Thursday, April 24, 2008

Toddler Travel Tips

I was talking with my cousin today. She's thinking of taking a 1,000 mile journey, just her, two toddlers, and their dog. I mentioned that I have learned several things that make the traveling "not difficult" and "almost easy". She told me that I should share with the Blogging World. So, here I am. Off the cuff, raw and uncensored...
  1. Plan ahead, especially for packing.
  2. Plan what you'll need at your destination, load it first.
  3. Plan what you'll need on the trip and load it last.
  4. Pack one suitcase / bag per day on the road, put everyone's clothes (including PJ's in the first nights bag) in it.
  5. Put extra "bottoms" in the daily bags for the recently potty-trained and or diapered children. This way the diaper bag isn't bulging, but you've got what you need.
  6. Include a pillowcase in each suitcase. Put the dirty clothes in the pillowcase.
  7. Fold dirty clothes as they go into the pillowcase. If someone has an unexpected "need" for cleaner clothes, you can often pull something out of the laundry bag, if it's folded, then it's not all wrinkled.
  8. Wear comfortable layers (ie: overalls are not generally comfy for little ones... especially with all their seat belts.)
  9. Make sure the children's car seats are properly installed.
  10. Make sure all seat belts are used properly... which means that little one's are strapped down fairly tightly, but securely. It's no good to have them in a car seat with loose shoulder straps and in an accident they go shooting out the top like a bullet!
  11. Give frequent stretching breaks. At least every 90 minutes to two hours. Think of how stiff you get, and you can wiggle and move in your seatbelt... those five-point-harnesses are TIGHT and most car seats have very little by way of padding.
  12. Stretching breaks should not involve more "good behavior" or sitting. They should involve (at least walking) and preferably climbing and or running.
  13. I like to take breaks at: rest areas, parks, school playgrounds (even in the tiniest towns you can find school grounds), and in unfriendly weather we stop at Wal-Mart. I also like to stop at dirt piles, hills, and "brown signs" (usually historical types of markers).
  14. Wal-Mart breaks are beneficial because you can buy healthy, economical snacks, after taking a "lap" around the store... with everyone (who can) walking. Non-walkers should be carried (as opposed to put in a cart or car-seat carrier. The point is to stretch and cuddle. You don't usually need a cart for shopping either, because you are taking a break, not doing you shopping. Although, often something is "forgotten" or needed on the road, and these breaks allow you to pick up whatever that item is without "wasting time" in a big store... because you are using the fact that it's a big store to stretch.
  15. Go to your library and check out books on CD/tape. I recently discovered the Artemis Fowl series this way. When traveling with kids, just go to the Child's or Young Adult sections for stories everyone can enjoy (or learn from). My library let's me check out an unlimited number of audio materials for three weeks... and I can renew over the phone, so, even on a long road trip, I can get plenty of materials. I've found this tip really helps ME... especially if I'm feeling groggy. Having a story line to pay attention to is very helpful.
  16. Headphones for electronic learning tools (Leapster) and or games. If more than one item is going, I go nutso. I picked up each of my boys a folding set of headphones for about $6.50.
  17. Pack a variety of toys. This is an area I've struggled with. I want to bring a lot, but found they tend to play with the same 3-5 things. So, remember to PACK LIGHTLY.
  18. I do keep a box of special "Travel Toys" that they only see on trips (View Masters. :D)
  19. Put toys in their own bags to help contain pieces. (I pick up small zipper bags at thrift stores to hold each toy seperatly.)
  20. Put a bucket / basket / tub in between seats for toy containment.
  21. Bring extra batteries.
  22. Plastic lids from medium/large storage tubs make great multi-purpose lap desks. If they have trouble balancing (many car seats have edges that hold the lid), put a pillow or blanket on the lap. These are good for: helping to hold pieces, drawing, writing, automobile toys, snacks.
  23. Lots of expensive snack cups out there... I just keep a stack of the "freebie" plastic cups we get when we eat out. They are about 4" tall and 3" wide. Sized well for little hands AND they fit between the legs. Whenever I give out a snack, I put the pieces in these cups and hand them back. They also fit in cupholders.
  24. Back to toys... I usually have a few "new" things with me. It avoids buying things at gas stations, and allows me to have something on hand when I really need it (when someone's screaming their head off with an hour left to drive).
  25. I seldom make advance reservations for hotels, but, I do have a few favorite places I'm discovering, so, I keep their numbers handy.
  26. Often, you know about when you're going to stop while driving (like we can drive another hour, or two, or whatever). When I get to the point of knowing how much longer / farther we can / will drive for the day, I'll call my hubby at home. He gets online and on the phone and makes me a reservation. I like this over just driving an unfamiliar route and "hoping" I find a decent, good-priced place.
  27. Plan ahead - look up shops / things that you're interested in (for me it's quilting) and put together a sheet with their addresses and phone numbers (maybe even store hours). Then, if you want to take a break, you can stop at some place you like for your stretching.
  28. Be willing to do the unexpected... Jack woke from a nap on a recent trip. He'd slept from 11 to 1. We had been snacking on sandwiches I packed, so we weren't hungry, but we needed a stretch. He saw a coal power plant puffing water condensation into new clouds in the distance. He said "what is that?" followed by "I want to see inside it." I stopped and ask, figuring we'd at least stretch out. We wound up on an hour long private tour! It doesn't hurt to ask, and being willing to listen, even to a three year old's ideas, can turn out to be fun (and educational) for everyone!
  29. Pack sandwiches and fruit to munch on while you're driving. So much easier, more economical, and healthy than stopping for burgers constantly! Also allows you to save / spend your break time doing fun things and stretching.
  30. Portable Potty Seat - Potty training while driving in the middle of nowhere. They sell fancy travel seats, but I came up with something using what I had. I put two matching (similar) height suitcases on the ground. Took the potty seat we have (that fits over a toilet), and wrapped a plastic bag around the handles, front and back. Then, I hung the handles over the suitcases. Instant portable seat with disposal unit (allow urine to drain out before tying a knot around other things and storing in the trunk). Dispose of at first trash can!
  31. Potty convenience - I have a big "beach bag" that is our "bathroom bag". It has the previously mentioned potty seat, a step stool (folding or just a little 6" high one), our hand soap, sanitizer, diaper wipes, Clorox wipes. I think you can figure out how handy this bag is. It's got a big opening to make it easy to fit the seat and stool in. It's easier to wash hands and use drinking fountains, as well as potties.
  32. Snack Master - I make the five year old the "Snack Master". He has the snack box (I use a Sterilite box with snap on lid, either shoe box size or file box size, depending on the length of the trip) within reach. Whenever anyone wants something, he gets it. Makes it safer for me, and he loves to do it!
  33. I seldom buy snacks for a trip anymore, I just pack up all those 1/2 used snacks and things from your kitchen / pantry.
  34. Maps. From Google / Mapquest (of your planned route) and of each state. You can usually pick them up at the Visitor Info by the border of each state. Once you have them, file them for the next trip (in case you can't stop easily or they're closed or you want to figure something out BEFORE you get there.)
Okay. So. Do you think I should just write a book on traveling with kids or what?!!??!

