Recently, my little family embarked on a road trip to the Oregon coast for Memorial Day weekend. I have to admit, the thought of driving for 8-10 hours with my 5 week old and 2 year old was terrifying, but we really wanted to make it to Oregon. We went last year for Memorial Day weekend when Sophie was one and we had such wonderful time. Last year we flew into Portland and then drove to the coast. This year, having two children and all of the stuff that goes with kids, it made more sense to drive and it was more cost effective. I spent a lot of time preparing for this road trip and it sure paid off, because it went so smoothly. If you plan on taking a road trip with small children soon, here are some great tips that helped our time in the car seem completely manageable. I am being 100% honest when I say, we did not have a single meltdown.
1. Break Up the Drive and Set Expectations: If it is a long drive, break up the trip whenever possible. On the way to Oregon, we left around 7pm, knowing our 2 year old usually falls asleep around 8pm. We planned to drive a little over half way to Medford that night. I used Priceline and named my price for a hotel room and ended up getting a pretty cheap room for the night. We got to Medford around 11:30pm and after a good nights sleep, we woke up and continued the drive the next morning. We all felt refreshed and were excited to only have 3 1/2 hours to go.
On our drive home from Oregon we did not have an overnight stop. We drove all the way home in one day. The road trip was supposed to be about 8 hours, but when you are traveling with kids, you have to be realistic. Your days of just stopping for gas and bathroom breaks are over. I told myself ahead of time, that it would likely take 10 hours to get home. On the way home we stopped in Medford for lunch. We dined in, giving ourselves a break from the car. Next we went to the park and let our two year old run some energy out. The park we were at also had some water features. We didn’t have a swimsuit for Sophie (since the Oregon Coast is pretty cold), but my husband, Mike, found a swim diaper in his truck from last summer. We threw it Soph and let her run wild through the water in a swim diaper. I nursed Sadie on a park bench and played with her in the shade. Our stop in Medford added about an hour and a half to our drive, but it was totally necessary. When we left the park to continue on our drive, both girls zonked out for a long afternoon nap.
2. Travel Tray: If you have a toddler, get a travel tray. The activity tray buckles right around the car seat and provides a nice flat surface to play on. It is also great for eating snacks and has little side pockets to store toys and drinks. I found my activity tray on Amazon for $13.99. It was so handy!
3. No One Goes Hungry: Snacks, snacks and more snacks. A hungry child means a cranky child, and if we’re being completely honest, a hungry Meagan is not much better. Prepare snacks ahead of time and have snacks ready and accessible. For a quick and handy snack for kids, make a snack necklace. I did this by stringing some Cheerios, pretzels, Fruit Loops and Lifesavers gummies onto a string and letting Sophie wear it. I made one for each drive. She loved it and it was quick and convenient.
4. New Toys = Everyone is Happy: Have a secret stash of new toys. New toys provide a great
distraction. While, I may have spoiled Sophie a bit by showering her with a few new toys, I like to think of it as having paid for a little bit of sanity, or in the case of the talking princess mirror, paid to be annoyed for periods of the drive. “Ariel’s father is Triton the sea king,” is something I never want to hear again. Anyway, if I saw Sophie getting bored or restless I’d whip out a new toy. I bought 5 new toys for the trip. It was totally worth it!
5. Video Entertainment: Dora saves the day again! Download some videos on to a tablet and have a charger in the car. We brought our Surface and had downloaded Dora Saves the Mermaids. It was more like, Dora saves Mike and Meagan. Having a little tv action really helped keep Sophie entertained.
6. Pump : If you have a nursling, bring a pump and a bottle just in case. There were a few parts in our drive when Sadie woke up, but we didn’t have a great place to stop. That is when I would pump a little milk and pop in the back to feed her just enough to hold her over until we could find a good place to stop. This also helps if you get stuck in traffic during your drive.
All in all, I cannot believe how smoothly our trip went. I seriously expected to come back with a full head of gray hair and thought I would never want to road trip again. Wrong! I am totally open to it! We were able to keep Sophie entertained and little miss Sadie slept most of the time. It was such a great experience and honestly, it was nice to get to spend some quality time talking to my husband. I’m totally up for taking more road trips in the future.