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Road Trips with Infants and Toddlers
 
 
Resources
Travel Songs and Sing-a-longs
Audiobooks for Children
 

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By Nicole Frank, Home Exchange Travels

Car travel can be a flexible way to get your brood from point A to point B. Though you won't score points for eco-awareness, road trips offer families added flexibility to make stops and visit areas that are poorly served by public transit and pack more gear. And aside from your partner, there are no impatient passengers wanting to eject you or your kids from the vehicle.

While long distance car travel with young children may not evoke images of carefree adventure, recent restrictions on hand luggage and the increased wait time at airports, particularly in Europe, may make it more practical to travel by car than by air. The following tips will ensure that your next road trip with infants and toddlers is fun (or at least less painful than you may imagine) and help you deal with a resounding "Are we there yet?" from the biggest kid in the car.

Plan your trip to coincide with your child's nap or bedtime
  • Motion may lull some children to sleep, but even infants are unlikely to sleep through an entire 6- or 8-hour trip unless it coincides with their regular sleep pattern.
  • Maintain your child's bedtime rituals, such as reading a book together, even in the car.
  • Recreate your child's bedroom environment as much as possible with a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.
Keep the kids safe and comfortable
  • Make sure your child's safety car seat is properly installed.
  • Dress your child in his or her favorite pajamas or other soft outfit.
  • Recline the child safety seat (NOT the passenger seat) as outlined in the owner's safety manual.
Kids' stuff
  • Pack toys, snacks, wipes, paper towel and at least one change of clothes in your diaper bag or other luggage that is close at hand.
  • Keep milk and refrigerated snacks fresh. Pack them in a cooler bag with ice packs or try a portable electric cooler, which plug right into the cigarette lighter.
  • Compact bottle warmers, which again plug into the cigarette lighter, will ensure your child's milk is the right temperature no matter how far you are from the nearest gas station or other roadside shop.
High and low-tech fun
  • Rotate books, toys and games as you would at home and on a plane.
  • Don't over stimulate. Studies show that toddlers can happily pull the same small surprise out of a gift bag all day long yet retain the same delighted surprise each time.
  • Even snacks can provide hours of fun. Cheerios, for example, are as fun to eat as they are to pick up and push around.
  • Children's music and audio books can be used to establish quiet time as well as relieve a toddler's pent-up energy. Lead a sing-a-long or play their favorite stories and bedtime music.
  • DVD players and in-seat tv monitors may be helpful in the event of a meltdown.
Sit in the back seat
  • Move to the back seat for bedtime rituals and when your child is tired of playing solo.
Manage adult expectations
  • Use free mapping sites like Mapquest to help plan your route. Double the estimated travel time suggested by these sites.
  • Plan to make a 10-minute stop every hour your children are awake.
  • Expect to clean the car when you arrive even if you did so before departing.
  • Break the trip into smaller, one-day or half-day segments. End each drive at a mini-destination such as a special meal stop, tourist attraction or park. You'll add fun as well as instill a feeling of progress.

The key to car travel with kids is to take it slow and easy. Have fun - you're on vacation.

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