Saturday, July 7, 2012

Traveling Tips for Tiny Tots

So lucky me, I get to make TWO trips to Utah this month. TWO.
Without my husband. 
That's right, all alone. 
Ok, so the first one I had my little sister along for the ride. 
Technically I have to do ONE alone.

The first trip is done, we are home.
But in 2 weeks, I'll be headed back up the 12 hour stretch to Utah completely on my own.
With the 3 youngest, the older 2 where left behind in Utah to stay with grandma.

Over the years we've taken many trips that involved hours on end in the car.
Including a 2 day drive to Arkansas with 3 kids, 1 thirteen month old, and 1 newborn.
We've seem to come up with a great system to keep some order to the madness.
Here are a few of my suggestions:
I am in no way an expert.

1. Leave as early as possible.

For our 12 hour to Utah trip, I wanted to drive pretty much non-stop. 
I went to bed at 8 pm getting in a solid 6 hours of sleep before taking off at 3 am.
3 am? Am I nuts?
Yes, but for good reason.
Leaving that early meant no traffic to deal with, kids sleeping soundly for the first 4-6 hours of the drive,
And arriving at our destination by 4 pm, leaving plenty of time to wind down and visit.
I can't stand driving in to our family's driveway at 11 pm with a group of cranky people.
Just be sure you are able to get enough sleep before taking off!

2. Study your route ahead of time

I hopped on googlemaps and plotted out where gas stations, emergency rooms, Subways, hotels, and rest areas were along not only my chosen route, but on an alternative route as well.
You never know when you may run into a situation that steers you of course.

3.Pack snacks and meals in a neat way
I know, this looks a little OCD, but trust me, it is genius.
I assembled snacks and meals into individual bags and labeled them.
Then put them in order in the box for easy access:
Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack.
The best part about this was the ease in clean up: after the child was done, all the garbage went back into the baggie and was thrown away at the next stop.
We also kept a cooler in the car for drinks and cold snacks like yogurts or string cheese.
Since each child may have special dietary needs, the individual bags really made passing food out easier.

4. Assigned seating

To avoid arguments after stops.
To maximize space.
To give leg room to the longest legs.

5. Easy to reach and use toys

As an example: I made each kid a coloring clip board with storage pocket.
Their papers didn't fly off their laps, their crayons didn't roll away, and the could tuck them into the seat back pocket in front of them when not in use.
The older kids also brought along their DS systems and games in cases that contained everything.

6. Surprises

Introduce new toys along the route.
One great suggestion is the paper bag system.
Grab some new toys from the dollar section and place one or two in a lunch sack.
If the boredom starts to set in, give the child one new "present" to open and have occupy them for awhile.

7. Entertainment

You may have noticed I haven't said anything about DVD players.
Well, that's because we opted not to have one in our van.
I could just see my kids wanting us to turn it on for every trip in the car, no matter how short.
I have found that storytelling, singing, and simple car games go a long way.

Car Games:
 ABC-Start with a category, such as food, and take turns coming up with an item for the next letter while repeating back what everyone else has said previously.
ex. Apples, Bananas, Cereal, Donuts, etc.
City Names-One person starts with the name of a city {Mesa}
The next person must name a city that starts with the last letter of the previous city {Atlanta}
I Spy-"I spy with my little eye, something green."
 Now everyone takes turns guessing what I see, winner gets the next turn.
Word Combos (2-4 players)- Select a category, (ex. food) 
The first player then says a random word {Whole}
The next player quickly says a second word to match up {Wheat}
Setting a timer to help with eliminations. 
If a player doesn't come up with a word in 15 seconds, they are out.

8. Emergency Preparedness

You never know when something may come up.
I can pull over, unbuckle myself and a choking child in about 15 seconds.
Seriously, done the roadside hiemlich several times.
CPR and First Aid certified, a must if you are a parent in my opinion! 
A plan. I make sure my kids understand the role they may need to play in the event of emergency.
Like the oldest may need to dial 911, the second oldest call dad, etc.

My father bought us a fabulous kit with the following items, but you could assemble yourself:
Jumper cables, zip ties, a disposable camera (accident evidence), thermal blankets, fleece hat and gloves, folding shovel (when nature calls), bandages, alcohol swabs,  reflective tape and triangle (breakdown), compass, matches, fuel for a fire (newspaper), and a few more odds and ends.

I hope these were somewhat helpful!!!
Good luck and safe travels.

Linking up with:
Snips and Spice


  1. Great tips. We'll be flying with all three soon, and I definitely need to be prepared. Thanks.

  2. Great ideas! We also made many trips from Las Vegas to Utah when my kids were small. It pays to be prepared. Now what to do with traveling teenagers? Great blog!