We recently returned home from a trip to Ohio to visit our friends and families. Since we live 18 hours away and travel to see them once or twice a year (driving and stopping only for gas), many of my friends ask me for tips for happy traveling with small children.
For this trip, we packed a few toys, mostly cars (since I have 3 boys). This time around we also taped together a cardboard box, drew a road on it, and placed it in the center back seat between their car seats as a
barrier between them…or, rather, a play table. 😉 We also packed art folders with coloring books, drawing pads, and colored pencils (NOT crayons or markers because they are too hard to clean up on the road if a curious young child decides to color on something other than the designated books). I will be posting the art folder pattern soon; I’m still working out a few details on it. And, lastly, we packed some movies and video games. We try to encourage them to alternate playing/drawing with media. I also packed a few dollar store surprises…a bag of balloons for blowing up and bouncing around the car and glow sticks for playing with in the early am/late pm. I know these thing sound really simple. But, since we don’t play with balloons or glow sticks very often, they really did a great job of adding a little excitement when the boys started to get restless.
And, last but not least, I would suggest packing your own meals WITHOUT ANY REFINED SUGAR since we want happy kids in the car all day. As I said earlier, we only stop for gas. So, the car ride is long, but the trade-off is more time with our friends and family (as opposed to stopping and staying in hotels or eating in restaurants along the way). Also, eating our meals in the car helps pass the time instead of prolonging the trip as a stop at a restaurant would. In any case, I thought it would be fun to share what we ate on this trip:
Breakfast: Bananas and Breakfast Burritos with Eggs, Cheese and Salsa
Lunch: Pita Chips, Carrots, Celery, Humus, Raspberries, Blueberries
Dinner: Turkey/Cheese Wraps, Broccoli, Raspberries, Blueberries
Snacks: Greek Yogurt, Trail Mix, Apples, Peanut Butter Cookies (sweetened with honey)
Drinks (not shown): Milk (for the baby), 1 Juice Box per person, and LOTS of water
I packed our lunches and dinners in plastic divided containers (available for $0.75-3.00 or so, depending on where you shop). If you don’t like plastic containers, the Smart Planet Silicone Collapsible Lunch Boxes and PlanetBox Lunchboxes are also really neat (especially for school/work lunches). The latter range in price from $10-80 each, depending on the options chosen. And, they are exceptional in quality and are suitable for long-term, daily use.
This is the first trip in which we completely avoided refined sugar in our meals and I believe it made a big difference in our energy and attitudes along the way. We had a great drive there and back (except for the a/c going out for a while during our drive back home )…but even better than that, we had a great time with our family and friends and keeping the focus on the joy of being with them while we drove also helped keep us happy as we traveled!