Traveling in the Car with Children: Survival Guide

My family recently made a trip to Houston for a family member’s wedding. From where we live it is a solid 7 hour drive. I had many nights lying in bed going over all the possible scenarios of what could go wrong. When you’ve got multiple little people with different needs, interests, and temperaments, there’s quite a lot of dread that comes with any major change in schedules or surroundings. The three year old loves the car, new adventures and “spying” out new things- he’s our travel friendly kid. The 18 month old is really go-with-the-flow, and as long as she has her blanket, her toy cell phone, and a copious amount of board books and veggie straws, she’s golden. Then there’s the baby. He HATES the car. He will kick and scream and fight the car seat with all his tiny might. And if he’s not happy in the car- NOBODY is happy in the car. He’s the lynch pin to this whole thing. The sanity of all the occupants of the vehical depends on the 8 month old. I had my mission: at all costs make the baby happy. 

If you’re planning on taking a trip in the near future with young’ins, there are some things you’ll need to know, and it’s all here for your reading pleasure: 
1) Have a packing strategy for the car. What needs to go in the back of the car? The front? The middle?… You get the idea. In the front of the car I like to have phone and DVD chargers, adult snacks, wipes, hand sanitizer, and my purse. I also discovered headphones were extremely useful to drown out crying babies so throw some of those up there too! In the middle row of the car, I put a basket of board books, a basket of small toys, and the kids’ snacks for the road in two different lunch boxes: one for chilled items, one for crackers/veggie straws and pouches. I also have a ziplock baggy full of folded up Target sacks and wipes handy in BOTH seatback pockets. Never hurts to be prepared! If you have DVD players, be sure to check all your DVD cases before leaving to make sure that the right movie is in the right case- learned that one the hard way!! In the back of the car, I planned according to need. The items needed last were packed in first, and the items needed first were put in last. This is what 6 bags, two pack n plays, a high chair, and a walker looks like…

2) Plan how you will pack your clothes. I’m a crazy bag lady. For the kids, I love the “clothing bags” approach. Each outfit is folded and placed in a 2-gallon ziplock. I write the contents of each bag on the front, so when it comes time to pack for home I know if I’ve got everything because it’s labeled for me! This also goes for bows, blankets and lovies. Then I place the bags in a duffle altogether. Shoes go on top or bottom, whatever. Then I pack a separate ziplock for medications and toiletries.  Kids packed? Check! For myself, I pack one bag for clothes and shoes and another for beauty & hair products, toiletries, and medicine. This way I can keep one bag in the bathroom and one in the bedroom and not be running back and forth for things. Mom packed? Check! Dad literally just throws stuff in a backpack or small duffle and goes. Why do men have so little necessities? I will never understand. 

3) Prepare for the drive. Get gas before loading everyone in the car- trust me, nothing spoils a “Here we go!” moment like stopping five minutes later to get gas. Make sure you have your headphones and patience ready. Give the baby one last meal before the road and hand him a few toys, push play on the DVD players, and roll out! 

4) Mind the road. Whip out your GPS to keep up to date on traffic! This was so handy for us as we made several diversions from the interstate so we could avoid sitting in a car going nowhere with restless kiddos. Find alternative, smaller highways, and enjoy the country views and the cute little towns. Then hop back on the freeway when the coast is clear! 

5) Enjoy the trip once you get there. Any parent will tell you that the word “vacation” is not synonymous with children. It’s stressful! The kids are not used to the hotel/rental/campsite. Schedule- what’s that? You’ll hear “I’m hungry!” 10,000 times… an hour. Just relax. Because when you’re chill, it’s much easier for them to adjust. And that’s coming from the most Type A mama on the planet (well, maybe not). Take them outside, visit a museum- a Children’s museum of course, go to a local festival, just find one thing to take them to that’s special and will wear them out. They won’t know your motive is to get them to sleep- finally, they’ll just think about how much fun they’re having! Then, sit down and have a BIG glass of wine because you did it! You survived endless hours planning, packing and “She’s pinching me!” One day it will get easier, or so I’m told. But for now, I’ll have the Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The munchkins on our “vacation” (with their Tippy)




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