So we finally took our first few road trips and all I can say is FLY IF YOU CAN!!! Lol, but seriously I do think with the young age of Kennedy, 7 months at the time, that flying is easier due to them constantly needing to be fed, burped, etc. With that being said I understand flying doesn't always make sense nor is it always in the budget. Thanks to the advice you mamas gave me when I asked coupled with what I experienced here are my tips for hitting the road with your little ones.
Mentally Prepare Yourself for Your Trip To Be Longer Than What Google Maps Says
If you have a child under 1 they are probably still nursing or on formula which means they eat every 3-4 hours. You definitely can't nurse while driving and I really don't recommend giving a bottle while driving as if you are not sitting by them they could choke and you might not even notice or it could take you too long to safely pull over and get them out of the car seat. If you are early in potty training you will also have to make a lot of pit stops for bathroom breaks.
Time Your Departure
If you can, start your journey around nap time or bed time. This way your baby or toddler will be asleep for most if not all of your drive (very peaceful car ride).
If there are two adults taking the trip, have one sit in the back so you can easily assist the kids in anything you need. My friend and I drove to Tampa for a wedding (4hr drive) and we both sat in the front. I swear Jordyn asked for something every 30 seconds and it would have been so much easier if one of us was just sitting by her versus having to turn around, stretch and reach to get what she needed. When my husband and I drove to Orlando I learned my lesson and I sat in the back with both kids. I was able to easily entertain them and help them with whatever they needed, especially if Jordyn dropped something.
Keep Them Entertained
Have all of your electronics charged and apps for the kids downloaded before getting on the road. Pack coloring books, flash cards, books, movies, small toys. Have their favorite music already downloaded on your phone for when you go through areas with poor reception of radio stations playing music your not interested in.
There Is No Such Thing As Enough Food
Pack plenty of sandwiches, snacks, and water. You don't want to waste time having to get off the highway constantly for these things. If you are breastfeeding you especially need a lot of water and snacks for yourself. Pack a small cooler with freezer packs and bring a gallon sized zip-loc bag so if they are no longer cold you can fill the bag with ice at a rest stop.
Get An Activity Tray
This will allow your child to color easily and keep all of their stuff contained. A good activity tray should include a cup holder, places to store books, crayons, and be a bit deep so everything doesn't slide off when you make a turn. I've used both the ZoomKIT and Snack & Play Travel Tray. I much prefer the ZoomKIT as it's sturdier, and is multi-use but it's pretty pricey, especially if you have more than one child so I'm still looking for a great affordable option. Compare them yourself and see pictures below of each.
Make a Park Stop
Of course you are trying to get on and off the road as soon as possible but if you are on a long drive, expecting a young child to sit still for 8 hours is unrealistic. Instead of stopping to eat at restaurant, pack your lunch and stop at a park. Your little one can play for 30 minutes, wear off some of that energy and then hopefully be ready for a nap :-).
Be Prepared for Accidents
Have a change of clothes in the car with you, not just in the trunk. Have it separated in a plastic bag that way if they throw up, wet themselves, etc. it is very easy to pull over change them and store the soiled clothes without having to dig through your luggage to find something. Be sure to have a change of clothes for the adults as well and have hand sanitizer, wipes, paper towels, etc. handy.
Related: 7 Ways to Potty Train When Traveling
Teach Them New Things
As one mama told me, this is a great time to have them learn. Go over their ABCs, numbers, colors, days of the week, etc.