In a few weeks, we’ll embark on our annual family vacation to Cape Cod. This is a trip my husband and I have been making for some 16 years, and the way we get there has certainly changed since children came into our lives. Back in those early days we once clocked our travel time from Brooklyn, NY to North Truro, MA at 5 hours and 45 minutes— a record indeed, and with only two restroom stops.
Traveling with kids is a whole other story. For starters, two restroom breaks don’t cut it anymore. Luckily, we’ve done the trip enough times to strategically plan for potty breaks. Driving down I-95, especially through Connecticut, with all 93 of its exits, packing food is a necessity too, if we want to actually eat something satisfying and healthy. Here’s some tips I’ve learned over time to help arrive at our destination with our sanity intact.
The Potty Drill
I’m a total germaphobe, so my daughters are well-versed in lining the bathroom seats with toilet paper. I also always bring hand sanitizer in case there’s no running water or soap stocked. And this may seem a no-brainer, but don’t take “no” for an answer if the kids say they don’t have to go. Make them try, especially if they’ve been sipping drinks during the car trip.
Pack A Spare
One year I crossed fingers my oldest daughter wouldn’t catch the virus going around camp. I was sure we’d gotten away clean, as we packed the car and headed onto the highway. About an hour into the trip, she got sick all over the backseat—yes, that kind of sick. All our clothes were in the luggage packed in the shell on top of the car, so now we were both cleaning the backseat and unpacking the luggage for a fresh set of clothes. The lesson learned here—I always pack a clean set of clothes, underwear included in my handbag. Toss in some zip-top bags too, so you’ll have a place to store soiled clothing.
If you’re hitting the road, or will be en route, during your little one’s bedtime, dress them in pajamas or loose-fitting clothing and pack a favorite blanket, to help them fall into a more comfortable slumber.
Mommy, Can You Spare a Snack?
Blame it on growth spurts, active lifestyles or just downright hearty appetites, but it seems every time I turn around, my girls are asking for something to eat. In addition to the sandwiches I pack for lunch, I make sure to include fruit cut into bite-sized pieces—frozen grapes keep other foods cool, and are a fun treat for older kids, as well as granola bars, some air-popped popcorn, cubes of cheese and crackers.
Are We There Yet?
Expect to hear this question the moment you roll out the driveway, then brace yourself to hear it every mile or so. One way to help kids beat boredom in the backseat is to make sure they’ve got plenty of games, books and activities to keep them busy. I let my daughters, ages 3 and 8, pack their own travel bag for the car, and they’re allowed to fill it with anything they can safely, and hopefully quietly, play with in their seats.