On the Road Again

The time has come for our annual pilgrimage up to Green Bay for a Packers game. Yes, we are hard core Packers fans. Haters gonna hate 😉

This will be the 5th time for us to make this trip. While we’ve never made this drive without kids in tow, every year it’s like the first time. And it’s the second year with all 3. You’d think it gets easier the older they get, but it doesn’t. Every year, without fail, the days leading up to D-Day are filled with stress, planning, worry, stocking up on car seat activities, backseat media entertainment options, cleaning the van, packing all the snacks, etc.

Before I get the cart before the horse, let me clarify that we do not take the kids with us to the football game. A) we aren’t made of money and B) that sounds like pure torture that we want no part of. So, here’s how it usually goes….

  1. Drive the 9-10 hours up to Bloomington, IL where my mom & stepdad live.
  2. Stay 2 nights
  3. Leave the kids with my parents and then just the husband and I make the 4.5 hour drive up to Green Bay.
  4. Stay 3 nights (football game on Sunday)
  5. Drive back to Bloomington
  6. Stay 1 night
  7. Load all the kiddos and make the 9-10 hour drive back home to Oklahoma.

As you can see, this is not only a getaway for the whole family but it also gives the husband and I a few days away as well while my parents get the one-on-one grandkid time they always pine for. It helps that my husband has a Green Bay office so he spends some time with his team while he’s there….purely coincidental that the Packers are a stone’s throw away. All in all, we’re killing like 14 birds with 1 stone on this trip.

This year, the kids are 16 months, 2.5 and 4 for this trip. The drive to my parents, on paper, really shouldn’t take more than 8 hours. But, with kids, everything takes so much longer. Potty/diaper changing breaks, breaks to stretch legs and burn a little energy, breaks just to have breaks, breaks from the breaks, and the list goes on.

Remember pre-kids when a “break” on a road trip was like a quick 5 minute stop for gas,  grabbing some skittles and you were back on the road? *insert all the laughter* NOPE! Not anymore. Every break is a minimum 20 minutes. If one kid gets out of the car, they all have to get out of the car.

Although, there is one MAJOR perk to this year’s trip. The is the first time on this drive in 3 years that I’m not nursing a baby. Hallelujah! This will make things a bit easier in some aspects. But, as with everything in parenting, overcoming one challenge only reveals a new set of challenges right behind it.

So, here are my tips for road trips with little kids.

  1. Pack snacks. And when you think you’ve packed enough snacks, pack more snacks. Pretty self-explanatory I guess. But, on road trip days I pay no attention to how many snacks my kids consume. It occupies them and keeps them content longer. Something we are going to try this year is going a step further and packing a full family lunch. In the past we always just stopped for lunch somewhere but it was always difficult finding a place that allowed for the kids to have some place to play and burn some energy…we were usually limited to McDonald’s with play places…not easy to find much anymore. So, I think we’re just going to pack a big picnic lunch and find a quality rest stop on the highway.
  2. Manage the liquid intake. If your kids are anything like mine, they chug water. I give my kids a full water bottle, it’s empty in less than 3 minutes, diapers busting at the seams 45 minutes later, a tight car seat strap between the legs and, well, you know where that’s headed. So, water management begins at breakfast before we even hit the road. Fresh diapers and potty breaks right before we get in the car and never more than a 1/2 full water bottle at any given time on the trip. If they empty it, they don’t get more until the next time we stop.
  3. Embrace the backseat DVD player. I generally TRY to keep my kids’ screen time under control. *note* I’m not perfect at this….my kids most certainly do watch some TV every day. But, just like snacking, I really don’t care how much screen time they have on road trips. A movie easily passes 1.5 hours of time and that is 90 minutes of complete peace for our crew. And we are STOCKED on DVDs for the car. We have an assortment of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes on DVD and a few of the kids favorite movies cue’d up. They can watch them all twice for all I care. For real.
  4. Maybe they sleep. Maybe they don’t. Just let it go. The first few times we made this drive (with 1 and 2 kids) I stressed so much about whether or not they slept enough on the drive. Some kids sleep so well in the car. Mine don’t. They sleep GREAT at home. But, in the car, they sleep in 30 minute increments maybe once or twice (depending on age) and that’s probably it. Rory, my oldest, didn’t sleep a wink the entire drive last year. So I’ve just come to accept the fact that it is what it is. Stressing about it doesn’t change it. Just…let it go. Sure, any 1 or all 3 of my kids may be on the brink of an epic meltdown in the last hour of the drive because they are so tired. But, that also equals a quick and easy bedtime for them as soon as we get there and then a night of solitude for my husband and I to decompress!!
  5. An indulgence for mom & dad goes a long way!!! For me, it’s everything sugar. Soda, cookies, candy, you name it. My husband will almost always go for the salt. Chips, sunflower seeds, crackers and so on. The kids get to snack constantly. So do we, gosh darn it. So. Do. We.

Here’s to another great trip. Please send me all the good travel vibes! We will need them.

Until next time, mommas!

~ Erica

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