Recently, #1 and I spent 28 hours in the car together. It should have been 20 hours, but things didn’t go according to plan. They rarely do when you have a three-year-old in tow. But, regardless, we both kept it together and survived the extensive road trip, thanks to a few things.
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On The Way
As I said, our trip was supposed to take 20-hours, 10-hours there and 10-hours back, with a four-day break in between driving stints. It seemed totally feasible…when I was packing.
Day One: We got three hours under our belt easy when we stopped for Happy Meals and found out there was a wreck an hour up our route. We decided to take our time eating.
Then at hour five, we hit the traffic that still hadn’t cleared. Two hours of traffic. After finally making it through the mess – a turned over semi-truck – we were back on pace.
Until my ‘check engine’ light glowed in all its devious glory. So, by hour eight we were stopped at a gas station, then an auto parts store, and finally an oil change location. Back in the driver’s seat by hour ten, which just so happened to coincide with dinner time. After which, we decided to throw in the towel and find a hotel for the night.
[It should be noted that a super sweet couple could tell I was struggling and paid for our dinner – thank you to them!]
Day Two: We still had five hours of driving to get to our destination. It had taken us twice as long as it should have, to make it as far as we had. I did not hold high hopes for our second stretch of the trip.
Surprisingly, and thankfully, day two was much less eventful. It took us six hours to drive the five-hour stretch and only involved a couple of pit stops for potty breaks for our recently potty-trained munchkin.
So, if you’re keeping tally, the first drive should have taken 10 hours.
It took us 16.
Thankfully, though, I came prepared.
How My Child Handled a 28-Hour Road Trip
I’ve got to give props to my child. He handled this trip magnificently. Shockingly, actually. But I had a few tricks up my sleeve to make it happen.
I rarely leave home without snacks.
Going to the park? Snacks.
Going to church? Snacks.
Going on a road trip? Snacks, snacks, snacks!
This kid had everything his little heart desired: Goldfish, graham crackers, peanut butter crackers, granola bars, Paw Patrol gummies, suckers, etc.
The problem was, I was hesitant to give him snacks when I was the only one in the car and was focused on driving. I mean, what if he started choking? I didn’t have a passenger to save the day. Where would I pull the car over safely?
So, his snacks became more of a “Hey, we’re stopping for a potty break, let’s have a snack,” type of thing. It definitely helped with my worry, and even assisted in keeping the car clean, because we could just toss out the trash before we took off again.
The one time I did let him have a snack while I was driving was when I gave him some mini M&M’s. And, let me tell you, those things may not melt in your hand, but they sure do melt in the car seat. And all over my floor board.
So, maybe snacks without a passenger to assist is a bad idea, but snacks overall are definitely a necessity!
On Day One of the trip, #1 spent most of his time in pajamas. I figured it would be comfier for him that way and may inspire him to sleep most of the trip. While the latter didn’t work, he did say he was comfy.
I also brought a blanket with us for nap time. And a stuffed animal that makes its way on every family vacation.
It definitely helps a child when they have comforting and comfortable items around. Especially on a road trip.
It helps that #1’s favorite toys are all relatively small: action figures, blind bag toys, mini whatever’s. They all fit nicely into a metal lunch box he had and he was responsible for keeping things together. The only difficulties we had, in regards to toys, were 1) when he decided to throw a Happy Meal toy at me while driving and 2) when he couldn’t latch and unlatch the metal lunch box.
Thankfully, our car is so small, I could easily reach back and unlatch the box without taking my attention from the road.
I’ve told you before about Netflix Originals your children will love, and again, I have to express how awesome Netflix is! Select titles can be downloaded directly to your device so you can access them in their entirety even when you don’t have access to WiFi. A lifesaver!
Before leaving, I downloaded several PJ Masks episodes and Madagascar 2 onto our tablet. I used #1’s small backpack to hold the tablet case around the passenger seat headrest, placed the tablet into it’s latches, and voila, TV to go!
While #1 wasn’t too apt to watch it while we were driving, it did keep him calm for about an hour on one of the road trip stretches.
I also had a couple of Disney soundtracks on CD, which entertained #1 for a good while. Though, I’m not sure what listening to Hakuna Matata that many times can actually do to a Mom, but it did keep him happy.
There was also singing. Not the good kind of singing, like “Don’t Stop Believin’” on karaoke night, but the “Wheels on the Bus” that went round…and round…and round…and round.
Yeah, that was probably worse than Hakuna Matata. The fun part was, that #1 got involved. He would tell me what parts or people would come up next and help with the sound effects. And, let me tell you, there was a lot of poop on that bus. He’s 3. Everything is poop.
The Way Back
Now, the way home was basically everything in reverse. But it only took 12-hours, cut in half with another hotel stay.
My child also learned how to pee in a bottle. Which sped up potty breaks as I could just take an exit, let him pee, and not even have to get out of the car. Mom of the Moment, not Mom of the Year, remember? I promised the truth.
Road Trip Tips
Next time we decide to take a long road trip, we’ll be following these rules:
1. Take another adult
Hubs couldn’t make it on this trip, but I doubt I’ll willingly take a road trip without him again. Just the peace of mind knowing that he can take care of #1 while I’m driving, and vice versa, is enough.
2. Plan for it to take much longer than necessary
Then, you might be surprised at how quickly you actually get to where you’re going.
3. Schedule out pit stops and hotel stays
Rather than stopping every time someone needs to use the restroom, schedule out stops. Not only will it help your schedule, but it can also be used as a lesson to teach time-telling to your child.
Now, obviously, if it’s an emergency, stop and let whomever use the restroom.
4. Make the longest leg of the trip on the first day
You don’t have to split the trip up evenly. Perhaps you want to drive 8-hours on day one and then five-hours on day two and two-hours on day three. Do it. Make it easier on yourself.
And, remember, that for each added day in the car, you and your children are going to get crankier. That’s why each subsequent day should get shorter. Knock out the worst part on day one and then day two and three won’t seem so bad.
5. Don’t forget snacks, comfy items, toys, and entertainment
You will be lost without them. Well, not literally, unless you forget your phone charger and don’t have GPS, then, you’ll be lost.
With these tips, you and your children should be ready for a fantastic family road trip! Just make sure to get your oil changed before you leave.
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