A little shocking honesty.
With my first child, we never went on big road trips, vacations, or ANYTHING. We didn't go on a real vacation for 5 YEARS. I mean really, it wouldn't be fun so what was the point?
Then I had a second child and realized that I couldn't stay cooped up and in only travel in a 15 mile radius forever.
So we started going on long road trips and vacations, and I realized that it wasn't the worst thing in the world. Now, it is by FAR the best thing in the world, but I suppose, it's not the worst.
Road tripping with a toddler is not easy and requires a LOT of preparation. Lots of car activities for toddlers are necessary. We are a pretty low media family, but in my opinion, traveling long distances with kids merits some treats that are out of the ordinary.
Unfortunately, my 3 year old is only good with a movie for about... let's say 30 minutes. Then "are we there yet?" starts.
If only I could go back in time to when I was a little kid and stop myself from saying those 4 tiny yet ridiculously stress-inducing words to my parents.
Here are my biggest tips for semi stress-free traveling with kids:
1. Bring LOTS of snacks. Try to find snacks that take a long time to eat. Little things like cheerios or goldfish. Also, consider bringing some special snacks (read: candies) that your child doesn't normally get at home. Save these special treats for the moment when you're ready to lose your mind.
2. Stop frequently. Think about how you feel when you're locked in a car for hours and then times that by 5,000 when an active toddler is involved. We like to do what we call "Rest Stop Olympics". Find an open area and have your kids do jumping jacks, kick the pine cones, run relays, etc. Whatever you can to get their bodies moving before strapping them back into the car.
3. Activities. Lots and lots of activities. And don't be afraid to get involved with your kids! Sing silly (and annoying) songs together. See who can find the most red cars. Tell jokes. Or create stories where one person starts the story, then the next adds to it, and so on. Make it FUN.
4. Bag of tricks. You should have a bag FULL of fun things for your child. Dollar store items that you gift wrapped are always a hit. Mess-free coloring books, flashlights, glow sticks, and other toys that are new to your child are always a hit.
5. Breathe. Remember that you are creating family memories, and not only once you get to your destination. Your crazy car ride activities might be stressful to you, but they just might be some of the best memories that your children will have of their childhood.