We decided to kick off our 12 travel challenges for 2012 by visiting Grandma in Las Vegas. We thought it was the perfect opportunity to check off our 500-plus-mile road trip and get that one out of the way as soon as possible. By the time we got home, we had charted 944 miles and almost 14 hours in the car roundtrip. We were exhausted, the babies were grumpy and we were all in need of a good night's sleep in our own beds.
We had never attempted a road trip with two children before. Fourteen hours in a car with a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old seemed a bit extreme and emotionally draining, but with a little determination and a lot of patience we knew we could do it. We decided to call it a success if we made it there safely and in good time. Traveling with two children was new territory. We would also consider it successful if our children did not spend the whole time screaming and we had a fair amount of sanity left.
As I was packing, I remembered road trips before the children came along. Reid and I would haphazardly throw clothes and some food in the car. As long as we had an iPod or CD case full of good music, we were set. Now, a road trip takes great planning to be successful. Organized suitcases with enough clothes, jammies and diapers to last the entire trip are essential. Snacks, bottles, formula, special teddy bears and enough books, blocks and small toys to keep a toddler occupied for 14 hours are a must. It took a day and a half to pack and make sure the car was organized so I would know where to reach when something was needed.
The trip started great. We even left 10 minutes early. BabyTravels fell asleep almost immediately and stayed asleep for the first two hours. ToddlerTravels busied herself with the plethora of books and surprise packages I had packed. Somewhere around Fillmore, BabyTravels awoke demanding food and I transferred to the backseat to feed her a bottle. Things started going downhill fast. ToddlerTravels kept swinging her legs and screaming, “Get down, Get DOWN!” That’s probably about the time my headache started, so we made a stop in Beaver to stretch our legs.
Except for ToddlerTravels eating popcorn off the truck stop floor, I’d say the rest of the trip went smoothly. Sadly, the babies slept at the same time for only a total of 45 minutes during the entire 14 hours in the car. Except for the occasional screaming episodes, it was pleasant. We made decent time, stopping only twice each way and arrived home with lucidity to spare. We consider our first 2012 travel challenge a happy success. We believe this success can mostly be attributed to the preparation done prior to leaving.
A few tips we learned along the way: Make sure baby’s pacifier is attached to a clip so it can be found easily while fishing blind (for the seeming millionth time) around the backward facing car seats.
Another tip: Stop by the dollar store before the trip for a few toys and activities and make surprise packages for your toddler. Give them out when they get fussy or at specific milestones (i.e. every 30 or 60 miles).
Take plenty of breaks to stretch their little legs.
Save the DVDs and movies for darkness when they can’t do other things.
Sing songs or have them look outside and tell the colors they see.
Pack healthy snacks and water and leave the juice at home. Water is not sticky and cleans easily. Less sugar means calmer children.
To keep a bottle warm without a handy car bottle-warmer, put it under your arm-pit or down the front of your shirt. Your body heat will keep it warm until you need it.
Hilarye Fuller lives in Salt Lake City, Utah where she stays at home with her two young daughters and pens the travel blog DottingTheMap. For more information on 12 in 2012 Challenge, and for tips and reviews visit http://www.dottingthemap.com