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We just completed not only our longest family vacation, but our most peaceful one too. Let me start by saying I have never been a huge fan of family vacations. They are always more stressful than relaxing, we tends to get in fights, and my kids drive me to the brink of sanity pissing each other off on purpose. This isn’t our first family vacation, or trip since the start of my thyroid disease. The rest have ended in disaster. While the kids look back and remember what a great time we had, all I remember is the stress.
This time I was determined to make it work, and we did! Here is how we had the most peaceful road trip yet! More posts coming on the rest of the vacation.
1.) Plan Ahead
Always plan your trip ahead of time. Even if you are thinking, “we will just see how it goes, and decide what we want to do when we get there”. This is a sure fire way to not only stress yourself out, but also every single one of your children. You don’t need to schedule every single minute. Just schedule 1 thing for each day. This will give you and your kids some structure and flexibility. You won’t be rushed, but you won’t have to listen to your kids ask over and over what you are doing that day while you search online or look through brochures. Book a hotel with comfort and ease in mind, take the time too look through many. Don’t share a bed if you don’t have to. The hotel we booked was a family suite. It had bunk beds for the kids, 2 bathrooms, a queen bed for us, a refrigerator, free crib rentals, kids table with chairs, and breakfast was included! The hotel was very affordable, clean, and close to everything we wanted to do. It wasn’t a 5 star resort, but it wasn’t run down either. It was perfect for our needs. We got space, a door between us and the kids, could shower 2 at a time, and could walk down to a hot breakfast and coffee in our pajamas. The hotel we stayed at was the LaQuinta Inn Carlsbad, CA (Not an affiliate link). I do not like crowded spaces. So, being able to go from a crowded car to spacious hotel room gave me something to look forward too, and reign in my annoyance.
2.) Make a List
Now that you have a plan, make a list for everything you need to pack, and do this a couple days in advance. This will allow you time to buy what you need, and add things as you remember. I like to write several lists: one list for each activity, one for clothes, one for toiletries, one for food and snacks, one for first aide, one for car activities, and so on. After you have all your lists look over them to see what is necessity and what is not. Make a check mark by the things that are not necessary. These are things you bring if you have the space. There were somethings I wrote on the list I couldn’t bring, like a shade shelter for the beach. We love the beach, but we can’t spend more than a few hours at the beach in California before we freeze our butts off. The sun shelter needed to stay home.
3.) Make Activity Bags/Buckets/Whatever
We always bring activities for the kids to play with in the car. We include coloring books, some action figures, toy guns, some toys that make noise, something that is sensory, and a few comfort objects. These are mostly for our younger kids. The teenagers are happy with the their Kindles for the most part. However, they appreciated the coloring books and Etch-A-Sketch. In the past I packed backpacks for each kid, or put them in their individual buckets. This time I put them in a toy organizer that strapped to the back of the seat. I used this organizer from Zufy. The kids LOVED it. Chloe could see many of the toys, Evan had fun searching through the pockets, there is a pencil pouch that can come off, and a pocket to hold books. I filled up the toy organizer, and they had a blast. Chloe, my almost 2 year old stayed awake the entire trip(both ways). She sat happily in her car seat munching on snacks while she and Evan(4) played together with the toys. When she would start getting upset she would snuggle with her stuffed animals. I received this car organizer for a discount in exchange of an honest review. It was definitely better than backpacks.
4.) Bring Lots of Snacks
My kids eat a TON when they are traveling. I swear these kids were constantly starving. We packed an ice chest full of snacks, and brought along a case of water and some juice pouches. When packing the ice chest, I made sure it was easily accessible so the teenagers could get into it and pass items to other people. if you don’t have teenagers, please the ice chest someone you or another adult can easily access it. Some snacks we packed where: chips(spend the extra buck for individual packages), Go-Gurt, Uncrustables, Nutragrain Bars, fresh fruit, cheese slices, crackers, and lunch meat(homemade lunchables), some Hawaiian Rolls, and a batch of homemade fruit snacks. We mixed in junk food, with healthy snacks, with something of a little more substance (PB&J, ham sandwiches on rolls, and home made lunchables). It sounds like a lot of food, but they were snacks for the whole round trip. By the time we got home there were very little snacks left.
5.) Pack and Load the Car the Night Before
This is such a stress reliever. Load everything, making sure you leave space for where people are sitting and leg room. Put the activities, pillows, and blankets where people will be sitting. I even loaded the ice chest the night before. The ice chest was empty. I kept everything that needed to be refrigerated in a bag in the fridge. When morning came, I filled the ice chest up, load the kids in the car, and we were ready to go.
