Traveling long distances in a car with little kids seems daunting when you’ve never done it before. You don’t know how they’ll sleep, act, what they’ll eat, or just survive the car ride. Will you even survive? is the real question. We’ve traveled to my family in New England, a 16-hour drive, three times since the twins were born, this being our third, and it gets better every time. I’ve written a post before on traveling with babies and toddlers and a large amount of what and how I pack has stayed the same. However, this time we were able to actually stop for picnic lunches and dinners like I have been hoping for.
We spent two days before our trip cleaning the house, packing our stuff, and stressing about how the kids would do in the car.
William doesn’t travel well, but he thoroughly surprised us this time. He has done really well. I had to throw out my want for naps to happen and realize they probably wouldn’t but it would be ok. We only had one meltdown in the five day drive up. We planned to spend at least 4-5 hours in the car each day before stopping. We could have driven more, but we stopped to visit friends and family along the route which was much needed and a great break for the kids.
When packing the car, each kid has a basket filled with books, magic marker, pencils, crayons, water wows, pop its, toys, and coloring books to keep them busy.
We don’t like handing them the tablets right away. I found this paint by sticker book for Eloise, which she has loved and done really well with. The only thing I would suggest is tearing out the pages first for your child if they can’t do it themselves. On our ride up, we discovered a Magnetic Drawing Board at a local library and Eloise was entranced by it so it’s going on the list for next time. Also, this sounds completely ridiculous but the kids LOVED these Pop Tubes. We made tunnels with them and talked to one another like telephone, they thought they were the coolest things. Instead of using the car trunk organizer as it’s intended, I used it in the front to hold the different snacks and food. Since it was summer, we were able to stop at local parks to play at meal time. We kept it simple with PB & J sandwiches and sides. Make sure to snag some silicone mats as they make eating and clean up easier. They’re also small enough to roll up and stuff somewhere.
Some people would plan every stop of their trip while other people, like us, hope they find some good rest stops on the way.
We planned our overnight stays ahead of time, but just found the parks as we went. If you’re traveling through Bristol, Virginia, there’s a Mellow Mushroom right next to Sugar Hollow Park, a 400-acre park with playground, pool, picnic shelters, bike paths, campsites, and more. It was the perfect place to stop and have a picnic dinner. The next leg of our trip took us through Staunton, Virginia where we settled in Gypsy Hill Park for lunch. The large park is fenced, the bathrooms were clean, it has a pool with a splash pad, and a duck pond where you could feed the ducks.
We spent the next day and a half in Brunswick, Maryland with friends before embarking on the second half of our trip. Our Airbnb in Brunswick was awesome and we would stay there again. Brunswick is a small town and quiet place to stay if you’re traveling the area. It’s just under an hour from Gettysburg and just over an hour from Washington D.C. It has Amtrak and lots of bike routes for travel. The remainder of our route took us past the Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall, Pennsylvania which has a little play area and since it was hotter than the rest of the week, it was the best place to stop. There’s also a Chick-fil-A here if you are in need of a fix. With the ages of our kids, stopping like this instead of sitting in a restaurant was the best thing.
We still have a few more days and places to visit here in New England which I’ll share about next time, but don’t let your kids’ ages and travel distance scare you. You never know how they will do until you try it. Mama, just be prepared to let things go and don’t have high expectations. The kids have really surprised us and done lots of new things on this trip. They’ve shared a room this whole time, touched creatures they wouldn’t have before, and have just gone with the flow. William actually napped on the ride home from the Zoo one day, he surprised us all.