watch a movie. Since we don't watch movies at home, this is a big privilege. Of the baby needs me, I crawl in the back again and entertain him for the last little stretch. An early dinner and then we stop for the night. That makes about a 14 or so hours day and if you are traveling longer than that in a day, I need your tips! ;)

{New toys} These go a long way but don't bring too many. You don't want clutter and if you get your little one used to getting ten new toys per trip, it'll be trouble in the future. We limit to two or three per trip. 
{Bedtime friends} Very comforting for confined spaces. Limit these as well. You don't want to get in the habit of loading your car with 8 or 9 stuffed animals that they then expect for every car ride. Make sure we are only bringing Puppy to Nanny's house and not to the grocery store. 
*Also, pack the pack n play under your toddler's feet, behind the front seat. This keeps the friends from falling out of reach. 
{Games} Window clings, card games (counting or colors for toddlers), play doh (great for air travel on the tray table!), sealed water bottles with glitter, sand, or rice and small trinkets/toys to "find" within, dry erase boards (you can make your own by laminating card stock!), stickers, tackle box filled with tiny trinkets (age appropriate of course!), rolling up and down windows and playing I Spy (also creates white noise for a fussy baby!), and more!
{Air travel} Empty sippy cup to fill once past security. A pull-up! I once spent an hour and a half getting through ONE line, while he needed to go potty, and I'd rather be safe than sorry. (He did hold it ;)) 
{Hotel} Use their rollaway crib! Almost all hotels nowadays have this (free!) option and it saves you some space and trouble. Run the water or turn on the bathroom vent to create some white noise for sleeping babes. Slide the pack n play halfway into the closet. It makes it a bit darker and still lets you watch a bit of tv after he falls asleep. If you've got two kiddos, put them away from each other so one doesn't disturb another (unless, of course, they comfort one another!). 

Last trick: 
Travel more. 
The more you go, the more your kiddos will learn. 
And isn't that the point? 
To educate your precious babies? 
To build character?
And to live life?

{fun in Niagara!}

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