Last summer we were invited to a wedding in Northern California. I somehow convinced my husband that it would be a lot of “fun” to take our family on a road trip exploring the coast of California on our way to the wedding.
Our family at the time of the trip consisted of the ultimate traveling companions, a three month old and a 22 month old. Two kids under the age of two in the car for approximately 24 total hours, it sounds like a disaster right?!
Well, would you believe me if I told you we had an amazing trip?
We made memories and spent lots of quality time with each other. We definitely had some tough moments and we learned a lot on our crazy adventure. I know many of you will be hitting the road this summer so I have compiled a few tips to help you have a successful trip with your family.
- Plan, plan and then plan some more. When you are taking a trip with young children, there is really no such thing as too much planning. I spent hours researching and putting together a minute-by-minute itinerary. That might sound a little over the top, but I’m telling you, kids can smell poor organization and they will capitalize on it! On our trip home we veered off the itinerary and ended up driving for an extra hour trying to find somewhere to eat that wasn’t a bar. You do not want to be searching for something to do or somewhere to eat when everyone needs a break from the car.
- Be flexible. I know I just told you to plan your little hearts out, but here is where I remind you that you are traveling with children. My kids aren’t old enough to read my itinerary and I’m pretty sure even if they could read it, they wouldn’t care. There will be times that you have to throw your itinerary out the window and go to Plan B or Plan G…
- Be prepared. Although one of the benefits of taking a road trip is all of your things are virtually in one place, that doesn’t mean everything will always be accessible when you need it. I packed a different bag for each day we were on the road. Everything we would need for Wednesday, (diapers, a warm outfit, a cooler outfit, pajamas etc.) would go in my “Wednesday” bag. It saved so much time and so much sanity to pack for each day even though it did take extra preparation. I also made a goodie bag for each day and filled it with Dollar Store toys and special snacks. Every time the kids started getting restless, we just pulled something out of the bag.
- Anticipate your kid’s needs. Everyone knows that kids go from zero to starving in five seconds flat. If you know it has been a few hours since a meal, make sure you have snacks and a drink handy if you aren’t ready to stop. Also plan to drive as much as you can when your kids *might* sleep. We drove a couple of hours each day super early in the morning and then again after our nightly dinner stop. If you know your child usually naps in the afternoon, plan to be driving around that time. Obviously with kids, you can never guarantee sleep, but you might get lucky!
- Change your expectations. From an outside perspective, our trip probably looked a little crazy. We didn’t come home relaxed and refreshed from a vacation, but we knew all of that going into the trip. One night we ate dinner overlooking a vineyard in Napa. When I talked to my mom on the phone later that night she asked how it was and I told her it was exactly how you would picture a meal with two children under the age of two. I’m pretty sure my husband and I never actually sat down at the same time and we definitely didn’t get to look longingly into each other’s eyes, but we made the best of it.
Raising little ones is not easy and taking them on the road presents a new set of challenges, but I hope you will consider taking your family on a road trip this summer! I promise you will make memories that will last a lifetime.