Traveling during the holidays can be stressful enough, but when you add kids to the mix it can get a lot more challenging. Since we’ve got two young ones this year, decided to take an early holiday, weeklong road trip up to our families in NY and CT before the chaotic Christmas travel weekend. To add more craziness, we also decided to take the dogs with us instead of sticking them in doggy daycare!
We made 4 separate stops to see family, which included unloading and loading the car several times. So we had us two parents in front, a relatively new baby (2 months old) and a rambunctious toddler (21 months) in the middle seats, and a German Shepherd and Pitbull/beagle mix in the back. I know we aren’t the only ones who have had similar travel challenges, but we figured we’d pass along our lessons learned from our road trip experience.
- Planning is everything
-Arrange items in the car so that you are well equipped to reach anything from the front seat relatively quickly: snacks, wipes, diapers, extra baby clothes, toys, paper towels. I bought two backseat car organizers to house the diapers, wipes and bottles. The front passenger usually becomes the car manager while en route. Under both of the front seats I put a small tub with spit-up cloths and the extra clothes if needed.Like a magician, you gotta be ready to pull out something new and fun when the toddler gets antsy and you’re far from your destination. (Looking for/counting trucks passing by while on the highway was really effective for Chase)
-Pack strategically: If you’re staying somewhere with access to washers/dryers, pack for only part of the trip to reduce the amount of clothes we had to lug around. Since the dogs were occupying the back of the SUV, we bought a roof storage bag so that bulkier luggage could go on top. It was a definitely a spacesaver, but a pain to load and unload.
2. Timing is key
-Time your travel during nighttime or naps. For the baby, the timing didn’t matter because he slept almost the entire time we were in the car, but we tried to accommodate Chase’s schedule. For each leg of the trip, we either left early in the AM (5AM), around noon if it was less than 3 hour travel, or at night for the longer distance home to cover bedtime.
-Take a break at rest stops BEFORE the meltdowns/hunger. We stopped so I could nurse Carter before he got too hungry, let Chase stretch his legs and run around and for the dogs to relieve themselves. They were very calculated rest breaks, but so essential.
3. Breathe, Relax, Enjoy
It’s so easy to get stressed out when traveling with young kids and dogs, and it can make the trip seem less like a vacation and more of a VOCATION. For coping with a crying baby while driving, if he’s already been fed and changed, there’s not much you can do except sing songs and pray that the movement lulls him back to sleep (which it did). For a squirmy and bored toddler, distractions, singing and playing games really got us through the traffic patches. For the dogs’ periodic whining, we opened up the back window for them to get some fresh air, which usually did the trick. If someone was tailing our car, we’d roll down the back window so our large German Shepherd would stick his head out and stare them down…That was a really effective strategy.
Have you done any traveling with little ones or dogs and have some good tips from your experience? Please share!!!
Happy Holidays and Safe Travels!!