8 Tips For Road Trips With Small Kids And Babies #Travel #FamilyVacation

Once or twice a year, my husband and I like to pack up our kids and head out on the open road.  We've been coast to coast via our trusty mini-van, having done a trip to BC with the Little Miss who was a toddler at the time, and out to Moncton before Christmas, when the Little Man was just 6 weeks old (yup, call us crazy!)

I've done everything from bum changes and breastfeeding at service stations and rest stops, to cleaning up projectile vomit on the side of the highway.  Anyone who travels with kids knows that no matter what your vehicle of choice is, it's not going to be a super fun time ALL the time!  However, coming from experience, I can tell you that there are some things you can do to make the ride go much smoother.  


1.  Pack Smart
Every parent is going to have the urge to over-pack when it comes to taking small children and especially infants somewhere.  Ask yourself what you need, and what you would consider an "extra" that would be nice to have.  Take the necessities (clothes, diapers, baby blankets, playpen), but limit the extras (bouncy seats, exersaucers.)  ALWAYS pack a small bag of necessities for hotel over-nights.  This makes getting out of the car and into your hotel late at night much easier!  I always have a backpack ready to grab that includes PJs for both kids, the stuffies they sleep with, a change of clothes, diapers, wipes and a sippy cup for the little man.  That way when we get to our stop for the night, all I have to do is grab their bag and mine and we're ready to park until morning.  No rummaging through suitcases for anything! 

2.  Organize Snacks
Take food for the kids, if for nothing more than to keep them busy!  I like to pack a lunch box for each child that has sandwiches, bite sized crackers, cut up fruit, cheese strings, and a water bottle.  Stay away from anything that requires a spoon, unless you want to be cleaning car seats at your next stop.  Also, if you give your kids juice boxes, consider something like the No Squeeze juice box holder, to prevent any spills!  I hate nothing more than open boxes and bags of snacks laying around all over the car.  It gets messy and cluttered and disorganized and (clearly you can see how much I really hate this!) so tupperware containers are my best friend.  Nothing will get crunched or squashed, and it's easy to tuck them under your seat, out of the way.

3.  Things To Do 
You can't rely on the old portable DVD player all the time.  It's not great for motion sickness, plus it doesn't encourage enjoying the scenery!  That said, little ones are often too young for games.  I always make a stop at the Dollar Store prior to leaving and buy a bunch of small, portable activities for the car that the kids don't know about.  When they start to get whiny, pull out one item at a time. -- And space it out!  Try things like water pen activity books (mess free!), small plastic play animals, hot wheels cars, sticker books, magnet boards, etc.  I have seen portable lap trays at the Dollar Store too, these would be fantastic for kids in the car.  A set of child safe headphones is fantastic for when you do get fed up and want to throw on an episode of  Diego - Keep the kids and yourself happy!  For games that are simple for young children, try Eye Spy, or depending on where you're driving, do an "Animal Checklist" so kids can watch for certain wildlife out the window! 

4.  Wear The Kids Out
If you're stopping for a bathroom break, find a place to run for even 10 minutes!  It will make a world of difference in the temperament of your kids.  Play tag on an area of grass somewhere - just get some fresh air and keep moving for as long as you can manage.  Hopefully they'll fall asleep during the next leg of your journey.

5.  Sleep Time
If you plan on driving late into the night, do your best to follow a "bed time routine" whether you're in the car or not.  When you stop for the bathroom, wash hands and wipe faces, then change your kids into their PJs and buckle them in to their seats.  Give them their favourite blankets, their stuffed animals or whatever they need to get comfortable.  This will help set the tone that it's time for rest, and car seat or not they should be able to sleep.  (Now you can crack open the bags of candy and chocolate!!!)

6.  Clean Ups & Diaper Changes
There are a few things you MUST have on hand in the vehicle at all times.  Wipes (no matter how old your kids are) come in super handy for everything from wiping hands and faces, to wiping car surfaces.  Hand sanitizer is helpful, because some public bathrooms are either without soap completely, or just gross.  One can never be too clean!  I always buy Unscented so the smell of it doesn't overwhelm everyone in the vehicle.  A stack of wet facecloths can be good, kept in a Ziplock bag in case of spills or (Heaven forbid) vomit.  A few small dry towels are great for this as well.  Also, not all bathrooms have change tables, so you may find yourself changing a diaper or two on the passenger seat of your car.  Keep a couple of diapers, a small case of wipes and a change pad in the pocket of the side door for this purpose.  It will make changes on-the-go that much easier, and even if there ARE change tables available, sometimes this is just faster and the better way to go.  

7.  Infant Feeding
Both Breastfeeding and Bottle feeding can be tricky on road trips.  I have done both.  When breastfeeding, I was able to nurse my son every time we stopped for gas.  It worked out to roughly every couple of hours, so after my husband would fill up, we'd pull around to the side of the gas station and I'd get the little man out, and nurse him in the Passenger side while my husband would take the dog out for water and so on.  I had a few weird looks, but those are easy to ignore!  For bottle feeding I found the answer was to keep a thermos of hot water ready to go, and powdered formula in a 3 portion dispenser which I had already measured out.  That way I could mix bottles even while my husband was driving and Little Man (who was 10 months old) was able to hold and drink it himself, in his car seat.  When you stop, take a minute to refill your hot water and formula dispenser if there is an opportunity to do so. 

8.  Laugh It Up
This is probably my number 1 tip -- Learn to laugh!  I remember being somewhere along the highway and hearing a little voice saying "Mommy, I too hot..." only to turn around in time for one of the worst projectile pukes I had EVER witnessed - coming from my 2 year old daughter.  It was like something out of a horror film!  She was in tears afterward, and as we were hauling her out of the vehicle as safely as possible (on the shoulder as there was no where to pull in for miles) I was on the verge of big fat tears myself.  There I was, stripping her down and trying to calm her while my husband was frantically rummaging through the trunk for a change of clothes - this was prior to my "pack a separate backpack" plan - I took a deep breath, looked around as an "outsider" at the chaos that was happening before me and completely cracked up!  You have to go with the flow, keep stress at a minimum and when the going gets tough, you absolutely HAVE to find some humour in it.  This will save your sanity, and it might even save your vacation.  ;)

What are some of your top tips when on the road with kids?  

Happy Travels!