Traveling With Kids Part 1- Top Ten Things You Need To Know
Almost 11 years ago, we moved from Oklahoma to the east coast of Florida. All of my family, including my in-laws still live in Oklahoma. This means that we have taken many, many 1200 mile trips by car with the kids. I can tell you each time we travel is a little bit different, and, definitely, as the kids have gotten older, the list of things we bring with us changes and gets smaller. When we first moved here, my oldest 2 children were 18 months and 8 months old. Now they are 11 and 12 ears old, and we have a 5 year old. I have learned so much over the years so let me share the top 10 things you need to know before traveling with kids:
1. HAVE YOUR CAR SERVICED! This is SUPER important! It is a big big deal to be stranded in the middle of an interstate, far from home with or without kids! Be sure to take your car in for an oil change and all the point checks that typically go along with the oil change. Ask if your tires need to be rotated. Tell the mechanic you are about to go on a long road trip and you want to be sure that you are safe. If it is a trusted mechanic (BTW you should have one!), you won’t have anything to worry about. Be sure to gas up the day before if you can. It really frustrates me to get in the car after all that preparation to drive only drive 3 miles for a gas stop. Then the kids want candy and a last potty break etc. It’s a hassle that I like to avoid, if at all possible.
2.START PACKING EARLY! If you are like me, you are busy AND you use everything you have, so it is hard to get packed up a few days in advance. I encourage you to do the best you can to get your suitcases and diaper bags, etc out and ready to be filled early. Keep up with your laundry the week before you leave so everything you wan to take is clean. The worst thing you can do the night before you are leaving at 5 am for a drive that will take several hours is stay up until midnight packing last minute things!
3. MAKE LISTS! I always have my list ready (at this point, I have a master packing list in the computer and honestly don’t even need it, we have made this trip so many times…lol). I make a list of snacks that we will take and toys/games/movies, etc. that we will need in the car. I separate these items into categories on my list and check them off as I go. There is always something in the dryer or an item that has to stay in the fridge until the last minute or a blanket that the kids sleep with. I make sure that after everything on my master list is mostly checked off, I make a quick list just before we go to bed that says things like, “Get the baby’s favorite pillow, don’t forget toothbrushes, get juices from the fridge, make sure you have the phone chargers, etc.” I will also put last minute things to do on the list like, ” Turn A/C to 80 degrees and make sure all electronics are turned off.”
4. DON’T PACK TOO MUCH! I am still guilty of packing more than we need! I pack several outfits for each of us and then we end up not wearing at least 2 outfits each. I also pack too many snacks and toys for the car. We end up with a ton of smashed food in baggies that has to be thrown out when we arrive at our destination. When packing snacks, think about what it is that you and your kids will eat and be sure to pack accordingly.
5. PACK A SEPARATE OVERNIGHT BAG! If your road trip is taking you from point A to point B and there is any slight chance of having to stop for the night to rest, pack a separate carry-on sized bag with just enough for 1 night :1 change of clothes and toiletries. Our trip to visit family is 17 hours according to Google Maps but it has taken as little as 15 hours and as much as 21, depending on traffic, kids getting sick, car problems, etc. We always try to make it without stopping at a hotel for the night, but I pack an overnight bag for the hotel just in case. We have ended up stopping a few times, and it is always easier to get out one small bag versus getting out everything we have brought with us and lugging it into the hotel!
6. GET SLEEP! You cannot stay up all night preparing and leave at 5 am like I said before. It’s dangerous for you and everyone else on the road. There have been times that I was so excited to leave super early on a Saturday morning so that we could be sure and make it that night and spend the entire day on Sunday visiting with our family…..only to be disappointed by a baby that wouldn’t go to sleep or a husband that had to stay up late and work. It is just better to stay in bed a few extra hours and make sure that you are alert. I know you are excited to get there, but it is better to get there safe and sound and a few hours late than to perhaps not arrive at all.
7. SCHEDULE STOPS! You need to know your children’s schedules and stick to them the best you can. Map your trip online and look ahead to see where you think you will be at breakfast time, lunch time, dinner time, nursing times, etc. I once planned every single stop we had on a trip between Daytona Beach, FL to Chattanooga, TN then through Arkansas to Oklahoma using McDonald’s locations! We never ate at any of the McDonald’s but I knew if there was a McD’s there, that there would be more places to eat as well as gas stations etc. We also stopped at every single official state line to take a picture in front of the state sign. You can find all of the state welcome centers on your route if you go online! That was almost 10 years ago so I am sure you could do even more than that now!
8. RED BOX! Know your Red Box locations if you have a DVD player in your car. This is the best thing ever because you can pick out a few movies in one place and return them at another. This was life changing for us! We no longer had to spend time downloading new movies on the iPads or buying new DVDs for the trips.
9. TALK ABOUT YOUR STOPS! If someone says, “I need to poootttyyyyy!” Then immediately start looking for road side stops. Do you need gas too? Is there a rest stop near by? Who else needs to go? Does everyone have their shoes on?! (seriously..does EVERYONE HAVE THEIR SHOES ON?!) Have someone locate the diaper bag. Decide who is going in first, who is changing the baby, who is taking which kid in, and who will walk the dog.Did I mention we have a dog? We do. He goes everywhere with us….and he has to relieve himself too! Are you stopping at a gas station? If so, will you be getting snacks or drinks?
We have to be aware on our route where the rest stops are. There are signs saying, “Rest stop 1 mile, next stop 49 miles” A lot of times there won’t be much in the way of gas stations or anything else between those points. So, see those signs and ask, “Does anyone have to go potty? This is our last chance for the next hour or so.”
10. REST STOPS ROCK! I know the best thing to do is stop for gas, get everything you need there and go potty BUT gas station potties are DISGUSTING!!!!! I have been in VERY few that I even felt like I could walk into, and there have been several times that myself or my husband have needed to go SO bad and just walked in and walked right back out! YUCK! Rest stops are always clean, have changing tables and, in my opinion, are more safe. It is worth the extra stop!
We have a trip planned this weekend, so stay tuned for Part 2 and 3!