August 7, 2012

a smooth road trip with a little kid

A few weeks ago Travis, L, Resa, and I left the boys at Grandma's and drove to Nashville for my friend's profession of final vows with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.  The 7 hour drive was done in a little over 8 hours each way and it was really, really smooth.  

Before we left I did some research into travel tips for toddlers and I'm so glad I did.  We don't have a dvd player in our car and there was absolutely no screen time in the car.  I thought I'd share the ideas that worked for me in case they come in handy for anyone else in the future.

#1 Leave the ornery ones with Grandma.
She fell asleep with her arm propped up like that multiple times.
Okay, this one is partially a joke, but I do want to acknowledge that 4 year old L and 2 month old Resa are both really happy, easy kids.  Not having super active Ben and tends-to-whine JF made the trip easier.

#2  Activity Binder

L picked out a cheap binder and then, without her seeing, I filled it with the following:
- A map showing our route.  I printed it off Google Maps, cut it down to size, and inserted it in the front of the binder.
- A pencil case that had markers, crayons, and a pen.
- Blank paper for her to draw and write on.
- Stickers
Except for the binder we already had these things in the house, I just had to collect them and package them in the new binder and they were then special.

#3 Scavenger Hunt
Mom's Minivan has a great scavenger hunt you can print for free.  It has a words and pictures so it doesn't matter if your kid can read or not.  I still had to help L with it until she got the hang of it but once she did she would proudly check things off on her own.  I printed off two, one for each way.

#4 Packages to open
This was another tip I found online.  Have a series of gifts to hand out as needed.  The gifts don't need to be new - part of the fun is just opening a present for Pete's sake!  The gifts I used were:

- Pipe cleaners.  This one was suggested on several sites but was a complete dud for L.  I tried to get her to make jewelry and different shapes out of them but she wasn't interested.

- Snack necklace kit.  Around the time of her afternoon snack I gave her a bag with a shoelace, chocolate covered pretzels, fruit loops, and fudge striped cookies (they are shaped like 'O's).  She strung everything together, finished in time for snacks, and munched away happily.  I gave her this gift on the way down and the way home and she loved it both times

- Glow sticks.  This was the best gift of the bunch.  I waited until the sun was setting to give them to her and she had a blast forming them into halos, bracelets, and whatnot.  The glow sticks kept her happy for over an hour - I think the darker it got the neater they were so she didn't tire of them too soon.
L's "loop-dee-loop"

- Some I Spy books.  L already owned them but hadn't looked at them in a long time.  The beauty of the I Spy book is that she just has to match pictures, though I did also read them to her, too.

- A rosary.  This way we prayed the rosary as a family, asking for safe travels.  L even led some of the decades.

These few little tricks made our drive so nice.  Our trip was quick - down on Tuesday and home on Wednesday - but we were able to do it peacefully and happily.  I hope some of these ideas will help someone else!

Sister and L


  1. We had to drive from CA to PA 4 years ago. It didn't go as smoothly but it wasn't completely horrible in my opinion maybe in husbands it was though lol. Anyway we had no DVD players either. The glow sticks would have come in handy. I do remember telling them every nursery rhyme I know. I must have told the 3 little pigs 100 times.

  2. Such a good mom. Much better than I am, for sure.

  3. This makes me excited to have a preschooler in a few years!