This weekend we drove from Maryland to Michigan and back with our 18 month old son. We did this same trip last year when he was 6 months old.. but a toddler is a whole different (cute) monster! Here's how we not only survived but actually had a great trip. In all of the 18 hours in the car we only had 1 meltdown, which in the life of a toddler is nothing short of a miracle!
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Timing - when to leave, when to stop
We decided to leave at 2:00am on Friday, hoping that Bram would sleep for the first several hours, we could stop for breakfast then power through to Ann Arbor by lunch. After we got him to bed on Thursday, we finished up packing and had everything ready to go by the front door. At 1:00am, we woke up, packed the car and last minute essentials. I tried to transfer him from our bed (where he sleeps) to the carseat, but failed the transfer (doh!) and he woke up very confused but in a happy mood. He did end up falling asleep and slept on an off until about 7:30am. I also got some sleep while Lee drove.
While we were packing I looked at the weather forecast in Ann Arbor and it looked pretty good, sunny in the 50s-60s. So I packed accordingly... no winter coats. What I didn't take into account was the weather in our path as we drove there.... is there an app for that? Because if not I'm making one! Once we made it through the Alleghany Mountain Tunnel in southern PA we came out the other side to a winter wonderland! And it just kept getting worse! It was still dark out and with the heavy snow fall it was difficult to see, Lee took it slow but the tractor trailers didn't, it was pretty scary for a bit! By the time we stopped for a bathroom break outside of Independence, OH it was Blizzard/white out conditions with several inches of accumulation. And NO SNOW COATS! Eventually the weather got better and turned out to be a great day.
Bram took his mid day nap as we were nearing Ann Arbor around 11:00am and it allowed us time to stop at the local grocery store for items we would need for the weekend. He woke up as we pulled into the hotel. All in all it was a great trip (besides the snow!) and Bram did amazing. We stopped 4-5 times, but Bram and I only got out of the car twice, both at rest stops along the turn pikes.
Sunday we left the hotel at 11:00am for the journey back home. Our thinking was that he would nap for the first 1-2 hours, we would then stop for a late lunch. Then stop for another break around 3-4pm and get home by dinner. He did as planned the first half. He was asleep before we left the hotel parking lot. Napped for 1.5 hours, woke up happy, was content for a bit, we stopped at a rest stop for a late lunch and let him run around. Things were going great!
When we got back in the car I should have noticed how bright the sun was on his side of the car, as you can see in the left picture but I didn't.... (mom guilt!) around 2:00pm is when the meltdown occurred. He was irritated, begging to be nursed, wouldn't take a bottle or any toys and was just miserable I finally realized he was very warm from the sun beating on him (duh mom!). I didn't have a thin blanket or anything to cover the window but I improvised with the case from my pillow. I couldn't get it in place while we were moving, so we decided to stop so I could get him situated. Word to the wise--- bring a light muslin type swaddle blanket, they're so versatile and would've been a lifesaver, and pay attention to the sun's direction!
I covered up the window and we walked around the rest stop but he was still very irritated and at first wouldn't go back into the carseat, so Dad to the rescue! We pulled out his ride on motorcycle we had brought for the hotel and Dad pushed him around for a few minutes, everyone that walked by thought it was adorable!
Then we let him play in the front seat of the car pretending to drive for a bit before putting him back in his carseat.
The next hour took a lot of entertaining from me to keep him somewhat content. I pulled out every trick and toy I had to keep him happy. Eventually I just knew he was exhausted and as much as I knew if he slept it would mess up bedtime later, it was about surviving this road trip right now. So he fell asleep at 3:30pm and slept for an hour. He was as happy as could be once he woke up! We grabbed take out food a few minutes before we got home, and made it home happy! Bedtime was later than normal (closer to 9:30pm) but wasn't a disaster at all.
What to bring - toys, snacks & entertainment
These are the toys/entertainment I brought for the road trip. Some I bought specifically for this trip, others were tried and true favorites of his.
The Green Squares were FAVORITES, the orange X's are those we didn't end up using or he didn't find entertaining.
7, 8, 9 & 10. Dollar Store items - I went to the dollar store and found small interesting toys and treats for surprises. Its around easter so most were eggs or Easter related (which I replaced the candy with gold fish crackers!) and he had a blast opening the eggs. I would refill and do it all over! I also got small stickers which were great mood boosters. I would stick on his cheek or arm and he would try to take them off. They constantly got lost in the car though, and I'm sure my husband is going to scream when he finds them all stuck to his leather seats or something eventually... but whatevs, Bram enjoyed them!
#8 was playdough...and I never got brave enough to pull it out. He's still learning about it and constantly wants to eat it... I would not suggest playdough for traveling!
#10 was a sticker activity book- never even brought it out of the bag, the other stickers were enough entertainment.
Overall the trip was great! It gave us great confidence for the long plane travel we have in a few weeks to Italy!
What tips do you have for surviving a road trip with a toddler?
Now that our triangle family is complete, follow along as we live our "life after infertility." Our travels, our joys, our laughter & our sorrows of parenting.
Chrissy is a...
full time corporate world working somewhat crunchy mom, a loving wife, an MRKH Warrior, Infertility Advocate, support group leader & a bad ass breastfeeder. In her fleeting spare time she enjoys hiking, traveling, walking her pooch, sewing and watching funny or sappy TV shows.