I have five children. That alone should be enough to keep me from taking any long car trips, but I am a glutton for punishment. When my four sons were little, we had to go to grandma’s house and that meant driving from Seattle to Arizona. We went to family reunions in Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming. We went to Disneyland in California. Later, after my daughter was born, we continued to traipse around the West and finally made the huge move here to Florida.
I used to dream of someone inventing a soundproof glass panel that fit right behind the front row of our van. I would have been able to look back and watch the chaos, but not have to hear any of it. I also learned quickly that if all of the kids slept during a multi-day trip, they would be bouncing off the motel walls when we finally stopped for the night. With our large family, we found that staying in a suite was cheapest and any place that had suites usually had an indoor pool. The pool was great for getting some of that energy used up before bed.
Here’s a checklist for things to take on any long car trip:
1. Food – preferably not messy, sticky, crumbly stuff. Great if put into big zipper bags for each child to have their own.
2. Drinks – water is our drink of choice (it doesn’t stain and it isn’t sticky), but too much will lead to more bathroom stops.
3. Diapers, wipes and a waterproof changing pad – you never know where you are going to have to change a little one…the pad keeps that surface safe.
4. A Small Plastic Garbage Can – we learned the hard way that you may encounter unexpected car sickness or stomach flu. Have a place for a throwing up child (or children)!
5. Jackets – Even if it’s a hot day, it will get cooler and they can use it as a pillow or blanket
6. Movies – before we bought our Suburban with the built in DVD player, we brought a laptop to play movies. The battery in a laptop is usually good for at least 2 hours of peace. It is worth it!!!
7. Hand Held Games – If not a Game-boy, then little travel games. We have mini versions of memory, yahtzee, boggle, battle ship, etc. The kids play with each other or sometimes by themselves and then trade.
8. A Roll of Quarters – Not only are these good for rewards, you can make a travel scavenger hunt. For instance, the first child to spot a cow gets a quarter.
9. Paper Towels – these are more absorbent than napkins and can be used to wipe up spills, as napkins or as “plates” to hold snacks.
10. First Aid kit – band-aids, antiseptic wipes, prescription meds, tums, and tylenol. I always try to take children’s advil/tylenol, plus headache medicine for the adults
11. Coloring books and crayons – for those who need a break from noisy activities or need to be separated from their siblings for whatever reason
12. Small pillow for the one in a car seat – Ever since a child in our community died while taking a nap in a car seat, I have been a stickler for keeping heads upright. I have an older sibling tuck the pillow under the little one’s chin so that her head doesn’t flop down.
13. Your sense of humor, a smackerel of patience and to remember that you are building memories, not perfection.