6.) Prepare for Trash
Go to Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store and pick up a few small trash cans. We brought 2. Place the trash can where it is easy for both you and the kids to reach. Use some Velcro tape to keep them in place. This keeps trash contained and not floating around feet.
7.) Benadryl for Motion Sickness
Do your kids get car sick? Mine do. Evan gets it the worst. I can never find Dramamine for Kids at the store, and it’s not something I would think to order online in advance. The Pharmacist recommended Benadryl for motion sickness a while back. I took the idea to my pediatrician and he said it was fine, to just give him a half a teaspoon. Since Evan has allergies as well, it is more effective for him than Dramamine. Not only does it knock his butt out for a few hours, so he sleep through any motion sickness, but his allergies don’t bug him as much when we visit a place with more pollen than he is use to. We waited to give it to him until we got closer to the part of the trip that would make him sick. He woke up a few hours later and didn’t have any more car sickness for the rest of the trip. Check with your pediatrician before giving your child Benadryl. Each kid is different, and you may need a different dose.
8.) Have a Music Playlist
This is something we forgot to do this trip, and man did I regret it! It wasn’t long before we lost the radio signal, and didn’t have cellular signal to stream music. We were stuck listening to the free channel of satellite radio for 6 hours, then another 6 hours on the way back! My teenage daughter was in heaven because they were playing all her favorite teenager songs! This wouldn’t have been annoying except it seemed like they played the same 20 songs over and over for 6 hours! There is only so much One Direction, Justin Bieber, and Sean Mendez we could take. By “we” I mean anyone who wasn’t a teenage girl.
9.) Take Breaks at Play Centers
I tribute the peacefulness of the trip to our breaks. Yes, it made the trip longer. However, there was no fighting and little “are we there yet” complaining. Did I mention Chloe was awake the WHOLE trip?! 6 hours in a car seat is tough on a not yet 2 year old. The key to keeping babies that refuse to sleep happy is stopping and taking a break BEFORE they get grumpy. If they get grumpy and are screaming in their car seat, you are screwed. It doesn’t matter if you let them run around for 15-30 minutes, they will not want to get back in that seat. So plan to stop every 2-3 hours. We looked for places with play centers. Sometimes we found one, sometime we didn’t. If you are traveling through Yuma, AZ there is a Carl’s Jr with a huge play center off exit 2. In hind sight, we probably could have googled a couple play centers before the trip so we knew where to go.
10.) You set the Mood
This was also another big factor that played into the peacefulness. I was determined to stay patient and positive. There was a good chance my little ones would be grumpy the whole car trip, and the teenagers would be moody the entire vacation. They are teenagers. So if they started to get moody about something instead of telling them to knock it off my answer was, “that’s okay you don’t have to have it…eat it…do it…and so on.” They caught on real fast. I was going to be patient and a fun trip. If they didn’t like what we were doing they could chose to sit it out. Before I knew it I was dealing with some teenagers that were having a grand time, and openly admitting it was a lot more fun than they thought.
11.) Invest in a Travel Potty
I left this for last because it is really only needed if you are potty training. Chloe is potty trained, but she would only go on a little kid toilet. I had no desire to lug around her big potty training toilet, and I didn’t want to hinder her potty training momentum with a 4 day vacation. This is were a travel potty came into play. We got one that folds up into a suitcase and it fit our diaper bag. It has storage compartments for the disposable pottete bag, wipes, and extra undies. You can also use regular plastic grocery bags in the toilet, just line the bottom of the bag with paper towels or toilet paper. We were able to take it into the bathroom with us, and she could use her own little toilet. It was comfy to sit on, and her feet touched the ground, but her legs didn’t drag. We used it the entire trip. She used it at the beach, Legoland, in the hotel. By the end of the trip she wanted to sit on the big toilet because the seat was like the seat on her travel potty. We used the travel potty when she wanted to use the big girl toilet also. I was able to lay the toilet flat over the seat for her to use. I still held her up because the toilet was not made to be used on top of regular toilets, but it worked for her purposes. Now that we are home the travel potty has a permanent place in the back of the car. It will be there to use when we are at the park, hiking, a soccer game, and so on. No more running around trying to find a bathroom. It is fantastic! I received this travel toilet for free in exchange for an honest review. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t recommend it.
So there you have it. 11 tips for a successful and peaceful road trip with kids of any age. I’d love to hear any other tips and tricks you use on your road trips.