Tips for staying merry & bright while traveling with kids this season

Just remember, the holidays are about family, friends and food - getting there just requires a little extra preparation & patience.
Just remember, the holidays are about family, friends and food - getting there just requires a little extra preparation & patience. Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you are lucky, you won’t have to travel far to spend the holidays with loved ones. I, on the other hand, am not lucky. Let me explain. I love my family… I really do. But the seven and a half hour car ride to see my family in Maryland, with two young kids battling over an iPad in the backseat, is my least favorite part of the holiday.

When I travel with my husband, he has the travel routine down to a science. We leave in the early morning, hit the highway and we don’t stop until someone has to use the potty (its usually me). That will buy us about 4 straight hours. However in the coming days, I have to make the long drive with the kids solo. The thought of it all makes me anxious. I’ve driven the long trip up I-85 to I-95 north before, but the preparation for it is like training for the Olympics. So here are some tips I’ve gathered to make the journey easier on you and the kids:

-Packing: Load the luggage in the car the night before. When you wake up in the morning, the car is already fully packed. This makes the morning less stressful. Simply get dressed, grab the kids and go.

-Leaving: My husband and I usually leave at 5am while the kids are still asleep. They are the last to enter the car, often still wearing PJs. The darkness outside during the winter months along with the gentle rocking of the car helps the kids to stay asleep longer.

-Diapers: Even if your kid is well potty trained and can hold his/her bladder like a pro, accidents do happen. The last time my family traveled north nine hours we were stuck in traffic for a good portion of the trip. Not once, but three times on I-95 we were forced to pull over to the side of the road because the kids really had to go! There wasn’t a bathroom in sight and traffic was at a standstill. This time my kids will be wearing overnight diapers. These come in larger sizes and can hold a lot of liquid.

-Adult Snacks: Its pretty much assumed you will travel with juice boxes and kid snacks, but lets face it moms and dads get hungry too. Try to bring along car friendly snacks that won’t get messy during the ride, such as apples, bananas, carrots, celery, cheese and pretzel sticks. This will help to reduce the number of fast food meals eaten on the road.

-Entertainment: An iPad or DVD player is a must, but so are headphones. Riding seven hours listening to the audio of kiddie shows is a recipe for insanity. Make sure you pack kid friendly headphones that restrict loud audio and protect little ears.

-Napping: After a few hours of traveling north on I-85, I put the kids to bed. I simply let them know it is time to turn off all electronic devices and relax. A well-rested kid is less likely to have meltdowns during this stressful time. Use their naptime, to listen to radio shows or audio books that are not kid friendly and would otherwise be off-limits when the kids are awake.

-Breaks: Its always good for you and the kids to stretch during road trips. Be careful to avoid remote rest stops. Remember to visit well-lit, populated places that have lots of people and ample parking.

-Breathe: Just remember, the holidays are about family, friends and food. In a matter of hours, you will be sharing memories with loved ones you haven’t seen all year. Surely this is enough excitement to make you forget you have to make the trek back in just a matter of days.