"How do your kids survive?" This is a question we've gotten often since returning to the US. We have spent a lot of our time in the US traveling and we are becoming experienced travelers. We are on the road now, but here are our stats from March 25th (when we landed) to Mid-August when we are back in NJ. We will have driven 13,000 miles. We will have been traveling 84 days. We will have slept in 24 different beds. Made more potty breaks than we can count. And learned a lot. Here are some things that don't only help us survive, but help us enjoy our time in the car and on the road.
For us we found that the strategy of divide and conquer works best. Scott is responsible for the driving and Meg is responsible for the kids. Sounds simple enough, but let me tell you some of the failures that lead to the statement of this rule. If Meg tries to "help" with directions while trying to keep the boys quiet, she usually fails at both. If Scott tries to "help" by packing the kid stuff in the car then Meg assumes Scott grabbed the kids sweatshirts, when he assumed she did, and we go on a 5 week trip with no sweatshirts. We each have our own job and focus on our job and let the other do their own.
Other than driving, Scott is responsible for the route we take, money for tolls, knowing where to stop for food and sleep. He is responsible for the gas and all car maintenance. This also means that Meg can't nag Scott about any of the above. :)
Meg is responsible for everything to keep everyone in the car happy. So snacks, movies, toys, change of clothes, ect.
Pick Your Battles, in Advance:
The last thing you want in a long car ride is screaming terrible children. That being said, pretty close behind is the parent yelling, "If you do that one more time I'm gonna pull the car over. I mean it!" So set the rules you care about and enforce them early on. For us we don't allow screaming or hitting. We don't fight the battles of messiness or keeping clothes nice. As you can tell from this picture of Josiah after an ice cream sandwich. :)
Make it Fun:
Every car ride needs fun. There are tons of games to play in the car, just google it. Have a handful of things up your sleeve. Here are a few of the one we love.
- Don't smile/laugh
- I spy
- Would you rather?
- Simon says
- Can you find something (pick a color)
Movies. Shows. Something that will entertain and give you a break. We have an iPad that is loaded with lots of kids movies and shows. We also got headphones with a spliter so both big boys can listen. This also allows us to have adult time and some conversations in which we're not looking for little people's advice. A sanity saver for us.
BUT we limit this because we found with our kids that they NEED attention from each other and us. If we let them, they would watch movies all day and then be cranky and short with us and each other. So find that happy place of some screen time but not too much.
Not just while you are driving, make the stops fun too. Everyone wants something to look forward to. A hotel with a pool. A national park to drive through. Lunch with friends. Our favorite is catching a baseball game.
Engage Your Kids:
Your kids need to know that you love them and they matter to you. For us that is reading books to our boys. If I will read for an hour, the boys will then play happy together for an hour. There is something to be said for filling up their love tank.
Along with that choose toys that can be used by multiple age groups. If you have 10 toys that can be traded among 3 kids that beats 30 toys with 10 for each kid specifically.
Take Time to Set Up Your Space:
Put things in the car in a way that you can reach what you need. You want to be able to grab toys, snacks, wet wipes but you don't need to have a change of clothes able to be reached while driving. You probably won't be changing anyone's clothes while the car is moving. I could be wrong... So from where you are sitting make sure you have what you need before you start driving.
Chose Good Snacks:
Whatever is good for your family. Some families value healthy foods. Others value connivence. Still others want the best value for their money. Chose what matters to you and make a plan. There is little worse than hungry, whiny kids when the next rest stop is 50 miles away. Be prepared.
If we know we will be driving a few days in a row we will do one of our meals in the car. PB and J is cheap and easy on the road.
Other Things That Help Us Survive:
E-Z Pass: takes some stress off
GPS: amazing, we love it
Wet Wipes: for so much more than diapers, did you see those messy faces?
Chick-Fil-A: good food, play place, changing tables in the bathroom, I could go on...
Audiobooks: some for the kids and some for adults during nap time