Traveling with kids can be the absolute worst! I know that sounds like the total opposite of what this post was going to be about but we all know it is true! Asking “how much longer?!” for the millionth time in a matter of 15 minutes or having to use the bathroom just as many times in as many minutes. Fighting over electronic devices or someone smelling or having to breathe the same air as their brother are all things you can hear during a road trip. Multiply that by however many kids you have and miles you are traveling and it can call get overwhelming and stressful pretty quick. I am sweating just thinking back to those times!
I am here to help minimize all of that as much as possible! Due to the nature of my husbands job and other life commitments, I spend a majority of the summer and school breaks traveling with my 3 children solo, that’s right, sans another adult to help referee and attend to every child’s need while the other drives. In the beginning, I just had to mentally prepare myself for a very long day and then man up and get it done. However, now that I have been doing this trek for several years, I have accumulated tons of wonderful ideas, tricks and tips to help our long drives go smoothly and would love to share them with you!
This is pretty much how we start every road trip. Kids are content and I am feeling like I will conquer the world!
Tip #1 Pack a snack bag for each kid
My kids are hungry and thirsty as soon as we leave our driveway, no matter how long it has been since their last meal. Packing a snack bag for each kid to have as soon as we get in the car is key to starting each trip off on the right foot. We currently live in Arizona and all of our family lives in California so our normal road trips are about 7 hours. With this in mind, each of my 3 kiddos gets a gallon sized Ziploc bag that I fill with drinks and food to munch on.
I do something similar to what Fun Cheap or Free did. Write your child’s name on their bag and fill it with items that that specific child enjoys. I make two for each kid, so they have a bag for each leg of the trip (there and back). This usually keeps my kids’ tummies satisfied for the trip and I do not usually have to stop for food along the way. Don’t forget to make one for yourself too! If you get hungry and need to stop then your kiddos are going to want something too. Also, for me anyway, snacks help keep me awake and alert when the drive becomes mundane along the vast desert.
Tip #2 Be prepared for potty breaks
I have friends that think I am crazy/genius for doing this. But, I have major germ issues. Public restrooms are my biggest trigger. I, as an adult can maneuver these disgusting places with minimal contact. My kids (speaking mostly of my 4yr old boy) love to man handle the toilets and take all of their clothes off and drop them on the floor. Add in traveling with a smaller child that maybe can’t walk yet are loves to lick everything they see and my anxiety is thru the roof and my day is ruined. Moral of the story, I try to avoid public restrooms with my kids as much as possible. To do this, I travel with a small kids potty. I use this one:
It is made by Fisher Price can be found at any major retailer. It is small enough to be able to just throw it on the floor of the car or in your trunk space, but it is sturdy enough that I even use it. Yup you heard me right. This Mama needs potty breaks too and it is so hard with 3 kids to do that. So when nature calls I will use it as well. It is also convenient because as I mentioned earlier, majority of our drive is just open desert and the rest stops are few and far between. Using something like this makes pulling over to side of the road and going a lot easier.
There are also great travel potty’s like this one that you can find on Amazon.
Tip #3 Have a set of spare clothing not packed in a suitcase for each child
This tip goes along with tip #2….sort of. And it is especially helpful when your children are younger. Because things happen, and when you’re traveling solo with kids things ALWAYS seem to happen. So, I like to make sure I have things ready and easily available. Someone always seems to have a blow out diaper, or starts to go just before hitting the toilet, or spills a drink on themselves and then all hell breaks loose. Having an extra pair of underwear and clothing makes these catastrophes a little easier to manage.
Tip #4 Entertainment
I am using the word “entertainment” as a broad term here. I have 3 kids and their interests vary and continue to change depending on the day really. And depending on the amount of items that we need to pack, space can limited in the car. I allow each kid to pack a small child sized back pack with items to keep them entertained. This usually includes crayons and paper, mini figures, dolls and or Legos (just to name a few).
This example here is a great depiction of one of my kiddos bags:
I also LOVE this idea for traveling with Legos, which I usually try to avoid at all costs because pieces get lost so easily when you’re on the go. We recently lost a sandal during a potty break and that is a pretty large object compared to a Lego Minifigure hand or something.
Also, depending on space and how much you packed for your trip, having a backpack for each kid helps to keep the clutter in your car to a minimum. My kids are much happier when they have space to move their arms and feet and not having to climb over stuff or dodge a suitcase sliding towards their heads.
Tip #5 Electronics/Media can be your friend!
Please don’t send me to the witching post for saying that. I know, I know, I know! Screen time is of the devil and kids should be just as entertained by a great book and good conversation. But……..kids can also turn into crazy little monsters when they are confined to small spaces. Not that I would know. We are actually lucky enough to have the convenience of a DVD player installed in our car. I think movies are a great way to entertain kids for a little while and break up the monotony of the same scenery for an extended period of time. Not too mention, sometimes they help the little guys fall asleep and everyone knows that a sleeping child is the best travel buddy! An iPad or other tablet device can also serve the same purpose. Sometimes those can cause fights if there is not enough to go around. Sharing because 10x harder on road trips for some reason. But if you have a system to handle that and it works for you then for sure use it!
#6 (because I like even numbers) Some things may not go as planned and that’s OK!
The last time at flew with my 3 kiddos solo was over Christmas last year. I was not stressed about the actual flight or my kids not behaving I knew I could handle those things. So I planned and prepared the best I could because I was stressed about going thru security and a large airport (with no stroller) by myself. The unknown are always the most stressful. I just didn’t want to have to get double checked or pat down by TSA or heaven forbid, lose a kid in the airport.
Guess what happened?! The first leg of the trip I got the pat down by TSA and my luggage was all opened and everything removed all while 2/3 of my kids screamed because they didn’t know what was happening and I couldn’t hold or console them since I was getting the pat down.
Then after that disaster we headed for the escalator and guess what?!
NONE of my kids knew how to ride one! Haha! I had one kid fall backwards and was heading up while lying head down on the steps so I grabbed my toddler and jumped on after him leaving my 3yr old by himself at the bottom. A nice stranger kindly grabbed my sons bag and helped my child to the top adding “Wow and you’re trip is just beginning?! Good luck!” Yup. And then on the way home….bags checked again. I mean seriously one of my biggest concerns totally manifested itself. But guess what?! We all survived, my kids had a blast, and I would totally do it again. I would however, have a little more knowledge and hopefully avoid what happened last time.
This was after the first fiasco and we boarded the plane. See?! Kids are happy as can be that we survived the airport! Ok, they are excited for the trip and I was ecstatic that we survived the airport.
Moral of the story……you can do it! Whether you follow these tips or not you can do it! I just created some tips to help make things run smoother. You don’t need me though, you are capable enough all on your own!
Now get up and go somewhere! Happy and Safe travels.