This time last year, we started our 14 hour road trip to a family wedding with our sons who were 3.5 years old, 2 years old, and three months old at the time. Every time we've done it, this 14 hour road trip ends up taking us more like 18+ hours but each trip has been relatively smooth.
Here's what helps us survive (and even enjoy) a multi-day road trip with young children:
The month beforehand, I start saving little toys and books that the boys will be excited about on the drive: $1 sunglasses, small CAT construction trucks, sticky notes (they just pull them apart and stick them on themselves and their carseats). I pass toys back to them through out the trip and it keeps them occupied for a while.
We always pack a couple library books on our trips. The hit last year was this book about Star Wars. All of the illustrations are made out of yarn! Our son had been asking a lot of questions about Star Wars and the book told the story of Star Wars without getting into much detail at all.
Rest stops are our favorite. Sometimes there is one side of the parking lot that is dedicated to semi-trucks so the boys are content watching trucks pull in and out while we change diapers and I nurse the baby.
Rest stop logistics: For us, it is easier if we stay in the car for diaper changes and nursing sessions. We keep a little bin of diapers, wipes and a change of clothes for each boy in the van.
At each stop, while I nurse the baby in the front seat, my husband, Matt, takes the oldest to the restroom and then comes back and changes diapers. Then, I run into the restroom while he changes the baby and we are on our way again! (If you try this, make sure you throw all the diapers away at the rest-stop for obvious reasons.)
We pack Lunchables that we eat at a rest stop. They even make fancy meat and cheese-type Lunchables for adults now. The novelty is fun and is more exciting than our regular PBJ but less expensive than all of us eating out.
We stay overnight in a hotel at the halfway point because like I said, somehow a 14 hour trip is more like 18 hours long. We stay in the same hotel coming and going so we know exactly what to expect.
We request a ground-level hotel room or a second-floor room above the common space because when our boys get out of the van after a long drive, all they want to do is run and jump everywhere. Knowing that there isn't someone trying to sleep below us brings me peace of mind.
Hotel-hack: we pack one overnight bag (total) for everyone! This is a game-changer.
We still pack suitcases for the rest of the trip, but before we leave home, I move everything we will need for the one night in the hotel room (pajamas, clothes for the next day, toiletry items, diapers and wipes) into one bag.
Then, Matt doesn't have to be the family pack mule, bringing every last bag into our hotel room only to lug it all out again the next day. Then, before we leave to come home, I do the same which is helpful because our bags are always a disaster by the time we are coming home anyway.
Last but not least, we have goals and expectations about when we will leave our house to begin the road trip and when we will arrive to our location for the night but it is our plans are flexible.
We almost always leave our house later than we expect and we always have to pull over more than we think we will but we try to make the most of it. All that being said, we have found the best libraries, rest stops and museums to pull off at that we never would have found otherwise (shout out to the Clive Public Library in Clive, Iowa)!
Do you have any tips for road-tripping with young children? Comment below! We can use all of the help we can get.
I'm linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes. Click the link to read more 7 Quick Takes.
Happy Friday! Thanks for reading.