Roadtrip Tips for Traveling with Little Ones

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We recently returned from an all-girls road trip to Nashville, Tennessee. This has been a tradition ever since I was a little girl. My mom would take me and her mom to little places all within driving distance for a long weekend, just us girls. We would go to craft shows or Colonial Williamsburg or Plymouth Rock, somewhere cute and adventurous, but easy enough to handle in just a few days. Even though this tradition started when I was only four or five years old, I still have memories stored away from those trips, and my mom and I hope to keep those memories going with my girls.

My husband took his youth group on a mission trip to Nashville last week, and being that Nashville has been a bucket-list destination for me, I just had to tag along. My mom, the girls, and I left a few days after the youth group and were able to meet up with them a few times throughout the week so me and the girls could get our Dave-fix. We couldn’t believe how well the whole trip worked out, especially with a 5-year-old and 8-month-old in tow. If you are looking into traveling a long ways with little ones anytime soon, here are a few of my tips that worked for us:

Tip #1: Start packing early

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I started the packing process about a week before we left for Nashville. I wrote a list of necessities for me, my 5-year-old, and my 8-month-old. As the week went on, I was able to see the things we use day-to-day and add them to my list. Because we were driving, our packing options were not as strict as airplane travel, but we still couldn’t bring everything under the sun. My mom has a bad shoulder and I needed to be able to pack and unpack the car by myself. The day before we left, I edited our list a little bit and unpacked the extra things we really didn’t need or things we could buy along the way, to make for a lighter load.

Tip #2: Take your time

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While some people opt for driving through the night while their children sleep in the car, I knew my 5-year-old and mother would NOT fall asleep in the car, no matter what time of the day it was. We had to drive during the day, and we had to change our mindset from ploughing through and making great time, to going slow and being okay with frequent stops. For every two hours of driving, we figured in an hour break. I know this sounds like a lot, but at the end of the first day, we had driven 8 hours over a 12-hour span, so it ended up being very accurate. Thank God for our cell phones nowadays. Whenever we were feeling the need to get out and stretch our legs, we could look up the nearest rest stop, park, restaurant, or tourist attraction. It’s pretty amazing compared to when we were little and all we had was a folded up map.

Tip #3: Keep an Organized System in your Car

We used one of these Thirty-One bags to keep on the floor behind the baby’s carseat as the hub for all of our travel must-haves. Only things we knew we would need during the car ride were kept in this spot: snacks, bottles, formula, wipes, a roll of paper towels, some toys for the baby and coloring supplies for Riley, DVDs, and toilet paper in case of emergencies. We also had a soft mini cooler like this one on the floor in the back and filled it with drinks and juice boxes for the trip.

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Your car is bound to get disgusting when traveling that far with kids, but every time we stopped, we would empty out all the trash and try to re-organize as best we could. When we stopped overnight in West Virginia, I took everything out, cleaned, and repacked for the day ahead- making any bottles we would be using and anticipating snacks and juice boxes and having them ready for an easy grab.

Tip #4: Anticipate the whining and plan ahead.

I knew we would be doing a bit of walking once we got to Nashville. While my 5-year-old thinks she likes to walk, she really doesn’t. She gets tired and hot after about six steps. Right before our trip, we invested in this “skateboard,” as Riley calls it, to attach to our stroller.  It’s really called the Uppa Baby Vista Piggy Back, and it saved our lives. We did not see the temperature go below 90 degrees during our week in Nashville. It was SOOOO hot! If it weren’t for this piggyback, we would still be trying to haul these two girls around the city. Such a smart investment for this trip. And yes, that is my daughter in Belle high heels.

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So think about the things that your children whine about, and bring solutions for the problems so no one gets annoyed. I know Riley has a hard time getting comfortable in her booster seat in the car, so we brought pillows and a blanket and guess what? Not one whine the entire 24 hour round-trip ride! My mom also downloaded some fun songs for her to sing along with during the drive and these really helped distract the baby as well.

Tip #5: Buy a new toy or game and whip it out during your trip.

There’s nothing like a new toy to buy you some quiet time in the car. I packed a few toys Logan hadn’t played with in awhile (so they seemed new to her) and got Riley a travel drawing pad and crayons to doodle on.  She recently got a new doll that she brought along as well and I swear she quietly played with her for at least an hour.  When they get tired of entertaining themselves, watching a movie or two really helps the time go by.

Tip #6: Include some kid-friendly activities in your itinerary.

Nashville is a fun city, full of trendy coffee shops and shopping and honky tonks. I literally was happy to sit in a coffee shop all morning, shop a bit during the day, and go out to dinner at night. With these two however, we had to get a bit more creative. We stayed at a beautiful AirBnB while we were there, so Logan could take long naps in the hot afternoon and Riley could happily play with her toys in the air conditioning. It was great to have a whole hot to spread out in and it allowed the girls to sleep great without waking each other up.

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When we weren’t at our house, we really couldn’t lug these two around in that heat. I’m telling you, it was disgustingly hot. So one day we found this cute little splash pad by the river. When we got there, we realized it was closed for the holiday (Independence Day). Luckily, there was another one by the capital building, and we hung there all morning. It was the first time we were outside and actually comfortable. It was glorious. We also found an Aquarium Restaurant by the Grand Ole Opry that helped entertain the girls while we ate dinner.  Things I probably wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t traveling with kids, but turned out to be a lot of fun.

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Tip #7: Go easy on yourself, and them.

You’re not going to get everything done. You might not see every single thing you originally planned. And guess what? Sometimes your kids (or you) might get a little cranky. But keeping your eye on the reason for your trip: to make memories and enjoy each other’s company, will really help to ease the stress that can come along with traveling with kids. Let some things go, cut yourself a break, and allow yourself to relax a bit into your vacation. Your calm demeanor will rub off on your kids, and everyone will have a better time if you can stay unstressed.

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If you are traveling this summer, or at some point in the future, I hope these tips serve to ease some of your worries. Comment below with where you plan on traveling this year! Maybe you’ll inspire our next girl’s trip adventure!

 

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