Having a child is a life-changing experience. One of those things that will never be the same is road trips. With my parents being a two-hour drive away- and my in-laws being six hours away, road trips with my family are quite common. We’ve found that the best way to survive “Are we there yet?” being asked a hundred times is with careful planning and thorough preparation. This includes rotating distractions for the kids and a boatload of tasty snacks.
When our daughter was a baby, we would time our road trips to coincide with nap time to ensure a solid start on our drives. We followed the car seat manufacturer recommendation that babies shouldn’t spend more than two hours at a time in their car seat, so we planned our routes with stops every hour and a half, even if our daughter was sleeping. We'd all get out of the car for some food, diaper changing, and playtime. We wanted to give our daughter the chance to stretch her limbs, and we wanted to stimulate her enough so that she would fall back asleep once we started driving again.
When she wasn’t napping, we had a few simple but interesting toys for her that we would rotate. One at a time, we would strap a passive noise-making toys to her seat for her to play with. Once she grew bored with those, we moved onto electronic toys where she could push buttons for music or animal noises. Lastly, we kept a series of touch-and-feel books in the car that our daughter loved. Once she learned how to turn pages by herself, she would spend a good amount of time looking at books without us.
As our baby became a toddler, we needed to change our strategy. Our daughter napped less and demanded more of us– in attention, and in entertainment. But, on the plus side, we didn’t need to stop as often, and we could pacify our daughter at times with snacks that she could safely eat in her carseat. We downloaded an endless number of kid-friendly music and spent hours belting out our daughter’s favorite songs at the tops of our lungs. If you or your child needs a break from music, our next strategy was a series of her favorite books. We found that reading them to her was a terrific way to eat away at the time spent in the car, plus all those added benefits of reading to your child. We also found that hide-and-seek books worked best for us because our toddler spent longer looking at the pictures than she did with plain picture books. At this age, you can also play simple games with your toddler. We play an easier version of I Spy, where our daughter has to point out everything she can see of a certain color.
Far and away, my daughter’s favorite car game is to re-enact scenes from her favorite movies. We take turns saying lines back and forth- which usually means that I say a line, and then my daughter repeats it back to me. Talking through the first few scenes of a movie literally takes us 20 minutes because we stop to talk about what the characters are doing and how they're feeling. Plus I get to feel like those hours spent watching endless re-runs of Frozen weren’t a total loss.
Once you’ve exhausted all your options- or if your child really isn’t in the mood- an iPad playing her favourite show or movie can really help pass the rest of the time. Before you know it, you’ll all have arrived at your destination!