What do you think of when you hear “Driving across the country with a one year old and three year old?” I thought, “Long, loud, exhausting…” Well, I did it, and it was much better than expected!
While my husband was working from home, we decided to go visit his parents in Nevada. Since we were gone for a month, we decided to drive across the country in our van so that we could take our time, if needed and have the freedom to drive where we needed when we got out West.
What helped us drive 26 hours in 2 ½ days:
The biggest thing that helped was starting to drive at night. J We left at 7pm Friday night and drove through the night, stopping for gas twice where the kids sort of woke up, but then fell back asleep quickly. I slept about six hours and my husband, who likes to drive through the night, only got a couple of hours of sleep after we switched drivers around 4am. The kids got about nine hours of sleep. Through this choice, we got 12 hours of the 26 hours out of the way quickly! We then stopped about every three hours or so. We slept at a hotel the next night and made it to Nevada in time for dinner on Sunday night. For sleeping in the car, bring your kid’s favorite blankets and stuffed animals—and we used a sound machine that the kids were used to, so they slept pretty well!
Another top tip is to have lots of snacks that your kids love. We had oat squares, fishy crackers, raisins, fruit snacks. I packed about four bags of food with different foods and snacks for the different meals and snack times on different days.
Have a bin of their favorite toys and activities. Put away the toys they can play with for a long time for a couple of weeks before the trip, so that they are new when you go on the trip. Singing toys, stuffed animals, and interesting picture books were the best toys for us.
Have a loose schedule and be able to stop and stretch your legs if you need to. We stopped at a park in a Montana town and had fun at the park and eating lunch for an hour. On our way home, we stopped at Mount Rushmore and Wall Drug on our way through South Dakota, so we did a few more touristy things. Both ways – directly going to our destination or going slowly and seeing more sites were enjoyable.
As you travel down the road, point out the animals, mountains, and other interesting things that you see as you look out of the window. Let the kids just enjoy looking out the windows (my son loves just to watch everything!)
Tip for parents: Take a bunch of podcasts/books on tape/music that you enjoy to help you as you drive through the night – it helped me have something to think about until I saw the first light of dawn and had more scenery to watch. And pack your favorite snacks too!
Traveling with kids takes more stuff in the car and a little more time, but it is fun and worth it. When we pulled up and my husband’s parents came out of their house to welcome us, we were so glad we took the trip and got to see their faces!
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