Planning a long car trip with the family for your vacation this year? Good for you!
Traveling with small children can be stressful, but the pros of family togetherness far outweigh the cons of having your little one(s)along.
Remember that they don’t like to sit still for long periods of time. Use your knowledge of what they like and what makes them happy, and don’t forget that they’re little, so don't expect them to be perfect passengers, sitting silently and enjoying the view!
Try to let them run off steam whenever possible. Even if they get cranky and fussy, keep your cool and call upon this bag of tricks to help ease the situation and calm them.
Here are some tips: (these can apply on planes, trains, buses, or cars):
- Talk to them in advance. Talking about safety rules will reinforce the importance of buckling-up and the need to let the driver focus on the road, or staying seated. in the stroller on a train or bus. Talk to your child about how in the car, bus, or train there are rules different than in the house or at the park. We stay seated, listen, play with our toys, and look forward to getting to where we are going. Be sure to give your child positive praise to help reinforce their good behavior by saying things like "It makes me so happy when you sit nicely!"
- Stay as close as possible to their normal routine. Although it might be difficult, try to make sure your toddler's meal and sleeping times remain consistent. For long trips, travel late at night or very early in the morning to take advantage of the time they are normally sleeping.
- Let them release some energy. If possible, stop every two hours or so and let them walk around. Play areas are great for blowing off some steam, as long as you pay close attention to moving vehicles. Stop at family-friendly restaurants. Even on short trips, like if you are going to the doctor's office, try and get there early so there are a few minutes to let your child play or run around so that they aren’t cranky.
- Don’t be a road warrior. If your trip is a couple thousand miles, consider splitting it up into several days rather than trying to make it all at once, spending the night. It will take longer, but be much easier on everyone’s nerves.
- Pack a 'travel bag.' Let your child carry some special items to be used only in the car, such as music CD's, a picture book, and a special toy (that is quiet and not annoying to the driver or other passengers).
- Carry drinks and snacks. Bring drinks and snacks that won't spill or make a mess, such as juice boxes or sippy cups, rice cakes, bagels, cereal, granola bars, crackers, apple slices, grapes, or pretzels.
- Keep a supply of "emergency" items in the car. Have wet wipes, diapers, extra clothing, band-aids, bottled water, and anything else you think you might need. If you are traveling by car, you should also bring a flashlight and lightweight blanket in case of a breakdown.
- Breathe, relax and keep your cool. Remember safety first!