Long road trips can be a nightmare but if you plan ahead, you can mitigate the number of meltdowns for your child and headaches for the parents.
Gianluca has been on several long road trips. He was only 6 months old when we drove from Miami to the Detroit area for a family reunion. Since then, we’ve driven from Miami to New York City and several trips from New York City to Detroit.
There is no doubt in my mind that long road trips are much easier with an infant than a toddler. There are 3 caveats to this statement: 1) You are not alone with your child, 2) The larger and more comfortable car you have, the easier it is on you and your spouse/significant other and 3) Your child doesn’t get car sick. That drive from Miami to to Detroit only required additional stops to change diapers. My wife was able to pump in the back seat and feed the baby while he was safely buckled in his child seat.
Since we have a toddler, and we have more road trips with Gianluca being a toddler, I’ll only focus on that. So here are some of the things we do:
- Timing. Plan our drive to depart an hour or two before his nap time. This way, being in the car is still fun for him before he quietly falls asleep.
- Entertainment. Have plenty of car-friendly toys for the drive. Legos are probably a bad idea as they will inevitably end up on the floor or stuck behind the seat. Gianluca has a little train that provides plenty of entertainment. I have a playlist on my phone that has all the popular kids music. And then there are tablets or other ways of playing video. I realize there are parents that are adamantly opposed to letting their kids watch videos or play video games but we’re not one of them. We believe in moderation and it works for us. Furthermore, there are times when you just need to bribe your child to have some peace and quiet. That’s a win/win in my book
- Breaks. If you plan your route, you can plan your stops so your child can get some time to run around while the parent can stretch their legs. Truck stops, malls, and even a large store like Walmart or Target can give you all a break. We tried to find parks in the past but along the routes we’ve driven, there has never been a kids park close enough to the freeway that we felt it was worth the detour. Plus, not knowing these areas, personal security can be an issue.
- Split the drive. If the drive is longer than 8 hours, consider spending the night on the road. Find hotels that have a pool. You can pull over early enough to have dinner and a swim before bed. The benefit to this is as a driver, you feel far less fatigued as well.
And thats it. So far, it’s worked well for us where we have no qualms about getting in the car for another road trip. If you have any suggestion, please share. We’d love to hear them.
Renato, Inga, and Gianluca.