Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Road Trip With A Toddler


    As much as I was excited to visit my family and be a part of the wedding of my dad and new step-mom and even have our family meet Xavier the thought of a road trip with a toddler in tow really scared me. It is about twelve hours drive time from the southern coast of North Carolina where we live to upstate New York where my dad and step-mom live. (To find out more about the beautiful place they live click here to read yesterday's post about The Coolest Small Town). We debated flying and may for other occasions, but for the wedding there was a lot of items we needed to bring. Plus, my dad and step-mom's house is at least another hour ride from any airport making a toddler even more cranky.

   We finally decided to drive. Nick and I have driven the route a few times with no problems. Once was even when I was pregnant. We have a good driving arrangement. I hate driving and rarely do as I have a few medical issues (not seeing well at night and seizures that keep me from driving much) I try to stay out of the driving as much as possible. I focus on being the best co-pilot. I make sure everyone is fed, not thirsty, comfortable with air/heat, radio stations and we are going in the right direction. In exchange for Nick driving the whole way I also made a deal with him not to criticize his driving in anyway. Such as how fast he is going, what lane he is in, if I don't think he braked soon enough. I keep my mouth shut unless I really feel we are in imminent danger such as we missed our exit or about to enter a car crash. This has always worked for us. Also, since I am primarily home all day with Xavier we thought it would be best for me to care and try to meet all of Xavier's needs while on the road trip. We actually joked as Nick does a lot of driving for a living and I stay at home with Xavier we are essentially doing our everyday jobs, mine was just in a completely different location.
    I had a lot of wonders of what to do. Such as...should I sit in the back with Xavier? He faces backwards how can I entertain him? What do we do if he throws a tantrum and we can't pull over? How are we going to keep everything accessible for when we need it.

    Our first choice was to rent a car. We have one 2008 Suzuki SX4 which we love and has done it's wonderful duty for us the five years we have had it. However, it is getting tighter and tighter for our little family. We knew we could not drive that up to New York as Xavier has a giant entourage of things he has to bring with him, plus we had extra wedding essentials. So thanks to the wonderful people at Enterprise Rent A Car, who we have used many times we got a great deal on a Chevrolet Suburban for the week! The Suburban was a great car that had plenty of room in it. We actually ended up taking out the third row of seats and left them at home to have more trunk space. It was wonderful to travel with. It was a smooth ride, had no trouble working tough country roads and even had some nice features, like a jack to plug in your mp3 or ipod and dual zone and back seat air.  However, I do think it may be a little too big for our everyday use. So I am scratching it off of our list of "what new car to get next".

    We had to put Xavier's car seat behind the driver's side because there was no place to put a mirror to see him in the middle seat. I refused to not be able to see him in the mirror through the entire drive. I ended up not sitting in the back seat with him as I never do and I prefer to sit in the passenger seat up front as I can get car sick. Although we did leave room in the back seat in case I needed to go back there and sit with Xavier. The drivers side was perfect, because I could see the side of him and see him in the mirror covering most angles and he actually seemed to enjoy being able to sit near the window and look outside.

   We made a point to keep all essentials in the back seat within reach of me in the passenger seat. So we had Xavier in his carseat, then his backpack of toys, then lots of paper towels, a giant trash bag, extra pillows and blankets (for me mainly), then on the back seat floor I put all the snacks. I had a snack bag. A cooler for drinks and cold sandwiches and fruit and Xavier had his own lunch/snack/drink bag as we tried not to have to feed him much in the car. Since he is used to eating only three meals a day and maybe a snack it did not seem to bother him. Nick on the other hand prefers to snack while driving to keep him stimulated and I prefer to starve myself on the ride as I get nauseous. Needless to say we are an odd car traveling family but it works for us. We also kept the diaper bag accessible when we stopped so I can grab it for quick changes.

    So how did it go? All in all I would say it went really well, in fact better then expected, both driving up and driving back home. Here are a few tips I will offer if you take a long road trip with a toddler.

