When I roused my nearly-three-year-old at 2:30 am to begin what would be a 40-hour trip to Florida, she seemed pretty pumped. She got out of bed with a smile on her face, went potty, got changed and jumped in the car 20 minutes later. I expected her to fall asleep quickly, but it took about an hour. After that, she slept for about four hours straight. Beautiful. I actually have to praise her for being really great on such a long car ride—but it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Here is what I learned from my toddler road trip.
- Don’t expect your child to travel without television or electronics. Did we all do it back in the day? Of course we did. We suffered through hours of hangman and the license plate game and singing songs—or simply staring out the window. But times have changed and we have to accept that. I’ve never allowed a DVD player in the car before, but I knew I’d have to cave on such a long trip—and boy, was I glad I did. It saved her (and my) sanity. I am proud to say, however, that I did not resort to turning on a screen until just over seven hours into our journey. There’s a feather in my cap.
- When you make stops, really make a stop. Don’t run into the bathroom and jump back into the car. At our breakfast stop, we pulled into an empty parking lot to dip into our cooler of snacks. As went ate grapes and banana bread, I accepted the challenge of a footrace. It was an excellent way to stretch the legs and release some pent up energy. The kiddo “won” all three races and went back to the car happily. At a lunch stop, we searched for and collected acorns. Another fun activity.
- Understand that bribery is now your way of life. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I bribed the kid with promises of popsicles, new DVDs and jumping in the back with her for a while. It usually kept her calm….usually.
- Children are amazed by hotel rooms. This shouldn’t be a surprise—I get excited about hotel rooms to this day. When we stopped for the night, Eleanor could barely wrap her head around the fact that there were two beds in the room. After she had jumped on both, she said to me, “Mommy. They have any potties here?” I told her to go check out the bathrooms. She ran off and returned with mind-blowing news: “There are TWO beds, but only ONE sink and ONE toilet.”
- Speaking of toilets, beware the automatic flusher. For a child who is still mastering the fine art of toilet training, the automatic flusher can be pretty terrifying, especially mid-pee. I had to rush Eleanor through potty breaks for the rest of the trip to ease her fears.
- Be patient. Long car rides aren’t fun for parents, let alone toddlers. Crabbiness will come with the territory. The only thing you can do is make the best of things, try to be entertaining and press on.