With the advent of warmer seasonal weather and a better vaccine backdrop, the world seems to be finally opening up and moving past the worst of the covid pandemic. Summer is around the corner, and I know I’m not alone in itching to make travel plans. With two little and very active kids at home, my vacations are already very different than they used to be and the lingering effects of a pandemic will also have an impact.
Where in prior years we may have chosen air travel, destinations this year are far more likely to be road trips. A recent PR newswire survey shows we are not alone. A full 76% of respondents plan to travel more than they did in 2020, and nearly 60% plan to travel more than they did in 2019, before the pandemic. Not surprisingly, more than 80% do not plan to travel internationally this year. This means, lots of road trips and RV travel.
Some of my most memorable childhood memories involve road trips. We had the Benitez minivan and it was a full house (eight of us, including my two cousins and aunt). The drives to Florida would take two full days and we had plenty of pit stops and mayhem along the way. These days, excursions with my cubs are a little different, but there are some essential lessons I’ve learned through my many years of road trips. Here are just a few I hope you find as handy as I do:
- Prepare for stops: Before we set out on a trip, I make it a habit to have the kids take one last bathroom visit right before leaving. It is also important to teach children to listen to their bodies and bladder so that you can better plan your pit stops along the way. We have found that with little ones, a good rule of thumb is to map out a 15 minute stop for every 2 hours of driving. While we have gone 3 hours without stopping, having a conservative strategy has reduced some of the travel stress and eliminated accidents. From the parent’s standpoint, breaks are a good way to stretch out and not get too tired, helping to remain alert and better able to concentrate on the road.
- Pack small healthy snacks. We all know snacks are a MUST on road trips, but healthy snacks are especially necessary with little children. Fruits, nuts, dried fruits, veggies, whole wheat pita chips, popcorn, hummus, guacamole, string cheese - you name it - I pack it. Snacks that balance protein and fiber can help stabilize energy levels compared to empty calories in high sugar/salt processed carbs. A neat trick that helps me stay organized with my snacks - ziplock bags! I pack snacks in individual sandwich bags making snacking neater. I also always carry a few extra plastic bags in the glove compartment. This serves two purposes; a respite for nauseous little ones (more on that later) and a garbage bag for the road (trust me, whether you have kids or not, there will be messes to clean up!).
- Allow for spontaneity: One of the things I love the most about road trips is the unplanned discoveries. A restaurant that appears like something out of a 1950’s era with a jukebox outside, an antique store with hidden treasures waiting to be discovered, an exit sign stating a ‘waterfall’ 10 miles ahead. Road trips are all about discoveries. Allowing yourself time for spontaneity to see and take in all the tastes and sights, is almost as exciting as getting to your destination.
- Make room: Sitting in a car for extended periods can be a marathon in endurance. For that reason, it makes sense to pack strategically. If we are traveling for a week, I pack several tops and a few bottoms that I can wash and rotate. I also bring no more than a good pair of walking shoes, and sandals for beach/pool time. I do the same for my kids. Packing efficiently means you have more legroom and more space for those undiscovered treasures in that antique shop you found off-the-beaten-path.
- Be prepared - motion sickness: I learned an interesting fact recently. About 1 in 3 people suffer from motion sickness. I, unfortunately, happen to be one of these special people! I’ve always suffered from vertigo, but at times it has been so severe that even sitting in a slow driving vehicle can make me incredibly nauseous. When I was pregnant with my second son, my husband planned a ‘babycation’ cruise for us. I spent the majority of the trip lying horizontally on the bed in our cabin. Not able to take any medication due to my pregnancy made the experience just wretched. The lesson was not taken lightly on me and I am now much more prepared when I travel. For me, nothing soothes my nausea better than the combination of lemon and Ginger. So, I created my delicious candies which I pack with me on our road trips. Our kids love them and it has helped road trips go much smoother.