By Rebecca VanGinkel
My husband travels nearly all year long, all around the United States for his job. After our young son was born, he took a few months off work, but when our son turned eight months old, my husband was back on the road, and so were the baby and I. It was very hard to learn to live out of a suitcase at first, especially when our young son pretty much needed everything in Wal-Mart to survive! But, once we got into a routine, and learned how to pack right, everything got much easier on us.
Our first lesson we learned was to never travel anywhere without wet wipes, not even down the street a half block. Every time we turned around, our son had something messy in his hands, either eating it, wiping it in his hair, or wiping it on our car seats! We learned at a fast rate that napkins do not work wonders on children and their messes, but I have yet to come across a mess that wet wipes could not clean.
Also, always keep a small bag full of toiletries inside your car. I always pack bandages, facial tissue, liquid hand cleaner, lotion, q-tips, a fever reducer and pain reliever, and whatever else you may need during your trip. I pack mine in a freezer bag and store it in the glove box. I also never leave home without packing an overnight bag for my son. You never know when you may have to sleep over in a motel, or when your child might not make it to the bathroom in time when you are traveling, and it is best to be prepared. Inside the bag, I keep an extra change of clothes, a light jacket, wet wipes, a clean towel, and a few of his favorite toys. I also always kept extra diapers in my car and in my sons’ overnight bag when he still needed them.
When driving for long distances with a young child, it is ideal to pack lots of their favorite toys and books. If you bring things that your child is not interested in, your ride is going to be full of crying and whining! I found that my son loved to color in the car, so when we travel, I pack a few crayons in a locking school box, and his favorite color books. He stays happy for hours, and we do not hear a peep out of him. Another good toy to bring along is a Leap Pad, or something similar to it. A Leap Pad talks to your child, reads to him, and even helps him learn. The pen on the Leap Pad is attached so you never have to worry about losing it. You can buy many different books and cartridges for it, so you will definitely be able to find a program that your child will be interested in.
Another thing that has helped us out a lot is the DVD player that my husband and I have recently purchased for our car. It came with dual screens, so my son and husband can both watch a movie at the same time. On the other hand, if only one of them wants to watch a movie, we can just turn one off with the push of a button. It also comes with dual sound control, so we can easily adjust the volume, from the front or back seat. This has made driving for hours seem like driving for minutes.
If you make a schedule and stick to it, your ride will go a lot smoother. Schedule bathroom breaks and gas breaks at the same time so that you are not making any unnecessary stops. But, make sure you stop often enough if you’re traveling with a young child. They always seem to need to go to the bathroom twice as much as adults!
Last but not least, always make sure your child is safely buckled in. It is best to check from state to state to find out the laws on different car seats and booster seats. Since laws vary from state to state, you want to make sure that you are not breaking any laws. Always bring your car into the shop to get it checked out before driving for long distances. They will let you know if your tires are in need of repair or anything else should be done to make your trip a safer one. A flat tire will always put a damper on your fun! So, if you pack and plan ahead, know that traveling with a young child can be a lot of fun!