1) Get some new toys. Xavier still faces the back (children should until they are 2 or reach 50 pounds, see Debunking Old Wives Tales) so putting on movies was not an option. I ordered some new easy toys to travel with for him and a backpack just for him. I got them in the mail before we left and gave him a day to play with each to see how it works and then took them away and hid them until the drive. It worked perfectly! My top choice toy for a toddler on a road trip is the Magna Doodle. I did not get the ones with the shapes just the pen and screen and it was small so it was perfect for him. My sister had done this with her boys and it helped them travel as well. Xavier spent almost the entire time scribbling on the Magna Doodle. Another choice was a small laptop for him. It just had shapes, and numbers and a small light up screen, but it was enough to occupy him. However, you did have to hear "Triangle, One, Red" but it was not too bad as we had the radio on as well. Also, I brought a couple of his favorite stuffed animals to play with. He had fun playing with both of his monkeys. The new toys help as well when you are at your destination so he does not get into all of grandpa and grandma's items he was too busy playing with new toys.

2) Give comforts even if not allowed at home. Xavier only uses his pacifier in bed to sleep. I never allow it out of his crib. I made the exception while traveling. He had it the whole time but he was sleeping on and off so it worked well. I even clipped it to the car seat so it could not get lost too easily. The same with his blanket which is always in his crib he had the entire car ride. However, these small things really seemed to make him feel better.

3) Snack cups and sippy cups are vital! It is much easier if you need to give him a snack or drink.  One time our lunch was delayed by three hours due to construction and having no where to stop. Nick and I could eat sandwiches in our seat but I could not feed Xavier very well. So I gave him a snack cup of Cheerios and sippy cup of water that he thoroughly enjoyed and tied him over until we could stop. However, be aware you may have a leakage of Cheerios and water as we did. As he also made a mess. Next time only rice cakes are going in the snack cup (they were much better for the way home). Be sure your sippy cup lid is extra tight. (Xavier has a tendency to play with it and the water in it and splash it) However, at our stop we just dried off the car seat and changed Xavier's clothes and off we continued on our journey.

4) Remember it's a journey not a race. We did not worry about "making time". We have a toddler. We want to be able to get to our destination all alive and in a semi happy mood. We ended up leaving at 5:30am both times and got home around 7ish. Not bad in our opinion.

5) Leave a buffer day. Thank goodness we left Thursday for a Saturday wedding. Friday, Xavier was miserable. He was in a place he did not know with a ton of people he did not know and he was severely off his schedule. I tried my best to keep him on his regular schedule Friday and let him have his peace so he would be happy for the wedding on Saturday. It was a blessing to get there a day early as it helped greatly. (Check Thursdays post for wedding details).

6) Stay away from fruit. Normally if you read my blog you know I am a health nut and always eat healthy. Xavier, Nick and I love fruit. I thought it would be great to have some fruit on our trip and I cut a bunch up and put in a dish for Xavier to eat with his lunch. This backfired "literally"! We were on the last hour and a half to my dad's house where there is not a rest stop for miles and Xavier backfired his fruit from lunch. So much so our eyes were watering and we had to roll down the windows. When we pulled up to my dads and everyone was so happy to see him and all the relatives came running they took one whiff of their grandson/nephew and went the other way. We changed him and although there was no blow out we still had to air out the car seat and back seat of the car as it stunk so bad. Needless to say, Xavier had no fruit on the drive home, just carbohydrates, meat and dairy! (Don't worry I gave him fruit again once we were safely home).

7) Get your toddler out! As much as we could we got Xavier out of his car seat and walked him around even if for a couple of minutes. There were times when Nick was getting gas and I would walk Xavier around for a couple minutes. They need to stretch their legs as well.

All in all it was a wonderful road trip and one we will definitely make again. Hopefully Xavier's entourage of items will diminish a little with time. If you are thinking of taking a long road trip with your toddler. I greatly encourage you to do it. You will feel like super parents once you survive it and it is definitely creating memories you will not forget.

This week is a chronicle of our vacation to upstate New York for my dad and new step-mom's wedding. If you missed yesterdays' post click here.
Check back tomorrow to see the review of the car seat that made the journey with us!

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