Sunday, August 25, 2013

Road Tripping with a 1 Year Old: A Survivor's Tale

We're home! Thank sweet baby Jesus! I really & truly wanted to kiss the ground when I climbed out of that minivan after 16 hours...

Ella & Aunt Britt hanging out... 
If you're crazy enough to road trip with a toddler, you know you're in for it. We had taken her to DC with us for my race, which was an 8 hour trip, so we knew that our upcoming 14 hour trip was going to be a struggle. I decided that the key was to strategize ahead of time, then brace myself & control the crazy when the whole thing started falling apart. Here's what worked for us, plus what I learned through experience on Ella's first serious road trip. 



1. Have Help 

We drove to South Carolina with my sister & her boyfriend, Matt. Eric & I never would've made it without them. Ella slept a lot, but she still needed someone to keep her occupied, pick up all of the stuff she threw, feed her snacks, and just entertain her in general. If it had been just Eric & me, there would've been no rest. One person would always have been driving, the other on Ella duty. With help though, we were able to take turns so everyone got a break along the way. 

2. Get a Bigger Car 

As previously mentioned, we had 4 adults + Ella in our car. My sister drives a Rogue, but we knew there was no way that would be big enough. So, we rented a minivan for our trip. Luckily, both my sister & Matt work for a car rental company, so we got a sizable discount. Even if we'd had to pay full price, it still would've been worth it. We were able to fit all of our luggage, plus Ella's stroller & toys without having to bust out a car carrier. It was a full house, but it would've been far worse if we hadn't rented. (Plus, our rental had satellite radio & DVD screens! #score)

3. Travel by Night 

On our way down, we left on a Friday night at 9 pm. Ella slept 80% of that time & the boys stayed up to drive while Britt & I slept. We met my parents for breakfast with only 5 hours to go. That's where I took over the driving while the boys got some rest. At the time, we thought it sucked & decided it wasn't worth it for the drive home. By the time we got home on Saturday night though, we were all singing a different tune. Driving through the day was far worse. We hit traffic. Ella was up over 50% of the time. We had to stop a lot. It added two hours to our trip. Never again. We're traveling vampire style from now on... 

4. FOOD! 

This is a must. Pack a cooler & have enough food to feed an army. We packed string cheese, fruit, puffs, and lots of milk. I didn't try to follow our normal schedule, I just went with what she needed. Relying on fast food restaurants & gas stations would have been a chore (and expensive) & I would've felt like I was stuffing her with junk. I'm telling you, pack it ahead. You'll be glad you did. 

5. Don't Be Afraid to Stop 

I know all you want to do is get home & your husband may or may not be a road warrior, but you've got to stop. That's especially true if your child is walking. Ella is very active, so we gave her at least 15 minutes every 3 hours. It definitely added time to our trip, but it's what she needed. Thinking ahead to the future, I'll probably be inclined to stop at restaurants with playgrounds. I just think that taking the extra time to let her run around is worth it to preserve my sanity. 

6. Step Up the Entertainment 

This was a fail on my part... I only packed her normal toys. Things she's familiar with - i.e. things that don't hold her interest for very long. As a result, everything & anything became a toy. Gatorade bottles. Straws. Bookmarks. We were desperate. Next time, I'll buy cheap, new toys that she's never seen before specifically for the car ride. 

7. Rent Baby Equipment 

If you're renting a house, you're expected to provide your own baby equipment. In our case, we would've been packing our high chair, pack n play, baby gates, and stroller. After doing my research though, I discovered I could just rent it! It was $50 for the week & the only thing I had to bring was her stroller & a crib sheet. Definitely worth it! 

We take this trip every year, so I'm sure that I'll continue to learn as Ella grows. If you have any additional wisdom to share, I'd love to hear it! 

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