Traveling by car is hard. It is not like you just drop your bags off, recline your seat and fall asleep until you reach your destination.
Okay, traveling with kids, by car, is hard. I remember a time when I would call a friend, hop in the car and head off to somewhere other then here. The open road. The wind in our hair. Traveling at a leisurely pace. I remember being able to drive all night and reach the destination to see the sunrise.
Now... I have to plan. I make lists (I hate lists). I have to pack snacks and diapers. Map out rest stops for potty breaks and gas. I have to budget our money for restaurants and make sandwiches in between to afford the restaurants (and the trip). Then there is entertaining the kids... it was not bad enough when it was just one kid but now we have a kindergartner and a baby who is barely a toddler... sigh.
Recently, the family had to go to Atlanta for a funeral. We drove. Fourteen hours. The last four hours the baby cried. Loudly. Uncontrollably. She threw up. Twice. There was no way to comfort her and eventually I laid my head on the car seat’s arm rest and she laid her head on top of mine and we fell asleep. We were almost to Grandma and Grandpa’s house; she slept until we got there.
The ride back was so much easier because we left early and we went by her schedule instead of trying to make baby bend to ours. She just wanted her bed and she wanted to nurse. We just wanted to get to our destination.
My little man... he slept, he watched movies and he looked at his trip book. He acted like we did this all the time.
We don’t, but now I know how to prepare and here is my Top 10 list for keeping the family safe while driving.
10. Plan your schedule around the youngest person’s eating and sleeping times. Yes, this may seem inconvenient but after hearing baby cry, inconsolably for four long hours... I can adjust driving early in the morning instead of later if it means she is in a bed that night and I’m not, or more importantly, the driver is not agitated by her screams
9. It is okay to stop. It is tempting and even preferable to drive straight through; to get there as fast as possible but the rest of your family may not feel the same. Besides, when you are tired your eyes plays tricks on you and the last thing you need is a trip to the ER because you did not want to stop and take a break.
8. Pack snacks. Lots and lots of healthy snacks with some junk food thrown in for good measure. It is an adventure, splurge a little and take some things fun. Gum and hard candy are perfect to help you concentrate and keep your mind focused on the road.
7. Take advantage of the multimedia age. The kindergarten and the Uncle watched movies on a potable DVD player. I made a trip book for the kindergartner so he could track our journey and learn about the states we would be driving through to get to Atlanta. I had my iPod touch to play a game *cough angrybirds* and watch movies. I also plotted our trip using the SocialMoms app, which kept me busy. The Husband had his iPod spitting out the tunes. A little something to keep everybody busy and, for the most part, happy. When every body is happy - the driver is happy and safe.
6. When possible, plan meals around rush hour. Breakfast and dinner time can be a lot more enjoyable when in a booth at a local restaurant and not in the middle of a traffic jam.
5. Map out your destination and make more then one copy of the map. This is of course if you don’t have GPS but we pretty basic folks and that GPS do hickey thing is way too advanced for us.
4. As tempting as it may be - leave the kids strapped in the booster seat and/or car seat. It would have been so easy to just nurse the baby while the Husband drove or let the kindergartner stretch out on the back seat but it is too easy for those little bodies to go flying. Even while strapped in, do not let your child lay down. Those seat belts can be razor sharp in a collision. And for heavens sake... make sure they are installed properly.
3. Bring blankets and pillows. Not just for your comfort but just in case anything should happen and you may need to sleep in the car.
2. Water. Bring lots and lots of water. You can never have to much water (and gives you an excuse to abide by top number 9).
1. Get the car checked out, tires filled and fluids topped off because there is nothing worse then being stranded somewhere when it was something that could have been prevented. Don’t forget to inspect your windshield. Think you can ignore a chip in your windshield? According to Safelight AutoGlass, the windshield provides up to 30% of your vehicles structural integrity, and a chip smaller than 6 inches (or the size of a dollar bill) can easily be repaired by filling it with a special resin. A chip could turn into a crack at any time, often when you are least expecting it.... like on a long, family road trip. Safelite AutoGlass can repair the chip in your windshield, often in just 30 minutes and where ever your car is parked. They will even email you a photo of the technician with their credential so you know who to expect - no surprises. You have enough to worry about... don't let a crack in the windshield ruin the whole trip.
Safety should take priority while driving all the time but especially when you are far from home. Don’t take chances and if you can afford to rent a bus, with a driver. Nothing like being driven to your destination - all the fun of the car ride with out the hassle!