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Road Trip Tips for Brave Moms

Yesterday I completed my first road trip alone with Hayden. We drove from Seattle to Sun Valley. I like this drive. I also prefer driving to flying because it gives me flexibility in how much I can bring and when I want to leave and come home—and then there is no need for a rental car. Sun Valley is my family’s second home. I grew up coming here. I’ve never been one to do much planning for a road trip. I’m more a “throw clothes in a bag and go” kind of girl. Just under two years ago, when H was born, that grab-and-go lifestyle came to a screeching halt.

This trip alone with H went so well it made me think that (a) H is an amazing little car traveler, and (b) I did something right in preparing for this trip. Just in case my great preparation had something to do with it, I’m going to share my strategy.

Tip 1

Pack a bag for each person and one family bag. The family bag is in case people need to change clothes mid-trip due to, well, usual road trip casualties. It is also there in case the trip isn’t going well and you need to abort, grab a hotel room with a pool, and finish the trip the next day. In our family bag, I packed PJs, toiletries, one set of extra clothes for each person, and a swim suit per person. Thankfully, we got lucky and never had to use the family bag.

Tip 2

It was a tradition on Dunn family road trips that everyone got one treat an hour. This will be great once H is older. I like the idea of having a big bag with candy, cookies, etc. The bag gets passed around every hour, and everyone gets to pick something. How fun.

Tip 3

I used the idea about treats for toys and activities. I had a bag with enough NEW things that H had never seen for one each hour. I stashed away a xylophone, a drum, an electronic alphabet toy, books, and a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. This was great. I got the musical instruments at Gymboree and little random trucks and things from the toy aisle at the drug store. I truly think he had a great time on our trip, and this is partly why.

Tip 4

Enough music to always have something playing so you don’t have to listen to the same thing over and over.

Tip 5

Movies. My used car came with DVD players in the back. I had never used them before, and this seemed like the PERFECT time to try it. H loved getting to watch a couple of movies. I think I may have enjoyed it more than him, though. While he slept, I listened to The Sound of Music movie. It kept me entertained when I otherwise might have been pretty bored on those long stretches with nobody to talk to.

Tip 6

Food. Next to me up front I had two treat bags, one for each of us. I also had a tiny cooler. This was so great. I never had to pull over to get drinks and snacks.

Tip 7

Make the most out of every stop. This means food, bathroom, gas, and play. At one stop, we got gas, had a bathroom break and a Starbucks iced tea break, and hit a park for Hayden to have ten minutes of playground time. It was our longest stop of the eleven-plus hours, and I think it was only twenty-five minutes.

Tip 8

Pre-make food. I made cookies and muffins for H. I picked up some salads and chicken from Pasta and Co. This was great, because we didn’t have to stop for meals, and we weren’t eating junk food the entire day—only part of the day. A little junk is mandatory on a road trip, isn’t it?

So these are my road-tripping-with-a-toddler tips. I would love to hear any tips you have! Happy travels.

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  1. Michal says:

    Yes, with 3 kids, having snacks, movies, CDs and spare clothes at hand are a must. Antibacterial wet wipes stay in our car at all times, but used especially for road trips. Sometimes we’ll go to the library and check out some books, movies, or even books on CD as something new for the trip. We too do the special treats and new games/toys for road trips or plane rides. Some times we’ll even wrap the items to make it a little more fun. Things to consider for the toys: can you handle the noisy ones for long (super annoying?); are there little pieces that might get lost in the seats and create a meltdown; will the markers, etc. ruin the car (we always buy crayola mess free color wonder http://www.crayola.com/products/splash/color_wonder/)? It’s also good to bring some pillows and blankets to help the kids rest a bit more comfortably.

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