Long road trip/ young kids!
December 15, 2007 8:44 AM   Subscribe

We are driving from New Hampshire to St. Louis over a two day period (12/26 - 12/27) with our 3 1/2 and 2 year old children. Any suggestions for keeping our sanity on this 20 hour drive (and the return trip 7 days later)?

We have a DVD player and movies for them to watch. We are staying over night in a nicer hotel with a pool. We have never been in the car with our kids longer than about an hour at a time!
posted by beachhead2 to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Put them in the back seat with a box of band-aids. They will put band-aids all over themselves. It will take about twenty hours.
posted by gum at 8:57 AM on December 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The bandaid idea is a great one. My youngest loves scotch tape. It can occupy him for hours.

The two year old might not be into it yet, but the older child will probably enjoy this:

Wrap several little inexpensive toys and trinkets in gift wrap. Every hour or so, or when things are getting hairy, give the kids with a new "present" to unwrap.

Other ideas:

Wrap a lap tray in felt and place felt cutouts in a zip lock bag.

I'm a terrible mother, but have a bag of lollipops on hand. It's a wonderful way to shut pieholes.

Take frequent breaks. Map out a few interesting landmarks along the way and take a stretch.

And of course, crawl in the backseat with them and read stories, count the red cars, and look at the cows.

Good luck.
posted by LoriFLA at 9:10 AM on December 15, 2007

We took a 3,000-mile road trip with our 2.5-year-old this summer. It was totally manageable and not bad at all. We drove for 12 hours on the longest day.

The DVD player helps ALOT. Especially if you have DVDs that they haven't seen before. My daughter enjoyed a DVD of different Blue's Clues episodes the most.

A magnetic doodle pad is a must-have in my opinion. Perhaps some of the Color Wonder markers and coloring books as well.

Another thing that helped was giving her something to look forward to, like ice cream! We made an ice cream stop most days. If we stopped for fast food, I usually let her have a kids meal. I also packed plenty of healthy snacks, like dried fruit, cheese sticks, and goldfish.

The pool should help wear them out. Try to use it in both the evening and morning if you can.

I also had some dollar store toys which I doled out during the trip.

You could get an Elefun game for the hotel room. This gives them a chance to run around trying to catch butterflies in a net.

Kids will be kids. They'll have to get out and run around after all that driving. As long as you give them a chance to do that, it shouldn't be too bad.
posted by Ostara at 9:12 AM on December 15, 2007

We did this repeatedly in the days before in-car video players. We basically planned to drive 2-4 hours at a stretch, then find a mall, grab a bite to eat and walk around (and let the kids run around) a bit.-
posted by Doohickie at 9:37 AM on December 15, 2007

You're going to laugh, but here goes.

Load up on Grateful Dead bootlegs from the early 1970s. Better road music has never been made. Something about the two drummers and the rhythm of the scenery. Sounds weird, but trust me, it works.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:48 AM on December 15, 2007

Baby Cocoa's 2.5 and I've done many ~6hr trips alone with him. He loves books so I recorded myself reading some of his favorite books. When we're in the car, I hand him the book, cue up the [insert technology of choice here] and am "reading" with him in seconds. A plus is that I'm familiar enough with the books to jump in and say stuff like "Is this the page with the blue dinosaur on it?" For long trips, I would do a few new books so that he's kept curious for say, two extra minutes. He also likes things like Magnadoodle and magnetic playboards and DVDs (though I try to use those only at the end of the trip or our ropes because, for us, there's nothing else to turn to once you use them). Don't underestimate the power of doing "grown-up" stuff related to the trip. Checking tire pressure, looking at maps, pushing the buttons on the gas pump, looking for specific signs or landmarks are all good for at least a few minutes of fun.

I usually plan to stop at least once to run around, and often plan to drive during his regular nap time. That gets me an hour or two of silent driving and reduces the amount of time I have to try to fill with activity.
posted by cocoagirl at 9:57 AM on December 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

I echo the music comment. Any kind of calming music during long drives seems to soothe my two sons into complacency.

If they're boys, try to keep them separated! We used to keep our 2 year old in the middle due to safety reasons, but we found that he and my other son ended up annoying each other and fighting. If at all possible, put something between their car seats as a barrier. Better yet, if you have a six-seater put one in the way-back. Girl sibs don't seem to have this problem...

Timing is important too. For our long drives we'll often leave at 4 am. For some reason this makes the kids sleep a lot more during the trip. Or, if you can swing it, do an overnight and they'll sleep the whole way. That's an extreme choice, but sometimes necessary for parental sanity.

First and foremost -- enjoy the trip! Kids love to see and learn new things and this is a great opportunity. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from long trips with my mom and dad.
posted by drinkcoffee at 10:02 AM on December 15, 2007

my sister and i would go through tons of crayons and paper on long drives. if you can find some books on tape, maybe have them draw pictures of the stories? they might be a little too young, though.

lots of music, i think.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:56 AM on December 15, 2007

Girl sibs don't seem to have this problem...

I was just on a road trip with my two adorable nieces. They were in the back together. It went like this: Play with Mom together, play separately, play together well, play together badly, someone's crying or angry, back to Mom in charge. Play with Mom together, play separately, play together well, play together badly, someone's crying or angry, back to Mom.

It was fine, Mom took care of things before any melt-downs, but yeah, girls can rile each other up good too. The DVD player was only brought out a couple of times. Reading with Mom, drawing, snacks, I-Spy, and breaks to run around outside at roadside attractions kept everyone pretty cool.
posted by desuetude at 11:09 AM on December 15, 2007

Ostara must be reading my mail, those are exactly the same techniques I use. I will recommend two others: do a little advanced research on google maps and find some city parks to stop in along the way. If you're planning on fast food anyway, try for a mcDonalds or Burger King with a playground.

Something I do that may not be appropriate for you is to try to get a very early start (like 3 or 4 am) so that my daughter sleeps for the first 4 hours of the drive, and so that we have more time to make stops the rest of the day. Of course, this will depend on whether you have children inclined to sleep in the car, and whether you and your spouse are amenable to early hours and driving in the dark. I do not recommend this if either you, your children or your spouse will merely become cranky because of the early awakening.
posted by ubiquity at 11:21 AM on December 15, 2007

If you have a handheld GPS you can stop every so often and go geocaching. There are probably find a few short and easy walks that won't take you too far off your route. Everyone gets to stretch their legs and the kids get a new small toy to play with. Check out this site for more info.
posted by obol at 1:09 PM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

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