Carrie and her husband have done more traveling than we have, so hopefully she'll post her top five tips as well--I'm sure she has some good ones! But, here are ours for travel with multiple small children. We have done sort distances (2 hours) and longer distances (8 hours) all by car. Flying with small children deserves its own list.
1. Pack an extra change of clothes for everyone that's easily accessible (i.e. not in the suitcase that's under the mountain of baby gear in the trunk). This should be a no brainer with young children, but it's very, very important! You never know when a child will throw up (possibly on you), have a "blow out" onto their clothes (and car seat), or simply get barbecue sauce all over them and a nearby sibling during a fast food pit stop.
2. Pack extra diapers/underwear. Sure, you can estimate pretty closely the numbers of diapers your child might need. Your practically potty trained child hasn't had an accident in weeks. But you never know what getting off your normal routine might do to said child.... Be prepared!!
3. Plan your trip around natural breaks/rest times for your child(ren). For short trips (2 hours or so), we often leave at the kids' bedtime, around 7:00 p.m. This way, we can put them in their pj's before we leave and we don't have to stop! For longer trips, we plan on having fairly significant meal stops and just don't sweat the time delay. Those kids need breaks from their confining car seats and a chance to stretch.
4. Car food: we adults all like our car food, eh? (My husband's road trip snacks of choice include Gobstoppers, Spree, and a soft drink). Likewise, food can go a long way toward entertaining your children. Forget about the health factor for the trip; just give them some crackers, pretzels, animal crackers, goldfish, etc. It doesn't really matter if they don't eat much at the next meal. It won't hurt them. In the same vein, bring sippy cups for the car so you won't have to worry about spills.
5. Security objects: Make sure you pack your child's favorite/necessary security objects. This includes his or her favorite stuffed animal, a special blanket, and favorite bedtime story. This also includes things like the small kid-sized toilet seat if you've just begun potty training, your child's pac-n-play if he or she has trouble sleeping in new places, a favorite food, and similar things. Think about the trip from your child's perspective and try to bring the things that will help him or her feel the most at home. Even if you're going to Grandma's, your young child might not remember having been there before (and might not even remember Grandma!). Your visit will be smoother if you try to troubleshoot homesickness and such issues before you leave.
Enjoy your trip!
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