Monday, June 11, 2012

Road Trip with Little Kids

About a month ago we took our first long road trip family vacation. We drove down to Dallas to visit some family and just get away for a few days. It was the longest road trip we've taken since having Hudson three years ago. When he was about 13 months, we took a mini vacation to Minneapolis, but we worked out a way to shorted our time in the car by stopping in Sioux Falls to stay the night with my parents on the way there and the way home, so we only ended up being in the car for about 4 hours.

Dallas is around a ten hour drive from Omaha, but when you factor in stops for potty breaks, diaper changes, stretching and eating, it can easily turn it into a thirteen hour drive. I was extremely nervous about being in the car that long with a 3-year-old and a 11-month-old. Hudson was never good in the car as a baby. He would cry non-stop. Once we got a TV in the car, the crying started to ease up and he does much better now. (I always said I wouldn't be one of "those" parents that just puts a TV in front of their kids to keep them quiet, but now that I am a parent and realized how well it works and that sometimes it's the best I can do, I totally have become "that" parent. No judgements please...) Anyway, Harper does pretty good in the car most of the time, so I wasn't too worried about her.

We picked a date and made the plans. We decided to make a stop over on the way to Dallas. We figured it would work best to leave in the late afternoon and stay in a hotel somewhere in between in hopes that the kiddos would get in some sleep time in the car.I was excited to get out of town, but first things first, I needed to find some ideas for entertaining the kids and keeping them happy.

The first place I looked was Pinterest. I had seen some pins geared toward kids and road trips, so that's what I searched. I got some pretty great results including one that turned out to be a total lifesaver! Jordan over at The Fun Cheap or Free Queen has some really awesome tips!!

The BEST tip for me that she blogged about (that never crossed my mind) was making a trip to the dollar store or dollar section of Target before the trip and buying a bunch of "presents" for the kids to open in the car. You can read her entire post here. She even wrapped them in old wrapping paper she had on hand. I thought this idea was BRILLIANT! That was exactly the type of thing I was looking for. Hudson is sort of at that in-between age of not being a baby anymore, but not totally a big kid either, so I wasn't sure how I was going to keep him from having meltdowns. This was it!

I went to the Dollar Tree and picked up some fun things that I knew would be easy to play with in the car and then went home and wrapped them in some leftover birthday wrapping paper. Once we were in the car, I showed Hudson the bag of presents and told him that he would keep getting presents as long as he was being a good boy. It worked like a charm. We gave him the first present about 2 1/2 hours into the trip and then every 2 hours or so, depending on his behavior. He NEVER asked for a present the entire time, but got really excited every time he got to open one. It was awesome!! Here is a look at a few of the presents he got on the way down:

Oh, and I also picked up this Franklin DVD for $5 at Target so that Hudson would have something new to watch to keep him occupied. It's 3 hours long!! He had never really watched Franklin before, but liked it a lot.

I found a "girl" version and "boy" version of those cute stuffed caterpillars. (Side note: Hudson gets really attached to new stuffed animals when he first gets them and he loves bugs, so I knew we had to have these.) I was right, he loved it. See the photo below. Then I picked up a coloring book, a water gun for the pool once we got to Texas, a new Hot Wheels car and some glow necklaces, as well as a glow wand (not pictured) to use when it got dark out and we were still in the car.
(I took this picture after we got home and I think I'm missing something, but cannot figure out what it is)

Then the night before our drive back home, Jeremy and I went to Target and grabbed some more dollar toys for the drive home. We didn't buy anything that cost more than $1, so I think we ended up spending $10 on both kids on the way down and $10 for the drive home. Totally worth it for us!! It eased my mind and helped to make the trip much more enjoyable for everyone. There were NO tantrums or meltdowns at all! Amazing!

I was okay with spending a little money on the "presents" because our kids didn't really get anything else on the trip as far as toys. They each got some new clothes and Hudson got a $5 ball game from Old Navy to play with while we were there and a race track mat from Ikea to take home, but that was it. We definitely don't spoil our kids with toys. If you don't want to give your kids toys, you could always try educational "presents" or a punch card of sorts where they get punches to earn a special something.

Jordan has some other great tips too, such as, putting a basket of coloring books, games, etc. in between the car seats so they can be easily accessed by the kids and packing lots of nutritious and delicious snacks and drinks ahead of time so you don't have to stop a bunch. She also mentions pre-filling sippy cups so you don't have to pour in the car, which is something we always do for any road trip. It makes things so much easier!

I spent a lot of time planning ahead to try to ensure a smooth trip and it payed off.

Anyway, if you're looking for more ideas, I definitely recommend checking Pinterest. There were lots of other websites/blogs that I didn't even get a chance to look at.

All in all it was an awesome trip! We needed the break so badly and it turned out to be lots of fun! Here are just a couple pics of the kiddos in the pool.


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