We Traveled More than 8 Hours In the Car With 2 Kids and Lived to Tell About It

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go … Whoever wrote that idyllic song probably wasn’t traveling with two kids under the age of three during the holidays. Because just a few months ago, we packed up the car, put the kids in their car seats, and drove the 7+ hours to Nonna and Grandpa’s house for the holidays. And let me tell you, it was anything but idyllic. Babies were screaming, naps were missed, toddlers were crying “I wanna get out!” and that was only in the first hour. But we survived and here are some tips we learned along the way:

Don’t Expect it to be the Same as a Pre-Kid Trip

Before we went on our first road trip with my now toddler, I asked one of my friends if she had any tips. She replied, “Expect it to be awful and throw all your fond road trip memories out the window.” Is that harsh? Yes. But it makes a point. Long trips with two young kids are not easy. They’re not relaxing. But they don’t have to be awful; just manage your epectations and be prepared (see below).

B and I in Vietnam – traveling BEFORE kids

Pack Enough Toys/Activities/Games

Toddlers and infants are not made to sit in one place for eight hours. (But really, who is?) That means an eight hour car trip can be anything but fun for them, which means it’s not fun for you. So bring activities to distract them. Here’s a rule of thumb I like to follow: bring at least one new toy or activity per hour of your car trip. So for a six hour car ride, here are some of the things we bring for the toddler:

  1. Coloring book/paper and washable crayons
  2. Matchbox cars
  3. Paint-with-water activity book – we like the Melissa & Doug Water Wow! books
  4. CDs – we like to go to our local library before a trip and pick out kid-friendly CDs to listen to. Our toddler gets a kick out of picking them out and then choosing them during the car trip.
  5. Books – I like to bring 3-4 and let my toddler pick out 1-2 himself. This one, Let’s Play, is a good one that is interactive. 
  6. Post-it notes – they can stick them places and then you can clean up easily. They can color on them with aforementioned crayons. They can stick them together to make shapes.

For the baby, we brought things like baby books, rattles, blankets, and toys that lit up and made noise.

Bring Snacks

Bring plenty of snacks and food for the trip. In addition to meals, plan easy-to-eat and less-mess snacks for the car or any stops. Bonus points if the snacks are new or not part of your usual repertoire. Some of our favorites include Annie’s fruit snacks, pouches, yogurt covered raisins, Annie’s cheddar bunnies, Barbara’s Puffins cereal, grapes, sliced pear, grilled cheese cut up into fun shapes.

Be Flexible

Don’t go into the car trip with a rigid plan. Will you sit in the front or in the back with the kids? Be prepared to do either. Will you stop exactly two times for one hour each and make it to your final destination in exactly nine hours? Maybe not (what if the baby has a blowout after your 2nd stop?). Will your kids nap at their usual naptime? Possibly. It’s okay (and probably a good idea) to make a plan before you get into the car, but just be prepared to throw it out the window or adapt if needed.  

Plan Stops

If you don’t have a hard timeline (see above tip: be flexible), plan a few fun stops along the way. For an eight-hour car trip, it’s nice to plan one or two stops where our toddler can run around and use up some energy. For us, this has meant finding a park that is not far off the route (bonus points if there’s a playground) and near some kid-friendly restaurants so that we can stop, grab a bite to eat and then run around and play. Yes, this takes time, but it makes the trip much more fun for our toddler.

Leave at Night or Around Naptime

We have only done this once and it was the best. After about one hour of crying and whining, the kids slept for almost the whole ride. Getting them back to bed once we got to our final destination wasn’t easy, but it made for a quiet and hassle-free car ride.

Have a Secret Weapon (or Two)

Sometimes all the toys, snacks and stops are not enough. That’s when it’s time for your secret weapon. For our baby, this can mean a few extra toys that light up or play music. For the toddler, this means toys that aren’t used on a regular basis, such as his toy laptop and my iPad with Sesame Street or other kids’ TV downloaded on it. We don’t always have to bring these out, but they have definitely helped make the trips easier.

Questions for you:

  • What’s the longest you’ve ever traveled in the car with kids?
  • What age do you find easiest to travel with kids?

Note-  this post contains a few affiliate links. And aversion of this post originally appeared on Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine’s website.

Can Every Winter Weekend Be Like This?

We had a great weekend in CLE. It was seasonably warm (got into the 40s on Saturday!), no snow, and just a few casual plans. Which meant that we got to somewhat relax, spend time outside, get in some exercise and enjoy some family time. AKA – it was my type of weekend.

Friday night included takeout Indian food from a new Indian restaurant in our neighborhood. It was pretty good – but there was no naan on the menu!

Saturday morning started early (LM woke up at 6 and FW shortly after), but FW was easily entertained with some new Christmas toys. He loves his drum set, but it definitely made it hard for B to still sleep!

After B got up, I got in a 5 mile run. Weather in the mid-30s felt GREAT, I was actually hot with my gloves and headband. It was great to run in my new Skirt Sports clothes, too – I love my new capris (you can’t have enough running capris) and the Wonder Wool shirt kept me warm.

After the run, it was time to meet up with friends at the new Van Aiken District food hall. The place was hopping for the morning – and it was actually mostly families with young kids running around.

They have a few non-food shops and a few food places open right now, and a small kids play area. We will definitely be back.

The kids fell asleep in the car on the way back from playing and running around, so our typical afternoon “quiet time” was a little off – but that meant we were able to get in some grocery shopping, plus some “me” time in the car. There was no way I was going to try to move FW from the car seat to his bed, so we stayed in the car. And then, because nap time was done early, were able to get in a little afternoon walk while the weather was still semi-nice. We even stopped at a nearby playground and FW was able to run around and play.

