Facing this drive was pretty darn daunting with a 3.5- and 1.5-year-old. Elden is forward facing in his car seat so we were able to utilize the car DVD player to keep him entertained.
Edith, on the other hand, is still rear facing so the TV is not really a big distraction for her. She is also at an age where she cannot be reasoned with and doesn't understand that the current car sitch is temporary. Suffice to say, we learned a lot about the do's and don'ts for traveling with two toddlers from our trip.
- Stock up on new books your kids have never seen before. Our kids LOVE looking at books are are particularly into the touch-and-feel ones. I loaded up on books from TJ Maxx and Amazon (used books for the win!) and--this is the key--kept them out of sight until we were in the car. They definitely looked at books more than they played with the toys we brought, so the more the better. These also come in handy while you are actually on vacation.
- Buy a bunch of little toys from the dollar store, Target, etc. Bonus points if they light up (glow sticks, light up wands, etc.) Similar to the books, do not reveal these toys until you are en route. On a related note: don't let on that you have a whole bag full by you and make sure you also save some for the ride home or--like us--you will need to stop for additional 'new' toys.
- Bring snacks that they might not usually get but love. In our case, the kids devour freeze-dried fruit (these are their favorite) but given their price point these are a rare treat for us since they only last about 3 seconds. They are also big, big fans of Gerber's Lil' Beanies. We packed both of these items, along with pretzels, grapes, blueberries, etc. for the car ride. Whenever they got fussy we plied them with food and it was actually a pretty darn successful diversion tactic from their car-induced misery.
- Leave mid-morning and run your kids ragged as much as you can before you get in the car. This makes sitting still for a long time a lot easier. (note: if you think your kids would actually sleep on an overnight drive and just want to do that, by all means - do that. We did not expect the kids to do well on an overnight drive so this was the best time for us to leave).
- Plan to stop at places that permit movement--including for lunch. We brought our trusty picnic blanket with us and ate lunch at a Sheetz in the grass so the kids could literally run off their energy without disturbing other people. For our other stops we stuck to interstate rest stops for the same reason.
- Make an I Spy jar:
|contents hidden within the jar|
|jar filled with rice|
This is really easy. Just buy (or find) a bunch of small items that you can include. A lot of the items I bought at Michael's on sale and then my mom had a bunch of small beads and scrapbooking items from her craft collection that she donated to the cause. I used a cheap plastic water bottle as the vessel, filled with rice as I stopped to add the little pieces, and then hot glued the lid shut. This provided serious entertainment for the kids on both car rides, as well as while we were at the beach.
- Have low expectations. If you go into it mentally prepared for 8 hours of hell, you will either meet expectations or be pleasantly surprised.
- Expect your kids to be willing to go to a restaurant or grocery store when you arrive at your destination. You will want to order food for delivery or have one parent go pick something up and bring it back. It is well worth the money.
- Let your kids see or know about the treats/books/toys you will have waiting for them in the car.
- Wake your kids up for any reason whatsoever if they fall asleep in the car. If they were hungry they would not be asleep. If they had to pee they would not be asleep (maybe). Don't be like us. It is a mistake.
- Make any plans for the day you arrive at your destination at all, unless said plans involve running around. And even then, for your own sanity, you may just want to put it off.
A lot of these are probably pretty obvious, but it wasn't necessarily the case for us. The key is surprise and giving them things they've never seen before. We preferred cheap things because our kids are notorious for getting bored with new items so we don't see the point in spending a lot of money on something they'll use for twenty minutes and then be done with forever.