Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go! Holiday travel season is upon us and that means you will probably be bundling up the kids, packing them in the car and traveling at least a short distance to a relative’s house for some sort of family get-together. If you are one of the lucky ones who only has to trudge down the hill or across the bridge, I envy you. If you are like my family and make a yearly 7 hour plus trek through North Dakota, I have a few tips and tricks to make the car ride more bearable. I will also throw in a few tips and tricks for the lucky ones who get to hop on a plane and enjoy warm weather over the holiday season.
Long boring car rides are not fun for anyone, especially the parents of a toddler. We usually trek back to ND every couple months, mainly to Fargo which is only a short 5 hour drive. Two times a year we do our “Tour de North Dakota” which leads us on a giant loop thought ND: Duluth-Fargo-Minot-Michigan,ND-Grand Rapids, MN (pit stop at the sister-in-laws)-and finally back to Duluth in roughly 4 days. This is a grand total of 981 miles and according to Google Maps should take us 16 hours and 36 minutes, but that is without stopping. Here are a few tips I have for staying sane…
- Leave early or at nap time. In the past we have left as early as 4am. That particular trip was straight to Minot for a total of 7 hours, our two year old slept all but about one hour of this trip. My husband and I do our best to plan all long trips with an extra early start. For the times we can’t leave early, right before nap time is always a good time to get on the road.
- New toys! I try to pack a small bag with new toys. The Dollar Spot section at Target is always a great place to find little things to keep the kids occupied in the car. Stay away from loud noisy toys… it’s for your sanity!
- Treats and special snacks. When all else fails fruit snacks always win! Pack a cooler with drinks and snacks because gas stations can be expensive.
- Have fun music downloaded or buy the CD. I would rather listen to the Moana sound track 20 times then listen to whiny kids.
- Always carry empty wetbags or gallon Ziploc bags for emergencies. From food spills to puke and poop… you never know what might happen. A wetbag saved the day on a mother-son road trip to ND when my boy was 6 months old; we only had an hour left in the 5 hour trip and… epic blowout! Who knew a restroom bathroom sink and using a baby sock as a wash cloth could clean up such a mess until I got to my Aunt’s house and the hose came out.
Flying with kids is another animal. Personally I have only flown once with my son… solo when he was around 7 months but I have been with friends and their kids on many flights. Here are some tips from my personal experience and observations.
- Wear the baby and use the stroller to haul all the crap. You can wear baby though security and onto the plane, however, most airlines require you to take baby out of the carrier during takeoff and landing. If you have a toddler over two and cannot have them as a lap child use their car seat on the plane. Your car seat should have an FAA compatible sticker on the side and most flight attendants are very helpful when it comes to installing the car seat on the plane.
- Take full advantage of boarding 1st! It is always less stressful if you can get settled in before the crowds of people start piling up behind you while you try to get the kids situated.
- If you are wearing your baby though the airport and have older kids attach “hand holders” to the baby carrier and have the older kids hang on to them. Pretty much tether your kids to you.
- You might think this is funny but wearing matching brightly colored shirts is a great idea. First off you will be able to locate anyone in your family by quickly scanning the area and second, no one will grab a kid wearing a hot pink shirt that says “Grandma’s or Bust” that 7 other people are also wearing.
- Always make sure to check with your specific airline regarding restrictions and regulations. Most airlines allow you to gate check strollers and car seats for free and diaper bags usually don’t count as your carry on. But again ALWAYS double check before you head to the airport.
I hope some of these tips and tricks help you have a smooth travel season with the little ones. If you have any good travel tips please feel free to share them in the comments below!
May the napping be long and the whining be little this holiday travel season. Good Luck and Godspeed!