Five minutes before we were suppose to leave for family a weekend away, my husband carried the baby into our room, “She has a fever.” One glance at our 18 month old and there was no doubting it, she was sick.
Both of our younger daughters had been sick for a week with our first real cold of autumn. They both seemed to be feeling better, until the morning we were packing up to head out for the weekend.
Our destination was only two hours away and was a combination of work and relaxation, the latter we hadn’t done in what felt like decades. With three children, two of which are under four years old, our previously regular weekend getaways have become less frequent than they once were.
We did a quick assessment of the baby: her fever was low, she was in great spirits, no vomiting (that came later…), and it was her nap time. We decided to continue with our weekend plans. We packed up and headed out. The baby napped the entire drive to our hotel, woke happy, threw up, and had an overall good night with the help of lots of snuggles and a little Children’s Tylenol.
Traveling with children can be really hard. There is always something that comes up or doesn’t go as planned. Bed time was a huge challenge and while I was laying down trying to coax the youngest two to sleep, I thought about all we had learned in our eight years of road tripping with our children. Every trip we take with them we learn more making the next adventure even more fun and successful.
Here are ten things that we always keep in mind, in no particular order. These are our tried and true, ride or die, tricks to making a weekend road trip successful and fun.
- Plan for extra travel time. This is especially important when our adventures include work and we have to meet clients at a certain time. If Google Maps says the drive is two hours, we plan for three. That way we aren’t arriving feeling overwhelmed and rushed. It also means we can stop for coffee and cake pops without rolling in late, which is how I live the other 99% of my life.
- Pack extra clothing and multi purpose garments. I always pack each of our girls an extra full outfit (two if it is a longer trip) and an extra set of pajamas for the ride home. I make sure things like cardigans or sweaters can be worn with multiple outfits. Jeans that can be worn more than once are also helpful to keep the girls’ backpacks from overflowing. (We also pack each girl’s clothes into their own bag, it keeps things easier for me to keep organized.)
- Drive during nap times/right after a meal. This one is self explanatory I think. Full belly plus car ride almost always makes our children doze.
- Bring security objects and familiar bedding. We pack each child their lovey, a blanket from their bed, and their pillow. These tiny reminders of home help them to settle into the hotel a little bit easier.
- That being said, throw any expectation of keeping a strict bedtime and/or your routine. Since our children are still pretty young we usually get dinner delivered to our room or pick it up somewhere. Pool time, dinner, and a movie streaming on the iPad helps keep things fun and tires them out a bit. When bedtime happens we do our best to roll with it. This recent trip resulted in everyone being asleep by 10pm, hours later than typical but not the worst it has been!
- Screen time! We allow a lot of screen time when we road trip. Movies in the car and a movie before bed helps pass time and keep little people from running the halls of the hotel.
- Snacks. Lots of snacks. We keep a bag of various snacks within arms reach in the car so when hunger inevitably strikes, we have a quick solution.
- Embrace the chaos! Toss the itinerary out the window and follow your child’s lead. We make loose plans and about 60% of those plans get drastically changed. A trip to a museum can turn into a snooze cruise if our children need some rest. We take that time to drive around and see wherever we are visiting. It also allows my husband and I some quiet time with each other. Some of my favorite moments from our weekend road trips have been conversations in the car while our children nap.
- Be spontaneous and play! As soon as our kids start showing signs of being restless we will head to the nearest playground and play it out. 20 minutes of running and play can yield an hour or more of happy travel.
- Know your child’s limits while also introducing them to new things. We know that at least two of our children cannot sit through a long indoor performance at this stage of life so we don’t plan to attend those. Instead we might find an exhibit that we can stroll through at our own pace or an outdoor venue where they can dance and twirl instead of sitting. We want to expose our children to new things but we will not push them beyond what they are developmentally capable.
- Bonus: Don’t forget to have fun! The details of these trips will become fuzzy parts of a bigger memory of adventuring with you as your children grow. Going somewhere new and seeing things that are different from your hometown can be fun. There shouldn’t be pressure to make every moment perfect or planned. Some of the best times are the ones that happen between destinations.
Even with the feverish baby and later than I would like bed times, I am already trying to find a few days where we can hop in the car and escape again. Where are you headed on your next weekend away?