Driving 21 hours straight, on my own with 2 kids in the backseat.
No, you are not about to read a horror novel, this was my reality over March Break.
It started with a last minute invite to Myrtle Beach to visit my dad who was staying with a good friend of the family. My husband couldn’t take the time off with that little notice so we talked and decided I would take the kids for the week.
Although hubby and I are pros at driving long distances, due to the fact that his family is about the same distance away, this would be the first time I would do the entire drive on my own. I wasn’t concerned about it from my end, I enjoy driving and was certain I would be fine. My concern was the kids. What on earth do you do to keep 2 kids happy in such a long car ride?
If you are thinking of taking a long road trip, here is some advice I have for you.
1) Plenty of time. Google maps told me the trip would take 16 hours. Why did it take us an extra 5 hours? Well, 1 hour was due to a long wait at the border to cross. The other 4 though were simply stops along the way. You don’t think it’s much, stopping for a quick pee or to use the free McDonalds WiFi to check in with the family… but those 15 minute stops add up. They were well needed though. Give yourself plenty of time to stretch, breath in some fresh air and just recharge. Also, be spontaneous! If you see a road sign for something neat, it might be fun. My kids loved the mountains as we drove through West Virginia so we stopped at several Lookout Points along the hightway. You need it, the kids need it. Wherever you are heading to can wait if you give yourself lots of extra time.
2) DVD Player. Okay so we somehow made it through as kids without DVD’s in the car. However, ask our parents and I’m sure they will tell you that driving long distances with us was absolute hell. While I won’t say that things like handheld video games are necessary (but they are also helpful), the technology is there and I don’t know what I would have done without the DVD player in the car. Not only was it a great way to stretch out the time between stops, I used it to distract them when I could tell their patience with each other was running thin. I don’t normally let them watch nearly the amount of tv we did in the car – but that’s the thing with vacations – you get to do stuff you normally don’t. I do add a disclaimer to this line though – make sure you have headphones for the kids to watch the movies. You REALLY don’t want to spend your entire drive listening to Disney… unless that’s you thing. lol
3) LOTS of snacks. Like loads of them. Something about the car makes my kids VERY hungry. It could be boredom or maybe the dry air but they were constantly hungry the entire drive. The absolute worst thing you can do while on a long drive is stop for fast food. Hubby and I made a rule of it years ago that we just can’t do it. Your stomach ends up in knots and you get very tired. The point is to stay alert and awake… to stay safe! This particular trip, I packed a cooler to cover us until dinner time. I had planned that we would stop at a restaurant for dinner to give the kids a nice extended break before getting on the road for the last long stretch. Things to pack: sandwiches, sliced fruit & veggies, crackers & peanut butter, lots of water. And because it’s a vacation, some special treats are nice as well. I went with string cheese and some cookies.
4) Their own pillows. I think we all know enough to bring blankets for the car ride, especially if you know they will be sleeping. However the one thing that I have found can make or break a trip is the pillows. If you give them “car pillows” they spend so much time telling you how uncomfortable they are, that they smell funny, or that they are itchy. By bringing the pillow off their bed, it’s a source of comfort. There’s no complaining. It smells like them, it is comfy and they already know how to manipulate it to work well. My daughter didn’t even put her head on it (sort of hard to do in a car seat) so she just held it tightly like a stuffed animal – and that was good enough for her.
5) Road trip games. Between movies, it’s fun to play some great road trip games, and they can be educational as well. Things like “guess the state bird” whenever you cross over into a new state. Licence plate games were my 7 year olds favourite. First we tried to count how many different state licence plates we could find, then we played a game where we had to make funny sentences out of the letters on licence plates, first in English, then in French! My son and I had a riot with this game while his sister watched her Barbie movie that he had no interest in seeing. 🙂
6) A video camera. When we got on the road, I gave my son my video camera and told him he was responsible for documenting our family vacation. His sister helped out too. Although once we arrived at our destination he didn’t take a lot of footage, I have hours of car footage that was a great way to keep him busy – and after editing the clips, I have a great little video of our trip.
7) Books! Kids love anything “new” and some books were a great way to spend some time on the trip. While my son prefers to read novels and comics, my daughter had fun with a small activity book and some crayons. In addition, I bought my son a new notebook so he could draw pictures and write stories along the way which he thoroughly enjoyed.
We made it safe and sound and in good spirits. We had a fantastic vacation and yes, I would totally do it again.