This wasn't a short trip. We are talking about a cross country trip with our 2 year old twins (32 hours... driving time only). The mother load. You can say it...we're insane!
I read and brainstormed for weeks on what to entertain them with. What essential gear I needed and how to cut corners (because who can afford $20+ each just for a lap tray that they may hate). So like many crazy moms who find their tips and tricks in the world of road trips...I'm sharing my wealth of knowledge. Come let me impart my wisdom.
I took some advice from one blog I read. That was to clean my car out from fender to bumper ahead of time (vacuum every nook and cranny, scrub down and remove junk). As parents, especially of little ones, we all know the damage and mess that is in our car from day to day. I felt so much better starting out with a clean car, even knowing I would arrive back home with a mess after the trip.
Never seen or haven't seen in a few weeks. This was my plan of attack. New $1 store toys...standard protocol here. Hiding their favorites for a few weeks before hand. Bringing out a new arsenal when tantrums are imminent.
I bagged up a snack and a new toy in lunch bags and labeled them with the day and hour...I didn't want to blow my load in one day. I didn't stick to the day/hour in the end but it did help to spread it out. This was perfect. The girls loved the "prizes" and it was a helpful distraction when bums were getting sore and destinations were a little more of a stretch. I've read that some parents are against the "bribing" but I say it's for my sanity and my kids happiness. When this got a little old and the crank still set in I also brought them into gas station stops to pick out a treat. And no they don't expect this type of thing now that we are home and back into our day to day.
ARSENAL / GEAR
What road trip blog post would be complete without a list of the arsenal to bring?
- homemade lap trays with pillow attached (the pillow was peeled off by my girls the first day HAHA but it did come in handy as a bum cushion)
- dry erase boards and markers ($1 each in the Target dollar bin; I've heard of making your own with a sheet protector and various inserts to trace or draw on)
- small activity/coloring books that fit the lap tray
- lots of little toys for small hands (while being wary of choking hazards)
- glow sticks for nighttime and early morning driving
- stickers (dollar store school/teacher section)
- fuzzy balls, colored popsicle sticks (ideas to sorting, playing with and crafting these)
- paper towel cardboard with their names on them...they love looking and talking through things like this
- spice jar with color cordinated pipe cleaners
- mini barbies from the thrift store
- lacing toys
- Magna Doodle boards
|a few of the toys I included|
|Travel tray, color pad, crayons, snack and sunglasses. This was their first "prize" of the day.|
My girls got a new set of traveling pajamas just for the road. I packed a few more for changing also. It's always exciting to get new things, even for kids. Plus no buttons, snaps or belts meant there wasn't something to rub or pinch skin during the long car hours. They were thrilled to put them on and they knew it meant we were taking the trip we had talked about for weeks.
I vowed to make as few stops as possible. I didn't want to set a standard that we would stop at every whine or hour. They didn't get the privilege and didn't expect it. So much better than regretting the first stop that sets a standard that whining gets you somewhere. Whining got them a "prize" at times but mostly just an apology that we still had a ways to go.
We planned out to stay at our hotels for complimentary breakfast in the morning (eating it as soon as possible though; leaving around 6:30 or 7 am) and then only stopping for gas, lunch, adult potty breaks (we put off potty training for the trip) and dinner. Diapers were changed during these stops. We had two overnights along the way and for the second one we stopped earlier in the day in order to it the pool and run around. Some people told me the minimal stops plan was crazy but it honestly worked so well for us.
TABLET CAR MOUNTS
Yep...I admit it. One of my first matters of business was how to mount our tablets to the back of headrest for movies and TV shows (we have two Nexus 7 tablets). This was mostly a last resort (we didn't touch them until the end of the second day) but honestly they came in handy. We loaded our tablets with a favorite movie and some Sesame Street and other favorite TV shows. We also used the same login email to set up a user name on both tablets. The shared email allowed us to buy apps (Google Play) and share them to both tablets...paying only once (we only spent $5 on a few).
We used these cheap but simple mounts. They are supposedly flexible to fit iPads and smaller devices. The reviews weren't 100% great but for the price I was willing to chance it for a jaunt across our nation. DO NOT FORGET CHARGERS...insert car adapter use for phones as well.
We have a pair of Jeep window cling type and another $5 pair that suction. Neither were really great. We threw the suction ones up in the back window (they were see through) and used blankets rolled up in windows the rest of the time when needed. Also packed sunglasses for our girls to wear in the car when the sun found it's way in.
We "purchased" these Dino organizers with an Amazon Prime deal/coupon. By the time I was done packing the car these didn't fit and weren't even used.
Lets face it kids get messy and sometimes car sick. I wedged roll of paper towels next to one car seat and some Clorox wipes next to the other. I also packed a few gallon size ziploc bags for wet clothes from leaky diapers, puke or what have you. A little over an hour into our drive these came in handy for the puking reason. Just saying...pack these, you'll be grateful.
In my searches I found foot rests that attach to car seats to keep little legs from falling asleep on long rides. I decided to pack the car in a way that provided food rests. I packed up two diaper boxes with our destination needs and shoved them behind the drivers side and passenger side seats. They wedged in so tight there was no way they would move (for safety sake). Then I just threw one of our pillows on top and voila foot rest for the kidlets. I don't know if it was necessary but better prepared for it than painful leg cramps right? Plus added packing room...bonus!!
Last but not least we packed an FM Transmitter to use for music with my hubby's phone, crosswords and sudoku puzzles. We used the FM transmitter also for kid-friendly-music when the crank was setting in, helpful mood booster. Other suggestions might be books on tape, small hand crafts, etc. Honestly though for the most part we were busy taking care of our passengers and chatting that most of these weren't used a lot.