Friday, November 19, 2010

Holiday Travel with Kids

With the holidays coming up and in-laws who live 6 hours away - I figured it was fitting to write a posting about traveling for holidays with kids.

We do our travel by car - so unfortunately I have no ideas or tips for traveling any other way - but after a lot of trial and error we have found the perfect way to get from here to there with minor breakdowns and frustration.

First off, we NEVER travel on the actual holiday itself. We make sure that we leave at least the day before as we can't even imagine being stuck in holiday traffic with a baby/toddler.

We have tried everything from traveling in the morning or at night, to breaking it up and here is what works for us.

  • TRAVEL TIME / Breaks
We start our trip on day 1 - lucky for us - my parents house is 2 hours into the drive to my in-laws so they are a good stopping point along the way. In the past, we have driven past my parents house and found a hotel to stop at for the night for bed so that we can finish the drive in the morning. It all depends on whether we want to spend the money on the hotel or not.

If you have a little extra cash - I HIGHLY recommend this option. If you plan ahead, you can even get a good deal on Hotwire or priceline and pay less than regular price and the further you get on day 1 - the less you have to drive on day 2.

So, we get to our stopping point on day 1 - stay overnight and then get up and get back in the car ASAP to complete the drive. For us, that means another 4 hours - so we know ahead of time that we are going to make at least 1 or 2 stops along the way. We try to stop for a meal and a little walking around time for Katie so that she isn't restless in the car. This makes our total drive more like 7 or 8 hours depending on where we stop - but since we break it up and get out of the car for Katie, it makes it almost bearable.

  • Entertainment
  1. Portable DVD Player - I hate to say it, but I don't know how people ever traveled with kids before they were invented. My in-laws bought ours and it has been one of our most used items ever. (we take a lot of long drives)
  2. Basket of toys - we have a tote basket that we keep on the floor full of toys/books for Katie at all times. We try to swap out the toys every once in awhile for variety to keep her entertained.
  3. BONUS TOYS - I found a product called Water Wow - it's like Aqua Doodle, only you fill the special pen with water and your kid colors over the special pages and it uncovers beautiful colors and pictures. It only entertains her for maybe 20 minutes - but that's 20 minutes of peace and quiet for us. The good thing about it is they have different characters. She has played with a Sesame Street one before but we bought her a Thomas one a few weeks back that she hasn't seen yet - so that will be our bonus toy for the home stretch when she is screaming OUT OUT OUT of her car seat:)
  4. Katie's CD's - we have a few music cd's that are specially for Katie. Sesame Street, Wiggles, etc... she stays happy for longer when her music is playing versus ours.
  5. Ipod Touch - I happen to have one and have downloaded some free games for toddlers on it that will keep her entertained for a few minutes at a time.
  6. Snacks - if she's eating, she's usually not complaining!
I know it doesn't sound like much - but it's enough to get us through the possible 8 hours in the car over 2 days. I find that having the toys in the car at all times makes packing to go anywhere way easier because I'm not grabbing toys every time we leave the house.

I think the most important aspect of going anywhere for so many hours is letting Katie out of the car for a few minutes at a time. It sucks for us because it makes our drive that much longer, but it makes the traveling bearable so it's necessary.

When Katie was an infant - we would do the same drive in one day - at night. She slept so well in the car seat - that we would do our heavy driving after we put her to "bed" for the night in her cars eat and then she would wake up for a few minutes once we got there, which would make for an interesting hour or two once we arrived but it would make it worth it because then she wouldn't spend the better portion of her day in the car seat while she was awake.

How do you travel with your kids? What tips do you have? I'm always looking for new must haves and tricks.


  1. We ahve done the drive from Myrtle Beach to Port St. Lucie, FL about 4 times now. It's about 9 hours. We start our drive right after breakfast in the morning. Our first stop is 4 hours in (will most likely be shorter in the future since now we are potty trainied) for lunch in Savannah- sometime with our friend Amy or sometimes we bring our lunch into a McD's with a play yard and just order drinks. This way JC can eat and play. We stop again about 2 more hours in for a bathroom/run break. I pack a basket of toys from home and LOTS of movies for your DVD player. I always pick up one or two bonus toys as well or sometimes a new movies. Wipe off board from Crayola has been fun in the car and at home. Easy to eat snacks are a must. We have also found that rotating on who drives and who sits in the back if JC gets cranky helps. He is usually great until that last 45 minutes of the drive-it's like he knows we are close. Good luck with your holiday travels and have fun.

  2. sounds like you guys have a great plan. We drive a lot, but never that far. I do try to drive during naptimes and between meals to make my life a little easier (and to make car rides quieter). I remember when we were younger, my parents used to wait until we fell asleep and then they would carry us out to the car to go to visit family (which even then was only like a 2-3 hour drive) so we would be asleep the whole time anyway.