One more bonus idea:
  1. Take whatever your kids are interested in, and turn it into a theme for the trip. I recently did this with The Solar System. Our van turned into a "spaceship". I brought along the plastic placemat we have, and figured out how many miles between each planet (Pluto was in Lander and The Sun was in Mesa). I also calculated how large each planet in our model would be. Then, while we drove, we would stop wherever our "planet" was and find something the same size. It was really neat to find a cattle gate or a semi-truck or a pile of dirt the size of our planet. It also helped them to understand the vast distance between them. You could do this for timelines, historical periods... my mind wanders around all the ideas for this. The neatest thing was that we never knew where our next object would be, and often it was the middle of nowhere, but, it gave us something to stop for that was just for fun and for us, not because we were needing gas, or food, or to see a tourist attraction. Also, it afforded me a lot of teaching moments.
Muse through these ideas. Let me know of a few of your own. Perhaps I'll share more (if I can think of them... oh wait, they're are more coming...
  1. Pack a "swimming bag" for everyone in the vehicle. That way, even in the middle of winter, when you stop at a hotel with a heated indoor pool, you won't have to freeze your tushie off opening EVERY person's suitcase and digging the items out (not that I have any experience with this or anything!)
  2. Remember your old goofy, silly, kids songs and sing them to your kids.
And that's it. Really. I'm done. (For now.)

1 comment:

Becky said...

I've got to add don't give a leapster to a kid that gets carsick. Leapsters and vomit don't mix, I had to learn that the hard way.