Road-tripping: Toddler style

So, we’ve done a bit of air travel with O, but have avoided car trips longer than an hour. That’s gonna change! Later this week we’re headed to Asheville, NC, and while I’m really looking forward to it (we’ve been talking about going to Asheville for…3 years?) I have to admit, I’m nervous about doing this with a kid.

I’m concerned about how much screaming a 5 and a half hour car trip will involve. On the one hand, he’s been a LOT better in the car than he was when he was an infant. (Ohmigawd, he screamed and screamed most of the time.) On the other hand – 5 and half hours in the car is a lot for ME, and I’m an adult capable of (mostly) keeping myself entertained. We’re hoping that he’ll sleep for a decent portion of the trip (we’re timing the drive to coincide with nap time) and we’re thinking that we’ll rig something so we can attach the iPad to the headrest so he can watch Caillou or a movie or something.

car nap mirror

I’m hoping to see a LOT of this.

I’m MORE concerned with sleeping arrangements once we get there. I had wanted to stay downtown – I like to be able to wake up in the morning and walk to get coffee or breakfast when I’m on vacation. I hate hotel breakfasts, and usually the coffee is terrible, so being able to find a cafe or something easily goes a long way towards starting vacation off right. But staying downtown meant staying in a hotel room. And I couldn’t wrap my brain around how O would get any sleep if we were 15 feet away trying to talk, or read, or watch something on TV. He takes a LONG time to settle before bed, and if there are ANY distractions the process can take an hour. Selfishly, I didn’t want to have to go to bed at 8, or 9 every night so my kid could get some sleep. A suite seemed like the perfect option, except the hotels didn’t have suites. So downtown was out. (Sad me.)

We found a one bedroom-suite place a little out of town that has a dedicated bedroom and even a small kitchen. We’ll be able to put him to bed and then spend some time doing whatever until WE go to bed. I think that will work nicely. I’m hoping that he’ll be so exhausted from vacationing that he’ll sleep hard at night, because typically he’ll wake up if we need to go into his room at night (you know, to retrieve a cat or something), so I’m expecting that he’ll wake when we get ready to go to sleep.  He doesn’t sleep through the night anyway, so I don’t know why the hell I’m worried about this.

Of course, all of this stress will be for nothing. I stress every time we travel. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. About where he’s going to sleep, or what kind of nightmare he’s going to be if when he doesn’t nap, about whether or not he’ll eat enough… I find ALL kinds of things to make me anxious. And then none of it matters a damn bit. Because once we get where we’re going, everything falls into place just fine. I’m trying to keep that in mind, and plan for a few possibilities, but remember that no matter what I plan for, there’s a damn good chance it won’t happen.

I would LOVE to hear your stories, and any tips you’ve picked up along the way. It helps me to know that I’m not the first person to encounter these things, and that we’ll totally get through it, and even have a great time while we’re doing it!



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19 responses to “Road-tripping: Toddler style

  1. Kelli

    I’ve been the nanny on many road trips and vacations!! My best tips would be distractions for the car – movies definitely work best – and if it makes it easier have a parent sit in the back with him.

    Also, make the hotel room seem as much like home as possible and then his schedule should stay on track. I literally tell parents to bring the kids crib linens from home and put them in the crib/pack and play at the hotel.

    • I figure there will be a parent in the back with him since he’s taken to throwing the toys we give him and then yelling for their return. Or maybe I can put everything on a little leash and hope he doesn’t strangle himself…(kidding!) We actually bought our car <i.specifically with adults-in-back in mind, so it shouldn’t be too bad. I hope.

  2. YAY ASHEVILLE! ;o) I hope it’s an awesome trip with lots of pictures. Like you said, I’m sure everything will fall into place and be fine.

  3. oh yes I have traveled with children. Many, many children. Many, many travels. Here are my suggestions. It’s nothing you don’t already know.

    ~movies. I have TWO tv’s in my car. TWO. I used to be ashamed of this gluttony until I realized they are AWESOME.
    ~snacks for the car. Bad ones. Or at least ones you wouldn’t normally have. MnM’s are magical.
    ~fun music is always good.
    ~benadryl (Haha. No, really for air travel or any elevation change, it’s particularly helpful. And for sleeping. I discovered this because I have one kid that has terrible allergies and when everyone else was freaking out he was sleeping. Benadryl. Amen.)
    ~yes, blankets and other personal things (toys are whatnot)

    Seriously, my best advice is what you already know, relax. You probably won’t be able to keep the same exact routine so don’t kill yourself trying. He won’t have his normal foods so don’t worry. He won’t starve. I swear. I was in florida for 2 weeks and all my kids are still alive. Take photos. Have fun.

    • I HATE that our car has a DVD player in it. It makes me feel like such a…I dunno. Yucky. Since the boy is still rear facing, I suspect the hubs will enjoy the DVD while he’s sitting in back with the boy, keeping him company and entertained.

      That’s a win, right?

  4. New toys that he has never seen before! STICKERS. I know they are a pain in the butt to peel off of stuff, but from the ages of around 15 months and up, stickers kept us extremely occupied on the 6 hr plane rides to NC from CA. Bring lots of paper to stick them on, let him stick them on you (if you’re in the back w/ him).
    I would load the ipod with movies/tv shows. It totally helped us on our trips.
    Snacks, snacks and more snacks. More snacks than you think you will need. Juice. I would steer clear of milk/milk-like products b/c if he should get carsick, that’s not a fun smell to have to ride with (been there, done that), BUT if you are afraid of carsickness (do you or husband have it?) I would talk to the ped. about giving him dramamine. Not sure about the ages, but it has dramatically decreased our instances of carsickness.

