Last year, we drove from Oklahoma to Illinois to North Carolina (and back) with two toddlers and baby. Needless to say, it was a little hectic.
Before we got on the road, we had to figure out how to pack everything to take these tiny humans across the county. That may have been even more overwhelming than the actual trip. There are lots of ways to not lose your mind when it comes to traveling with multiple little ones though.
Lists for Packing
If you’ve read any of my blog posts before, you know I love lists. They help me remember everything without using too much brain capacity. You can do this on your phone or with pen and paper. Just make sure it’s easily accessible in case you think of something randomly.
For our trip over Thanksgiving, I had a separate list for each kiddo. Since they’re all different sizes (and different stages of potty training), this seemed like the best option. You can get as specific as you want, down to which shirts are necessary, or you can simply write “6 tops.”
Some things you shouldn’t forget to include:
Play shoes/Dress shoes
Packing the Suitcases
Since we tend to get the kids dressed rather than them dressing themselves, we packed all of their clothes in the same bag. It made it easier to get to everything quickly and there were far fewer bags to lug around. We also put individual outfits into plastic bags, so it was really easy to pull out one and go. Include shirts, pants, socks, and anything else they may wear that day. This was also convenient when the three-year-old wanted to dress herself.
In a separate bag (well, box), we had diapers and wipes. Honestly, we took an entire box of diapers for each kid, as well as a whole box of refill wipes. I’m a little bit paranoid about running out of either of those while we’re in the middle of nowhere.
Renting a Larger Car
We accidentally rented a 10-passenger van for our trip. I was apprehensive about it at first, but it was amazing! Each child got their own row, and it had plenty of space to move around when we stopped.
If renting a larger car isn’t an option, find ways to work in more space in your own vehicle. If you have a van with captains seats, consider taking one out so you have more floor space to work with. Many SUVs can do this too.
When I go on road trips, I know I like having lots of snacks and drinks so I don’t have to stop when hunger strikes. The same can be said for toddlers, but toddlers can easily make tons of messes in the car. So, we got plastic bowls from Target. They were only 89 cents and reusable. Every time we stopped, we would refill their snack bowls with a variety of easy finger food. What would make this even easier is getting cups that will fit in their cupholders so they don’t have to hold on to a bowl. We also kept their cups full of water.
I was so impress with my kids keeping themselves busy while we drove across the country, but I also understand that’s not usually the case. We had planned to get a small DVD player with two screens, but time ran out, so it didn’t happen. Instead, we brought several of their small toys and books. They each had a basket next to their carseats and could reach in for whatever they wanted. We also had CDs with some of their favorite songs so they could sing along. Both of them really enjoyed looking out the windows and asking questions as well.
If your kids will sleep in their carseats, I recommend doing a lot of your driving after bedtime. Then it’s easier on all of you. To make the transition easier, we brought their regular pillows, a stuffed animal for each of them (that they normally sleep with anyway), and a blanket. Just before bedtime, we stopped, ate dinner together, and changed them into pajamas. I put their pillows next to them, gave them stuffed animals, and covered them up on top of their carseat straps. While my husband drove, I would read a story. Basically, it was very similar to their regular night time routine, but in a different setting.
It is definitely possible to take a road trip with small children, but it takes some planning. Planning can make for a smoother trip, and you may even want to do it again.