That night, B made a favorite dish of mine – halibut! It was beyond good.

Sunday we had brunch plans with Dave and Anson. It had been a while since FW had seen Celia and he was pretty excited to play with her new toys and run around her house.

While FW was napping, since the weather was still nice out, I decided to take LM for a walk. We ended up walking to the grocery store and picked up a few last minute items to do some meal prep.

I made some egg cups for quick breakfasts. B is back on slow carb, so I’m trying to find easy breakfast that don’t involve bread, etc. for him.

Then, FW’s cousins came over for an inpromptu visit. They stopped by with little gifts, including this cute blanket!

And suddenly, the weekend was over. It went by fast for not having much to do! Some questions for you:

  • Did you get in some outdoor time this weekend? Yes, it was great to get in 2 runs, 2 walks and a trip to the playground.
  • Do you do meal prep? What do you make?

Bad Mom Days

Let me let you in on a secret. There are some days that I feel like a bad mom.

Earlier in the week I had one of those days. I picked up FW from daycare and knew it was going to be a hard night. His teacher mentioned that he hadn’t napped, didn’t eat much of his lunch, didn’t want to drink anything during the day, and he was cranky. Oh, and he was crying when I got there – which he never is.

So, instead of taking him to the playground after daycare as I was originally thinking we’d do, I popped him in the carseat and we headed home. Bad mom move number one. Good moms take their children to the swings on sunny days!

What good moms do (not what we did)

As soon as I got him in the car, he started crying. And then of course the second we pulled into our apartment parking lot, he passed out. Because he hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before (we were up with him from midnight until 2 a.m.) and because he hadn’t slept much at daycare, I decided to let him nap. Bad mom move number two. Good moms don’t let their kids nap after 5 p.m.!

After we got back to the apartment, I thought I’d let him play for a bit while I prepared dinner. That wasn’t happening – the second I put him down on the floor he cried. And I’m not talking about the little baby whimpering that goes on for a few minutes but then goes away when you distract them – no, I’m talking about the sobbing, head down on the floor type of crying that is typically inconsolable. So, I picked him up in one arm and attempted to chop of veggies with my right hand. Bad mom move number three. Good moms NEVER use a knife while carrying their baby. AND good moms don’t multitask with their baby; they give their children their undivided attention. 

FW didn’t really stop crying and made the sign for hungry, so I attempted to put him in his high chair to feed him. He continued to cry, so I put on some music. Still cried, so I resorted to turning on Elmo’s Song video on YouTube. Bad mom move number four. Good moms don’t allow screen time, especially on children under two years old.

Bad mom’s savior

FW settled down for a little bit, so I attempted to continue to make dinner and feed him. I gave him some zucchini and sweet potato. He threw it on the floor immediately. I gave him some spinach muffin and cheese. That landed on the floor as well. Then, I tried some bread and peanut butter. He shook his head and pushed all the food on the floor, dramatically picking up the peanut butter bread and dropping it – of course it landed peanut butter side down. I tried and tired again, but eventually gave up and ended up giving him some jarred peaches and graham crackers. Bad mom move number five. Good moms feed their children balanced meals and give them whatever you’re eating. And of course you don’t give in – they’ll eat if they’re hungry!

You can guess where the night ended. After FW’s not-so-well-rounded meal, because B being out late buying paint for the house, I was in charge of putting FW to bed. Which of course ended up being late and past his bedtime (and meant he ultimately cried himself to sleep … because, well, bad mom, again). And then instead of spending the evening cleaning or making food for FW, I caught up on work emails and started packing up 1 box of kitchen stuff for the move.

I’m not a hoarder, but this is the embarrassing state of my apartment right now …

I know that he won’t remember days like this and that we’re doing the best we can, but sometimes it’s hard to be a good mom 100% of the time. Does anyone else feel this way?

Fourth of July with the Baby

Well, B and I survived the first week home with the baby! Honestly, I don’t know how single parents do it – this first week was challenging, tiring and rewarding – but I did it all thanks to B. Not sure how I’m going to deal when he goes back to work in a week … but I digress.

We had a great holiday weekend! Showing FW around town, hanging out with my parents (who were visiting again) for the weekend and of course having some family time for the holiday.

Friday started with a trip to the West Side Market – we showed FW around our normal shops.

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And a trip to Gallucci’s for some wine and pizza supplies.20160701_134706

Because Friday night was pizza night! B made this awesome pepperoni and mushroom pizza with our new pizza stone. It was the perfect TGIF dinner!20160701_213247

Saturday morning was gorgeous, so we got in a short walk to the water and of course took some pics with FW.

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My parents got in that afternoon and they were very excited to see him! 20160703_125523

It stayed gorgeous out all day, so we needed the day with an evening out to dinner – burgers and wine outside downtown. My veggie burger was so good!IMG_20160702_190222

Sunday morning, B’s mom had everyone over for brunch. It was great to introduce the baby the rest of the family – and of course his cousins loved holding him again.20160703_132321

After brunch, we went for a walk around a nearby lake – it was great outside and it’s been so much fun sharing all our favorite spots with FW.

And for dinner? Sushi with my parents. Gotta love being able to eat raw fish again!

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Monday started out lazy. I had been up with FW much of Sunday, so we hung low and then got in a walk around downtown before heading to B’s family’s house for the Fourth of July BBQ.

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FW even got some bonding time with his great grandma.  He is so lucky to have so many family members nearby and not only all of his grandparents but also a great grandma!

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And that was it- a great Fourth of July weekend and FW’s first celebration!

I’m linking up today with ErinKatie and the weekly wraps.