In this age of uncertainty, one thing remains…summer is still on (it just may look a little different this year)! No need to cancel your summer vacay plans, you just might have to be flexible with how you get there. Bring on the summer road trip! My family (like everyone else’s reading this) had a myriad of events canceled since March, so we realized we inevitably had to cancel our flights to Florida. It seemed like just one more thing taken away by the loathed virus. But it had been six months since I saw my family in Florida, and no virus was going to hold me back another 6 months. So, break out the road map, we’re driving to Florida!
What I didn’t imagine was that I’d actually get excited to hit the pavement with my crew. I began planning fun road stops, car games, and of course, entertainment for the toddler. What I also couldn’t imagine was enduring the whole trips sans screen. That’s right, a trip from Westchester, NY to New Smyrna Beach, Florida with ZERO screen time for my three-year-old. If you had asked me 17 hours ago if it was possible, I’d laugh in your face. Now though, I’m telling you not only is it possible, but it was also completely bearable.
My intention didn’t start out with banning screen time, I actually packed the portable DVD player and enough DVDs to fill 2 17+ hour car rides. But I also had a few other tricks up my sleeves because, like me, my little guy suffers from motion sickness (one vomit-filled taxi ride from UWS to Little Italy confirmed this). I created (what I hope is) helpful tips below specifically with a toddler in mind, but they can be adjusted for the appropriate age of your family.
1. Be prepared to stop…A LOT. Nothing’s worse than being cramped up in a back seat for hours, except being cramped up in the back seat with a harness on. Seriously, I don’t know how these kids tolerate car seats. They just seem so restricting (I get it, that’s the point). So map out a few rest stops that have large grassy areas and let them run loose every few hours (these are usually dog-friendly rest stops).
2. Stay overnight. Personally, I wouldn’t attempt more than 500 miles per day. With pit-stops, that can be over 10 hours per day. So if you’re in it for a long-haul, break up the trip in two days. If you’re headed to the sunshine state, the halfway point is right around Fayetville, NC. There’s a charming DOUBLETREE hotel right off 95. They get bonus points for a completely digital check-in, including a digital key on your phone. Just download the Hilton app.
3. New toys. I planned one new toy for every new day of driving. They don’t have to be extravagant, just new. I gave my little man a brand new sticker book on the first day and about 2 dozen small toy cars (thank you eBay). He was so excited with both, you’d think it was Christmas in July! I know stickers can be iffy, depending on your kid. We had one instance of putting them on the window, but we quickly put the kibosh on that.
4. Road-friendly supplies. Two items we could not do without on this trip (or any other trip going forward in life) are the Kid’s Travel Tray that conveniently lays across the lap of the car seat and serves as a mini-desk for coloring, a tray for snacks or racetrack for said cars. The second item is the Folding Travel Portable Potty Seat – this is NOT just for toddlers. Listen, rest stop bathrooms were no prize pre-COVID. Post-COVID, they’re the stuff nightmares are made of. This seat covers the top of an existing seat and minimizes the direct contact with the germ-riddled toilet. It also folds up for easy storage and works wonders anywhere. There are a few on the market, but I highly recommend Gimars Non-slip Travel seat.
5. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. This is not the time to be rigid with their diet or eating schedule. Let them indulge a bit. I’d just recommend thinking twice about the 10 a.m. South of the Border ice cream stop. In hinds sight, it WAS too much sugar that early in the day.
6. Be flexible. There are just some times when things don’t go according to plan. Be prepared to give in and choose what feels right at the moment. It truthfully IS about the journey and not just the destination.
Are you planning on traveling this summer? What tips can you add?