    Oh have fun! Ashville is a beautiful place! Enjoy!

    • You know, my kid doesn’t love stickers. But I found a book of Dora stickers that had been left at the park, so those will go into the bag-o-tricks. I don’t mind peeling them off.

      Interesting that you mention carsickness. I think O got carsick for the first time ever a few weeks ago. I’m so sick of him barfing in his carseat…GOOD CALL on the no-milk suggestion. O always has a sippy of milk since I try to get as many calories as possible into him. Water would be so much less gross. Funny how something so simple was outside my range of though.

  5. I second the STICKERS! And enjoy- there will be surprises and changes to his schedule, but that’s all part of the adventure 🙂

  6. We haven’t taken a longer than 3 hour trip since about 14 months so I am fearful about our few thousand mile road trip coming up. I am planning on stickers and some new books. Also, S is forward facing now, so I am sure he’ll sleep less, but I plan on wedging my laptop between the 2 front seats and playing movies. And stop and eat somewhere with a play area if he is awake.

    • I’ll let you know how this adventure goes. O’s attention span with TV isn’t really that great. He usually only pays attention for 5-10 minutes at a shot. I’m hoping that if he’s strapped down he’ll get engrossed. Or fall asleep. I’m good with either of those.

  7. Aah, road trips! I love ’em! Every summer we drive down to the south of France – a trip of about 12 hours. Pre-kids, we did it one delightful, coffee-fuelled day; post-kids…not so much. We did do it once in a day when Boogie was about three – all thanks to a back-of-the-seat dvd, Noddy dvds on repeat and a tube of Pringles. Yes, I’m ashamed. Since then and especially now we have two (kids, that is, not tubes of Pringles), we take two days. I have only one tip, which serves me in all situations, including having kids in general: lower your expectations. Literally, lower them till they’re on the floor and begging for relief. Imagine the horror and then get going. I generally find after this exercise, the reality is never quite as bad…

    • This is the advice I give people for interacting with the universe, “Lower your expectations. That way, when something goes right, you’re pleasantly surprised!” And yet, as a parent? I CANNOT GET THIS THROUGH MY HEAD. *Sigh*

      The south of France sounds lovely….

  8. hughtube

    Ha. I am also a big travel worrier. Especially because he’s SO active and doesn’t like road trips. That said, this July we are flying (first time) from Charleston to Chicago, renting a car and driving 3 hrs to Wisconsin, driving back to Chicago, flying to Los Angeles, then driving an hour, then back to Los Angeles and home to Charleston via Houston. In TEN days. I haven’t even blogged about it yet because I’m utterly mortified. I once gave Sominex to a cat on a road trip and may have to resort to similar desperate (but legal) measures. Have fun in Asheville – I lived there 5 years!

    • Everyone (okay, almost everyone) I’ve talked to lately has told me great things about Asheville. I plan to fall in love and then move there with my friend Ashley (from earlier in the comments). Start a parenting collective and watch the world go by. Sounds lovely, no?

      If Asheville doesn’t work out – I’ve also been hearing great things about Charleston. That’s next on my Southern Cities to Visit list.

  9. Since my oldest was 13 months old (now almost 9) we’ve been talking 13 hour car trips once or twice a year. For reals. My kids are just soooo used to it now. They’ve always been good car riders but hardly ever nappers, unfortunately. So, yeah, movies, games, toys, shade is nice too – I have tinted windows but they aren’t dark enough so sometimes we look ghetto and put a blanket up just barely through the window crack to block the sun. lots of snacks and drinks. Movies have always been the best thing for us though. You will LOVE that DVD player eventually. Have fun!

  10. Krista T

    Hello, Noobie here! Found ya from Behbehblog. 🙂 In Fall of 2009, I drove literally around the country in 7 weeks with my then-27-month-old: from CT on 80-ish to Seattle, WA, then down to San Diego, CA, then back on 10 to Houston, TX, then diagonally back up to CT – LOTS of stops EVERYWHERE (never more than 3 nights in a hotel between “stops”) with family and friends – the whole point of the trip. Oh yeah, did I mention I was alone? Hubs was deployed. 🙂

    I’m not sure how old your son is, but I’m guessing under 2. I second everyone else – lots of new things that you’re sure he’ll like. Also, you said in the comments that you’ll let go of his schedule while you’re there. That’s a good idea, but be sure to read his cues and act on them, even if the order or timing of events is off – feed on demand (request?), provide whatever comfort or downtime you can for a nap, let him stay up a little longer at night, but be sure to enforce sleeping at night when you KNOW he’s tired, and do your best to let him sleep in as late as he can in the mornings. Plenty of sleep, lots of diapers, and a perpetually full belly will help make all parts of your trip better.

    For the drive, I’ve never had anyone to be in the back with my DD, so she easily gets bored and falls asleep. You might have hubs try sitting in the back for an hour or so and playing with him, then stop for a gas or potty break and when you resume driving, keep both adults in front. He might be worn out enough by then to sleep on his own.

    Lastly, not to freak you out, but you DID mention he’s been getting carsick. If you don’t ‘know how to disassemble your carseat for washing, take the instructions with you!!

    *hugs!* Best of luck, you know it’ll be fine, YOU’LL be fine, HE’LL be fine. 🙂 Relax, enjoy the family time. 🙂

  11. Pingback: Cloth diapering on the road – will we do it? | Life V 2.0

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