When I made the conscious choice to make Birmingham my new home, I made it with one main thought in my mind: It’s close enough to drive back to my first home. This is what I’ve been doing for every major holiday (or whenever I feel like it) for the last ten or so years, but about eight years ago, things changed a bit. Suddenly, I had this tiny little passenger that not only made me drive about ten miles per hour slower but also created a myriad of new travel issues I hadn’t ever faced before in all of my non-parent glory. I honestly can’t speak much of how we survived those first few trips years ago, but I have learned a trick or two over the years (and added a second kid) that has made our travel with the littles a lot easier, and saved my sanity more than once.
A Holiday Travel Guide :: Staying Sane While on the Road with Kids
Know your route and plan your stops.
Never wing it when it comes to road travel with kids. It’s important to know what’s ahead of you, where you can eat, get gas for the car, and stop without the fear of entering the movie set for Deliverance. Take a quick glance at your maps route to see if there’s anywhere you may want to stop — even if it’s just to see the World’s Largest Rubberband Ball or something like that. You’ll be thankful you aren’t completely in the dark when your family is hungry, antsy from sitting, or has to pee for the umpteenth time.
Speaking of bathroom breaks, a travel potty will be your best friend.
I have two girls, so bathroom breaks are borderline annoyingly frequent. It’s not always feasible to find the closest restroom that my mom-standards approve of for the precious golden behinds of my girls, so we always travel with a small foldable potty in the car for when a stop needs to happen, and it needs to happen now. I really like this one because it folds up for easy storage and is an easy cleanup with these disposable potty bags.
Here is some food for thought on food in the car.
If you’re traveling longer than an hour, more than likely you will need to feed. I like to travel with a “snack bag” that has individually packaged things that won’t permanently ruin what I was told are “unruinable” all-weather car mats. Pick your battles with this one — chips and cheddar puffs may be crumb-city, but they are also easy to vacuum up when the time comes. For larger meals, the two routes you can go are to pack a lunch of your own food from home, or to make the food stop on the road. When choosing the latter, a great way to organize the nuggets, fries, and sauces is to invest a dollar into these compartment baskets to hold everything from drinks to fruit cups without the mess. Put on a movie, park in the lot, and enjoy a moment of silence while they stuff their faces.
Screens, screens, screens . . .
Whatever your policy on screen time, now is not the time to be a hero. If you’re like me, and you’re traveling in a pre-entertainment package era of vehicles, a headrest car DVD player can be your best travel friends. We have this one, and so far it’s been a gem. It’s a decent-sized screen, has a dual “companion” screen for each kid, has a decent volume level, and just plain works. We keep our DVDs easily accessible with an old-school CD case, which makes changing out the movie a breeze for my oldest on her own. If you can’t handle hearing Elmo sing about his favorite things to do at the beach one more time, a set of kid-friendly headphones can buy you some much-needed peace, while protecting the little eardrums of your angels.
Feel the power.
Everything is rechargeable these days, but even the best lithium batteries are bound to die on longer trips. When you are faced with four or five devices requiring a car plug, but only one or two plugs to be found, hard choices have to be made. Fortunately, innovative travel experts have thought of everything, and when I found this multiple-port car charging bank, it changed my travel game. It has enough room for everything you can think of, and all plugs into just one power port in your car, saving you cord space and making it easy to stay connected and powered on.
Hey, trash happens.
From food wrappers to dirty diapers, trash is a part of car life with kids. Fortunately, there are lots of options you can go with when figuring out where to store the stink. My favorite car trash hack is to use a cereal container like this one with a simple reused grocery bag inside. It’s inexpensive, easily found, and airtight to contain whatever smells you don’t want to fill your noses until the next stop. I highly recommend changing it as often as possible, as plastic containers can absorb odors over time.
Even if holiday travel is not part of your plans this year, these tips can be applied to any time you have to spend a lengthy amount of time in the car with your kids, or even by yourself.
What’s your favorite travel hack?