What do I do? I guess if I was a wonderful Supermommy I would just play pretend for 12 hours straight - but I am not. So I find other things to occupy him in the car.
1.) I know some people will strongly disagree - but get a portable DVD player. Now I don't like to let my little guy watch too much TV, but on the rare occasion that you are in the car for multiple hours it really can be a lifesaver. Ours does not stay in the car (so there is no screaming and yelling when you child wants to watch Cars - even thought you are just going down the street). We just bring it when we are going on longer road trips. Oh and be sure to get headphones so that you don't all have to listen to whatever you childs favorite movie of the moment is.
2.) Bring books - Even if your child isn't reading yet, it gives them something to look at do and should occupy them for a bit. Make sure to bring their favorites, that will keep them occupied longer. For young children, bring board books so you don't have to worry about pages being ripped out / falling out if the child is being a little rough with the book. We also have a Story Reader that we bring in the car with us sometimes you can also attach headphones and it will read the story to your children. Obviously this is good because you will also have bedtime stories that you can read when you get to your destination.
3.) Coloring books and crayons - These are great for the car...though you will want to make sure that the crayons don't get dropped and then crushed into your floor. As long as you keep a look out you should be fine. If you child likes to color this could keep them busy for a long time.
4.) Small Toys - Obviously you want to make sure that they won't pose a hazard. So make sure that it is big enough that they won't be swallowed (if you have very young ones). Things like Play Doh (this one is questionable - your child will have to be old enough to know that it must all get back in the container), action figures, stuffed animals work well for us.
5.) Hand held video games - We do not have them...but if your children do this can be a great way to keep your children busy on long car rides.
6.) Bring snacks - Within minutes of leaving the rest stop your children (who weren't hungry 10 minutes ago) will now be starving. To cut down on the amount of stops and additional time added to your trip, pack some snacks. We actually tend to pack sandwiches as well. You can easily eat them in the car and they will be much better for you than whatever you choose to grab from the fast food places at the rest stops.
Some things that we always pack are:
Bottles of water
Sandwiches (or the items to make sandwiches)
Trader Joe's Crushers
Fruit (like a banana that isn't too sticky / juicy)
Cheese and crakers
Dried Fruit (raisins, cranberries and other dried fruit mixes)
Cut Fresh Veggies - if you want a dip use hummus instead of a dressing. It is more substaintial, more healthy and thicker so it is less messy
Try to avoid:
Soda (the cans and bottles will envitably spill and everyone and everything will be sticky)
Yogurt (though if you go with the yogurt tubes they are less messy and should be fine)
Keep in mind that any snack that is messy at home will be 100 times more messy in the car.
Other tips for traveling by car:
- When possible travel during nap / sleep times. We are planning a trip that will include an 8 hour car ride - we are leaving at 5pm so that we can stop between 7 and 8 to get both kids feed (Brady will probably have a sandwich in the car before that - but Ethan will need to eat) and ready to sleep(bathroom / diaper and comfy clothes). The hope is that they will sleep the rest of the way down there - which means we will be making less stops too.
- Plan your stops in advance and around your children's schedule. If they normally eat lunch a noon and you plan to wait until 1 to stop, you will most likely be dealing with a cranky child for the better part of that hour. If you figure out approximately where you will be at the time (obviously it is hard to account for traffic) you can look online or in a travel guide for a nice family friendly place to stop.
- If your children aren't great in the car, break up the trip. Drive halfway on day one. When you stop, find something for your kids to do to get their energy out that evening (swimming, mini golf, etc...). Then get up the next morning and drive the rest of the way - hopefully you will get there in tim to plan something fun for that evening as well.
- Be flexible. As much as I recommend planning, in detail how your trip will go, when you are with the little ones you need to be flexible. If you know that they are about to fall asleep stop sooner than originally planned. This will allow them a bathroom break / snack break which means that they will sleep better when they get back in the car. If you wait until you get to where you planned to stop, you will be waking a tired child, they will be cranky - no fun.
See more of my Travel Tip Tuesday posts