Sunday, May 25, 2008

Car Trips With Kids

What to write, what to write?
Well, a friend asked me for advice on taking young kids on long car trips. I replied, and then decided to repost it here.

What do you do to make long car trips tolerable with kids?

It seems to me that the key to traveling with very small children is timing. Timing, breaks and supplies. Try to structure the trip to maximize potential sleepy-times: be sure that whenever a nap is likely everyone is fed, pottied/diapered and the car is gassed up. That way you can drive as long as they sleep without interrupting them. When they are awake, take pretty frequent breaks so they can stretch and move about outside of the carseat. Help them have fun and burn off some energy at this time.

We have never had in-car movies, so we've never used them to entertain on a car trip. I hear they are the bee's knees, though! I'd be tempted to go forward facing, too. If you do, just be sure he's in the middle of the back seat. You can always turn him rear-facing again after the trip. (I tend to go longer rearfacing than most people, as I go by the carseat's weight/height limits rather than by age. Sweetcheeks is still rearfacing!)

Have a bag full of books and toys that he can play with while strapped into his seat, including a couple cool things that are new to him. You'll know what toys are likely to hold his attention. Keep the bag up where you are, so you can easily reach in and hand something new to him when he tires of what he has. (At each break, collect all the discarded toys back into the bag to replenish your supply.) You should also pack plenty of snacks- don't rely on stopping for food alone, because the timing might not be right. Try to stick with wholesome stuff- sugar and artificial ingredients can cause hyperactivity and mood swings. Fruit, cheese, crackers, etc. Pack something with protein, too- grahm crackers spread with peanut butter, for instance, or chicken salad. Drink way more water than juice. Bring tons of wet wipes. Plan to wash the car seat's cover at the end of the trip.

Have a selection of music on hand that he enjoys, if that might help, or story CDs checked out from the library. And despite everything, do be prepared for rough traveling sometimes. Just do your best, pack some Bach's Rescue Remedy for your nerves, and have a nice drink when you arrive at your destination. :)

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