I recently traveled to Tulsa Oklahoma and back from our Colorado home in my mighty but little RAV4 with my two and a half year old twins and my very kind parents so that I could attend the annual SeneGence Seminar. The trip was over 1500 miles roundtrip, over 750 each way! We drove it straight through each way, leaving early in the morning on a Thursday and returning that Sunday. It took us about 13 hours each time (including stops). I was pretty nervous before we left as to how my littles would handle it, we never spend a lot of time in the car let alone 13 straight hours. And so, I super prepared for the trip. And, it not only worked, they actually had FUN. Granted, by the time we arrived home Sunday we were ALL (adults included) ready to get the heck out of the car, but nobody was having hysterics. I always loved road trips as a child and want to do them with my family, so I was ELATED that this was such a good first experience for my littles. What I did to prepare really worked incredibly well, and while I do not wish a 13 hour straight through road trip on anyone, I hope these tips and tricks may help you be successful with any road-tripping you have in your future!
First of all….
My mother recently shared a packing tip that changed my life forever. I now use gallon ziplock bags labeled for each day for each person and pack what is needed for each day, underwear, pajamas, everything (for example, “Harry Monday”, “Harry Tuesday”). Any miscellaneous reusable items (swimwear, etc) gets put into similarly labeled gallon ziplocks (ie, “Harry swimwear”, or “Arabella lake towels”). When the day is done, back in the bag OR you can be OCD like me and sort it into light/dark and squash into trash bags. GAME. CHANGER ya’ll, seriously. Packing and unpacking are SO MUCH EASIER. So far I’ve reused our bags for three trips as well.
We took the majority of our food with us, so I put that all into a big lidded Tupperware-type bin. I brought a few toys for the hotel as well (train set, building blocks, etc) and binned those too. The back of our car was JAMMED, but we could find everything with reasonable ease. Make sure you have your snack bin accessible!
AND…SPEAKING OF SNACKS!
Mamas, let me share something with you about toddler snacks that I learned the hard way. You know how they love to eat like, a few bites out of an apple, two crackers out of the box, and half a cheese stick? Well, that’s not going to change just because you’re road trippin’ and the next thing you know, there you’ll be drowning in half eaten apples and partially eaten cheese with crackers tossed everywhere. Which is far more annoying when you’re in the car and have nowhere to store anything. SO. While as you know I’m a huge advocate of reducing waste, for road trips BUY ALL THE TINY WRAPPED SNACKS. Pre sliced bags of apples, SMALL wrapped cheeses, tiny bags of crackers, squeezable apple sauces, you get the point. Costco is fabulous for finding these things. 😉 Again, trust me, I learned this the hard way. If you’re super industrious you can pack your own tiny bags but honestly in my humble opinion it’s not worth the time or money to do this for a road trip when you have ten zillion other things going on.
Now for the drive time fun!
Car Seat Travel Trays
These are INCREDIBLE and worth every penny. Not only it is exponentially harder for kiddos to throw their food/drink/toys onto the floor, it gives them a steady surface to draw, eat and play on. The trays strap onto the seats too. SO helpful. They’re easy to clean (I just hosed ours off in the yard). They also have an iPad strap if you decide to do some screen time. (Yes I did, I pre-downloaded Super Readers, Veggie Tales, and some Dinosaur Train and we had a couple intermittent screen time breaks. We actually didn’t need much screen time at all to my pleasant surprise.)
Individual Activity Backpacks
I packed each kiddo their own backpack full of activities, and it was a lifesaver.
Here’s what I put into each pack:
-Zippered marker bag that I filled with washable markers, crayons and some tiny hand stampers (I grabbed the bags, markers and crayons in the school section at Walmart, tiny hand stampers at the dollar store)
-a few coloring books from the dollar store
-sticker books and extra stickers (yep, dollar store). Big points for puffy stickers that they can peel off themselves.
-three play dough containers (Walmart has them for 50cents, the dollar store variety is actually toxic I don’t recommend it if your littles are like mine and attempt to eat everything they can that is not food related).
-ziplock bag of tiny animals, figurines, creatures (found at yes, the dollar store, seeing a theme here?) Stretchy frogs,
-The dollar store always has a variety of little coloring sets, I picked each kiddo a felt one and a “mirror” one. Big hits. And since they’re two, they colored on them multiple times.
-calculators from the dollar store (these were a huge hit!)
-baggie with a few large straws and pipe cleaners (these were AWESOME for the play dough)
-Stuffed toy, a few books (the ones with little sound buttons are really great!) and a couple easy to do puzzles. (Puzzle tip: put all the pieces in sandwich baggies and then you’re less likely to lose them).
-little baggie of baby wipes (they have markers….and food….you’ll want these).
-spare outfit. Something simple and easy to fit into a baggie, but you’ll thank yourself for this when you’re in Timbuktu and that tiny last tablespoon of applesauce somehow ended up ALL OVER THEIR ENTIRE BODY and the last thing you want to do is dig through the suitcase.
The playdough was used for so many things, with the little creatures and figurines, by itself, with the crayons, it was great. Yes some of it ended up on the floor, a sacrifice that was easily remedied and utterly worth it. MAKE SURE you get legit washable markers, NOT the dollar store washable markers (which aren’t very washable, again something I found out the hard way when my child had to spend a good two days looking like they murdered a Smurf).
I also brought a small toy piano we have that I had purchased at Arc and that was a huge hit.
A beloved friend packed the babies a surprise bag with a Gumby and Pony toy, Gumby movie, a notebook and pen for each, and some other goodies. These were wonderful and I would definitely add them to the packs myself next time.
Thoughts? Favorite tips or tricks? I’d LOVE to hear them, please share below! <3