As a kids, my brother and I knew we were taking some kind of summer vacation each June. Also as a kid, I didn’t appreciate those trips nearly enough, as I’d get whiny in the backseat or grumbly about too much travel.
Kids, if you’re reading this, learn from your elders. Don’t be dumb, as you’ll soon learn how much plane tickets and rental cars actually cost. Also, adults don’t get summer breaks! Who created this insane system? Let’s be honest. Do 8-year-olds need two months away from playgrounds and spelling tests more than 32-year-olds need time away from the cubicle? We all know the answer to this.
For the month of June, I somehow planned back-to-back, single-parenting road trips with my kiddos.
Load up the minivan with your 27 stuffed animals, 43 picture books, and every snack you can grab, kids! We’re heading to Grandma’s!
Y’all. Grandma lives four-plus hours away. And I decided we should visit her while my husband (her son) stays behind to work (and save vacation days). Yes, yes, working can be stressful, but then he gets to come home to an empty house, eat party pizzas, and play video games. Every time I get one of these harebrained schemes, I always whisper the same thing to my husband when I get home…
You know, YOU could always take the kids away for a few days…
*Manly chuckle* followed by “And moving on!”
This is why he has the PhD and I don’t know what our house sounds like without some whining, snack-begging, and toddler feet sprinting down the hall.
This week, I had the brilliant idea to solo-drive the youngsters to my parents’ beach condo. I mean, since the four-hour drive to Grandma was so successful, why not tack on an extra three to four hours? It’ll be a party in the swagger wagon!
So, as I toss in a load of laundry and recharge the portable DVD player, I thought I’d offer a few tips before hitting the road.
How to successfully prepare for an extended road trip alone with very small children:
- Invite any adult along. Give that adult the task of entertaining the small children as you tune into an audiobook. (I kid, I kid! Though, this is always helpful!)
- When making a road trip solo, remember you need to be able to reach everything easily. Hide the snack bag on the passenger seat, as the second your children make visual contact with said bag, there will be increasing demands for empty carbs and sugar.
- Don’t start the DVD player right away. Provide enough books/stuffed animals/Melissa and Doug Water Wow! packs to entertain for about an hour. This will make them really want the digital entertainment when you consent, and you’ll win brownie points for being the mom who hits play.
- Take breaks. Even if your kids are doing swimmingly, make sure you take an extra break now and then. Don’t push those baby bladders to the limits. Buy the random snack. A bag of Cheetos makes a mess, but a happy mess when the 2-year-old spends an hour happily munching away, covered in fine orange dust. Or get a Happy Meal. That little, plastic toy will entertain for at least 15 minutes. Every time I take a break, I always feel more optimistic when I urge my weary back muscles to return to the driver’s seat.
- Relax the rules. Extend the screen time. Give an extra snack. The goal is to simply make it to the destination without losing your mind. You do you, parent/grandparent.
- You’re allowed to say, “Not right now.” Driving through downtown Atlanta during rush hour? Of course your kid will ask for that one book you can’t possibly reach. This is the moment to inspire fear in your children by calmly stating, “Mommy has to focus on driving right now so we don’t die.” It works surprisingly well.
- Toss in the baby potty. If you have a little one just out of diapers, pack the portable potty, some extra toilet paper, and some Lysol wipes. Oh, and also a few plastic bags. It’s pretty much the worst when your kid is pottying in the back of your minivan, gives a suspicious, little grunt, and you ask in exasperation, “Wait! Are you pooping?! You said you only had to pee-pee!” Hence the Lysol wipes and plastic bags. I’m a proponent for draining the number one in the bushes, but I can’t, in good conscience, leave a turd in someone else’s bushes. Is that even legal? Also, if you’re in this stage, consider purchasing a car seat “piddle pad,” as you can remove a wet one and have a second try. It’s always depressing to put your little one back into a pee-soaked seat because you have no other options.
- Pack easily accessible spare clothes. For everyone. This one should be obvious.
- Buy a car cell-phone holder. I have this one. Let’s be honest. Even women can only multitask so far. When fighting Atlanta traffic, I need to use Google Maps to navigate the eight different lanes and off-ramps. I’m also simultaneously trying to pass out Goldfish and fish picture books out of the pile in the back (see #6 and take it more seriously than I do). It helps to have a hands-free, convenient third hand to help with navigation, as your usual navigator (see: husband) is enjoying a quiet coffee break in his cubicle. (Again, I bring this on myself, so I really can’t complain…too much.)
- Disney karaoke. Honestly, I’m not a big Disney fan (for moral reasons. Another topic for another post). However, even I can appreciate the musical magic that company churns out. If things get tense, throw on some Frozen or Moana soundtrack and belt at the top of your lungs. It helps diffuse a tense situation if Mama starts dancing like a cray-cray and singing along with a summer-lovin’ snowman.
Just keep your goal in mind: Get from Point A to Point B. After that, pass all small children to familiar local adults and find yourself a place to take a nap. Mission accomplished.
Got any travelin’ tips to share? I’m all ears!
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – There will be a post about this book, because I am loving it.
Little Victories: A Sportswriter’s Notes on Winning at Life by Jason Gay, a sports columnist at the Wall Street Journal – I’m listening to this one (read by the author), and it has some seriously hilarious moments. A perfect read to pick up from time to time.