Tuesday, July 30, 2013

tips for driving long distances with a one-year-old

We knew we were in for a challenge as soon as we realized the drive from here to Virginia was about 6.5 hours each way and that Elden would be a week shy of 1 for the trip. After some immediate brainstorming, we came up with some ideas to help make the trip as smooth as possible. That being said, we did not anticipate it going well, yet Elden absolutely amazed us. Here's a bit how each trip looked:

OH-VA
-Elden keeps busy for approximately 1.5 hours playing with toys, eating snacks, & having his bottle
-quick stop at first rest area in PA to change his diaper and mull around for a teeny bit
-1 additional hour until we got to IKEA in Pittsburgh
-2 hours spent in IKEA, including lunch and running around
-next 1.5 hours spent napping in the car
-wakes up, has bottle, we stop approximately an hour after he woke up at a Sheetz for lunch/30 minutes of roaming
-Elden keeps busy for approximately 1.5 hours playing with toys until we stopped at the Hagerstown outlets for approximately 20 minutes of roaming
-Elden is kind of feisty but overall content while we finish out the 1.25 hour drive to our destination

VA-OH
-Elden naps the first 1.5 hours in the car
-Elden keeps busy for approximately 1.5 hours playing with toys, eating snacks, & having his bottle until we got to another Sheetz for a 45-minute roaming break
-Elden keeps busy for another 1.5 hours in the car until we stop at a different Sheetz in WV for a quick break and to fill up
-Elden naps the next 1.5 hours
-30-minute stop at the first rest area in OH to crawl in the grass
-powered through the last 1.25 hours

Elden never had a single meltdown in the car. There were moments of fussing, sure, but that's about all it amounted to. We are THRILLED. So how did we accomplish this?

1. A travel bottle warmer - we were able to heat up Elden's bottles throughout the entire trip in the car. It was a total lifesaver and I am SO glad we bought it instead of worrying about stopping each time we needed to warm up a bottle.

2. Bags (literally) of toys. I brought 2 bags of Elden's smaller toys (books, blocks, etc.) and kept them in the front seat with me. Every time he got fussy (or threw one of his toys) I'd pass a new one back to him. He could usually go about an hour and a half at a time keeping himself entertained with his toys.

3. SNACKS. Now, I don't know if this would be the magical trick for all kiddos, but our kid LOVES to eat. Once the toys lost their charm and to buy us an extra 15-30 minutes in the car, we would let him snack. He would eat fruit and oyster crackers and be absolutely content.
plum
4. Lots of stops. We gave ourselves no time limit to reach our destinations to help take the pressure off. We had tentatively planned on stopping at IKEA and Hagerstown on the way to VA, but we also planned on stopping whenever Elden became particularly fussy. Going at his pace made the trip a lot less stressful for all three of us. Along the same lines...

...5. Bring a blanket if your kiddo can't yet walk but is mobile. We stopped at 2 different Sheetz (3 total times), IKEA, Hagerstown, and 2-3 other rest areas during the trip. I had brought a medium-sized blanket that we were able to lay down each stop to eat and let Elden crawl around on without worrying about how many dogs had done their business where we sat. This really helped Elden get out some of his restlessness.
second Sheetz stop
6. Time it right. We briefly contemplated trying to drive through the night, but we knew if Elden was too uncomfortable to sleep in his carseat that would make the entire trip entirely miserable. He's normally happiest in the morning so we opted to leave right after breakfast. The timing is what saved us. We left each location by 9 am and got into VA around 6:30 pm which permitted travel during Elden's happiest times, as well as encouraged long periods of napping.
7. Be flexible. Follow your kiddo's cues. There were periods of time where Jon was in the back with him and I drove and vice versa. See also: #4.

I hope this is helpful for someone else out there. I honestly couldn't believe Elden handled that trip so well. You could tell he was over the car by midway through each trip because after each stop when we'd approach the car to strap him back in he would kick and pout a little. Nothing some distraction couldn't cure!

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