Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

How to Survive Road Trips with Small Children

by heather

As our closest family is four hours away, I have mastered the art of a successful road trip, and have had many an unsuccessful road trip also. Success just requires a little preparation.  Make sure that you have the following readily available:

  • baby wipes- best thing for cleaning up sticky fingers and faces (and diapers if applicable)
  • a change of clothes per child (In an emergency situation we had to have our child pee in the bushes by the side of the road, she’s small, it’s awkward, and we had to dig a change of clothes out of the trunk)
  • 2 toys per child- When they get bored with the first, they can change without stealing from their neighbor
  • a few favorite books, coloring books, a few crayons each
  • cds with music that your children enjoy to sing along with and cds with music that is soothing and can help transition to nap time
  • a pillow and blanket for each child- Sometimes they sleep with them, sometimes they hide under them, on one trip I think my son played peek-a-boo with his for two hours straight
  • SNACKS– This is a must. Here are some of our favorites: baby carrots, fruit snacks, granola bars, cookies, apple slices, beef jerky, fruit leather, craisins, crackers, and string cheese.
  • frozen Caprisuns- crucial in the summer time. We always throw a few of these in a small cooler with some other drinks. Towards the beginning of the trip you drink whatever you threw in there to be chilled. Towards the end you can drink your thawed, but still icy Caprisuns. They can actually keep food cold for 2-3 days if you have enough frozen Caprisuns and keep the cooler shut.
  • a few water bottles
  • a plastic grocery bag for tossing garbage
  • something for you to read when the kids fall asleep
  • map/atlas or GPS

As much as I dislike the place, McDonald’s has made many a road trip easier. The kids get out of the car, eat two bites of a happy meal, run around until they’re totally worn out, get back in the car and quickly fall asleep. And there’s always a McDonald’s somewhere, they’re easy to spot and it’s a doable option, rain, shine, snow, whatever. We’ve just gotten to the point where we stop somewhere else for Mommy to get a sandwich or salad first, and I eat that while they let their nuggets get cold. (Happy Meals aren’t the most nutritious things, but they have gotten better than when we were kids. I’m ok with my kids having them on occasion. They always get the chicken nuggets, apple slices and chocolate milk.) If you know the area, or it’s a good day for your GPS and the weather’s nice, you can get the same results with taking lunch in a park, but you can’t bank on those factors.
 I had a co-worker once tell me that she just gave her kids Benedryl and then they slept for most of their long roads trips. I tried that. Didn’t work for us at all. I gave my daughter a second dose and I she was more wired than before. I’ve found classical music to be more effective in getting my kids to sleep in the car than anything else. I also found that road trips became sooo much easier after we had two kids. My daughter just didn’t like to be alone in the back seat for long periods of time.


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