Summer's here and it's a perfect time of year to pack up the car for a cross-country tour or for a ride to a nearby vacation destination. When traveling by car with young children, the greatest challenges are managing the amount of gear that you have to pack and determining what activities will keep your children busy in a confined space.
As moms, we've all experienced the day to day challenges of packing up the car and ensuring we are equipped to handle any situation that presents itself while we are away from home. Think of your road trips as an extension of what you do with your children each day. Take advantage of your experience and insight to simplify your packing and planning. Pack the basics, throw in a few surprises and of course, plan for the unexpected.
The best advice for new moms and especially for moms with multiple children is to stick to what you know and talk to other mothers about what might have worked well for them when they traveled to your chosen destination. We have some recommendations that might make the experience more enjoyable for the family.
Minimize the baby equipment and accessories required for your trip by calling hotels to determine if you need a portable crib or if you can rent a crib. Also, check resources at your destination to determine if you can rent baby equipment such as bouncers, baby bathtubs or strollers.
For moms with infants, we recommend packing lullaby CDs, blankets from baby's crib, disposable bibs, bottles with plastic inserts so you can reuse the bottles and change the nipple and a mirror for the back seat with lights, music and activities to keep baby entertained. Purchase an AC adapter for the car so you can pump or use a bottle warmer inside the car. That way, you won't have to worry about finding a gas station with a mini mart to prepare your baby's meals. A great way to keep baby on schedule during a relatively short road trip is to drive at night. Baby can sleep and you and your significant other can enjoy the opportunity to talk and laugh without the distractions you would have at home.
If you are traveling with toddlers, pack a portable DVD player, coloring books and lap pads with zipper pouches for crayons and basic art supplies, magnetic activity boards, clear marker reveal books and your child's favorite books from home. Keep your child engaged and happy by purchasing a few one dollar toy surprises such as flashcards or sticker books and introduce these new toys or activities during different points along the way.
Food options along highways and interstates are predictable. Avoid fast food outlets as these restaurants have limited healthy menu options for you and your family. Instead, pack a soft cooler for the backseat and stock it with snacks such as fruit, graham crackers and pretzels. You can also pack lunches in brown paper bags and include a small toy surprise. If you are in the middle of potty training, consider packing juice or milk boxes so you can monitor how much liquid your child is consuming.
Our recommended car essentials are baby wipes, water and plastic bags for garbage or soiled outfits. Other must have items include a cell phone, a first aid kit, a flashlight and a diaper bag or small duffle bag with a change of clothes for your child so you don't have to unpack the car
or suitcases if you spend the night at a hotel.
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