How to Survive a Car Trip with Toddlers

I really wanted a "white Christmas" this year.
I grew up with snow, and somehow Christmas just isn't the same without the peaceful, glistening innocence of snow.
Simon also really wanted to see snow this year. He wanted to build a snowman shaped like Lighting McQueen!

So we decided we would journey to see our extended family in Utah and Idaho. Our path would take us through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming before we came home to Texas. Surely we would see tons of snow! Or so we thought. . . we got nothing. We missed every single snow storm on our trip. The snow either melted before we got there, or it snowed after we left. My hubby was happy to have dry roads for the entire 3,338 miles we drove, but it was sad to drive that far North and miss out on snow.
On our last day in Idaho we drove into the mountains and found an inch of ice-packed snow, and we were able to throw some powdery snowballs and build a snowman that was probably 3 inches tall. Luckily the kids don't know what they were missing! They loved the icy powdery snow we found.

Our tiny snowman. This was big as we could make him in the powder!
See the green across the road? it was a miracle we found this powdery snow.

Anywho. . . this post is about surviving a car trip with toddlers.
Yes, it can be done!
We took a 3yr old, a 2yr old, and a newborn on this vacation. And drove a total of 3,338 miles.
Sure we had some mishaps along the way. We threw away a few pairs of undewear after the kids didn't make it to the toilet. We washed the carseats twice at different relatives' houses. And the kids think that anyone older than 55 is another grandma.

But we had a fun vacation, and you can too.
I hope you enjoy these tips!

1. Leave early in the morning (if you can).
Our adventures that began at 5:00am went more smoothly than the days we started driving later in the day. We think this is because our kids fell back to sleep since it was still dark outside, and then they still took an afternoon nap in the car. When we left around 8:00am, the kids only slept for their afternoon nap. With little kids, the more they sleep in the car, the more peaceful the drive. They just get so bored being stuck in those car seats for hours.

2. Run around the gas station's parking lot with the kids
Obviously hold their hands while you do this. And take one kid at a time. With that being said, this small bit of running helped the kids get some energy out and stretched our adult legs. Once everyone had pottied at the gas station restroom, Johnny would run up and down an empty section of asphalt with each kid. The kids got to laugh and pump their legs, and they loved it! It also helped keep the driver awake by getting the heart pumping.

3. Take lots of snack foods
Snack foods keep the driver awake, but also keep little bodies from being "hangry." (That might be my favorite trendy word. Hungry + Angry = Hangry). We kept a supply of crackers, fruit, carrots, and nuts on hand. Pick your children's favorites and keep them close! Try to get a variety of salty, sweet, crunchy, and soft foods so you don't get bored with the options. Take lots of water bottles, and only give the kids water. Juice and soda are sticky and might make them have to pee more often. Also, my husband and I ate some candy, but we didn't give the kids candy. A sugar rush would have had them bouncing in their carseats with too much unusable energy. But the candy sure kept me and Johnny awake for driving!
Snack foods also make you less likely to stop for food along the way. We only stopped for lunch during the day, and we chose a drive-thru to keep us on the road. We had too many miles to go to eat at a sit down restaurant.

4. Show movies on the tablet as a last resort
Being stuck in a car can be a great time to talk as a family. You can sing songs, teach colors, learn the alphabet, or play "seek and find" games. All those activities take up time when you have 21 hours to your first destination. And once the kids fall asleep, you have quality time to chat with your spouse! Try and use up those hours in quality family time, rather than distraction time, and talk with your family in the car. 
When everyone starts to get on edge and you are ready for some quiet time, then show a movie on your tablet. You'll find that once a movie is playing, everyone quiets down to watch (or in the driver's case, listen). This can be very relaxing, but it also means your communication time with your spouse is done.

 I don't have a fancy tablet case, so I used a banana and a clothespin to hold the Kindle in viewing position for the kids to watch movies. It worked!

5. Bond with your spouse
When the kids are quiet, enjoy some quality chatting with your spouse. Reminisce about when you were dating, make plans for the future, discuss how to handle in-laws, etc. Take your endless hours in the car to really listen to each other. Give whoever is driving a neck rub. Discuss a book. Enjoy your time together!

6. Take quiet toys
Seek and find books, magna doodles, and action figures work for us.

7. Take lots of wet wipes and extra undies and plastic grocery store bags
Your kids will have accidents in the car. If they don't pee or poop their pants, they'll vomit. Or spill water.
It's inevitable. Be prepared.

7. Enjoy your trip!
Remember that this trip is supposed to be fun! So if your sanity means you stop for a few hours and explore the nearby cave, park, or shopping mall, then go for it.

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