Preparing for this year’s summer vacation had me completely overwhelmed. How were we going to drive with a 3, 5 and 7 year old from New Jersey to Disney World in Orlando, Florida? We truly value family time, but could we really survive 18 hours together in a car during the heat of the summer? With all three children still in car seats, our three year old recently potty trained, and sibling bickering at an all-time high, I knew I had to have a solid plan for this road trip. Guess what? The plan worked! Our trip was a success and we can’t wait to do it all over again! We were stress free, happy and enjoyed every minute of our journey to and from Florida.
Here Are 5 Tips That Will Help You Plan Your Next Family Road Trip:
Leave In The Middle Of The Night And Have A Loose Schedule To Follow In The Car.
We all went to bed at 7pm the night before, and woke them up to go to the bathroom and get in the car in their pajamas at 3:00am. We had a no talking “quiet time” rule until 8:00am, when we stopped for breakfast. This allowed them to go back to sleep if they needed to, yet they had enough sleep that they weren’t having meltdowns if they couldn’t get back to sleep. After breakfast, they changed into clothes for the day. We played with a few new toys I had purchased like Magnadoodle, brain teasers, books with read aloud and animal sound buttons on them, Aquadoodle, connect the dots, hidden pictures, Where’s Waldo books, Eye Spy books, invisible ink books, play-doh on lap desks, magnetic letters and animals in tin lunchboxes, and more. We ate a pre-packed lunch in the car around 12:00 noon and then had quiet time again. If they napped/stayed quiet, they were able to watch a movie upon waking. This gave them a short amount of rest to keep meltdowns to a minimum. We watched one Disney movie, and we realized by then it had already been 12 hours of traveling under our belt!
Pack A Backpack Of Snacks For Each Child.
I packed a backpack of snacks for each child to have hanging from the headrest in front of their seat. After our initial quiet time, they were free to eat whatever, whenever they wanted to for the remainder of the trip. The rule was: once it was eaten, that was it. This was HUGE for my children. On a daily basis, we limit sweets, control their snacks so they are very balanced, etc. I packed a large variety of foods in their backpacks so they had choices of what to snack on and could independently make food choices. I filled zip lock bags with grapes, apples, a clementine, crackers, chips, a small cup of hummus, trail mix with a few chocolate chips, lollipops, water, a juice box, organic “fruit by the foot”, and a few cookies. I was sure to have some healthy snacks in there, but also bought snack foods I normally would not purchase as snacks for my children. They spent a large portion of time looking through their snack bags and sharing with their siblings their findings!
Get A Car Potty For Emergencies.
They make foldable toddler potties with special padded, disposable bags for the inside. This way there is no mess after someone has gone to the bathroom. These can be expensive. We found a plastic shopping bag works fine with a diaper in the bottom of it for absorption. We had a ton of diapers left over from before our youngest was potty trained, so this worked great for us.
When we stopped for gas or coffee, we made everyone try to use the bathroom. This limited the number of times we had to stop, as well as the potty emergencies with young children on the side of the road!
Rent Picture Books On CD From The Library.
These were perfect when we needed a transition to a new activity in the car, or needed to bring the energy down. I read some Choose Your Own Adventure books to the kids, which were a lot of fun. However, at a certain point of the trip, our kids were tired of hearing my voice. A few times each way, we listened to a book on cd and I held up the coordinating picture book for them to see while we listened to the story together. They were begging for more! Good thing I rented 10 of them!
Save Electronics For The End When You May Really Need Them.
My children were so excited for the independence that came with the snacks and new games that they never asked once to watch a movie. We never used the IPad for the car ride down, which we didn’t expect would be the case. When bickering began and kids started to get stir a few new ones for the trip to have on hand and, once again, gave them choice of what to watch.
I hope these tips help you as you embark on your summer travels! As you can see, the road trip I was so worried about turned out to be an amazing and relaxing experience for my family. In fact, we just asked our kids about it and they described it as “a really fun adventure!”