When my husband and I decided to make the move from Sacramento to Orange County, we knew that our lives would require quite a bit of traveling between the two places, since our family and friends are still in Sacramento. My biggest concern was, of course, my son, who was only about 16 months at the time of the move. I was worried about how he would respond to the flights and the road trips, and I am pleased to report that after 5 trips (3 flights and 2 drives), he’s a trooper! I’m actually already planning my next trip with him!
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A couple weeks ago, we had to make a trip up to Sac for my cousin’s wedding! We decided to drive instead of fly because we figured it’ll be cheaper, and we’d have our car for transportation while there, instead of having to rely on family or a rental. Honestly, I was a little freaked out though, I really wasn’t sure how little M would survive 7 hours in his car seat without a meltdown or 5 (he’s 19 months old for reference). Turns out, I was worried for nothing! He did so good!
So I wanted to share some tips and tricks that helped make our road trip as smooth and tantrum free as possible.
My number one tip is to try to schedule the drive around naptime! For us, this meant that we left right when naptime was supposed to begin, and little M fell asleep within 20 minutes. He napped for about 2-2.5 hours, and when he woke up, we drove for a little bit more (like 45 minutes I think). Once he started getting fussy, we pulled over for food and a bathroom break. After that, we only pulled over one more time, and that was only because it was super hot and our AC was having trouble keeping up. On the way back we wanted to leave earlier in the day, and little M got tired quickly. Thankfully, he fell asleep about 2 hours into the drive, but since this about 2 hours before his usual naptime, he ended up falling asleep again an hour before we got home (L.A. traffic sucks!), and that ended up throwing his bedtime off.
Another thing that I discovered during this trip is how to change a diaper in the car. Rest stops and gas stations kind of gross me out, so I did not want to take my kid in there for a diaper change. On the way there, we struggled a bit on the backseat, because the trunk was full of baggage and little M’s car seat is in the middle of the backseat (after our car accident last April, I feel that the middle seat is safest for him). However, on the way back, we had a cooler with a flat top on the floor in the backseat that was almost level to the seat. So we just put a deluxe sized Dockatot across the seat and the cooler and viola, and makeshift changing table that a child can actually lay on without their legs hanging off. We just happened to have the Dockatot because we left it at my mom’s house when we moved and decided to take it home. I think that a folded blanket would work just as well, and a box or container would work in place of the cooler, it just has to come up to the seat.
Snacks were probably the number one reason the whole road trip wasn’t one giant meltdown. Like seriously, the kid loves food! Can’t really be surprised, since his daddy and I are both foodies. When packing for a road trip, make sure to pack lots of DIFFERENT KINDS of snacks. You want variety so that when they get bored with pretzels, you can give them a teddy graham, and when that’s no longer holding their interest, you have grapes (halved of course), etc., etc.. Please make sure you are actively supervising your child while they are eating! And make sure whatever foods or snacks you give them are easy to chew and not choking hazards.
If your kiddo loves toys or books, then be sure to bring their favorites! I brought both, but for whatever reason, little M tossed the toys right away. The books did seem to keep his interest for at least a few minutes.
Make sure your phone is fully charged, have a battery pack, or bring along a tablet (that’s what I did) for cartoons. Now I know screen time isn’t the best for developing children, but when you’re stuck in a car for hours, it’s certainly forgivable (at least I think so). Toward the last stretch of the trip, little M started getting a little restless, and snacks and books weren’t holding his attention any longer. I let him watch a few episodes of “Malishariki”, a Russian kids show which is tied for his favorite with “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”. It got him to settle down and then I distracted him with our own version of “I spy” and more snacks.
Overall, our road trip went pretty well, and little M did great! Do whatever works to keep your child comfortable, safe, and happy. As with everything else, what works for one child may not work for another. I hope this was helpful!
What do you do to keep your little one entertained during long car rides?