We just didn’t know!
That is what my husband and I said when we made a huge mistake on a road trip and stopped at a hotel around midnight with my toddler. We expected him to stay asleep and transfer seamlessly into the hotel room. As many parents have now told us, this was delusional! Kids gets so excited when they arrive in a new place. The second he opened his eyes he was totally awake and ready to explore this new hotel. He screamed and cried for hours when we tried to put him to bed until finally we repacked the car at 3am and continued driving. (Sadly, I think I left my sanity back in that hotel room too.)
We learn through our failures and bad experiences. I am still new to traveling with a kid but here are my 5 full proof tips to making it an enjoyable trip.
1. Go to the dollar store before hand and pick up a few new toys to keep them entertained.
I like to wrap the gifts up like presents and then every hour or two I will present a new toy for our son to play with. This gets pricey with multiple kids and that is why I love the dollar store!
2. Snacks are your best friend.
When my son gets bored, it’s time for a quick snack break. The more variety the better. Even if your car becomes crumbs city, let them enjoy a different kind of food each time.
3. Put a cookie tray in their lap.
This allows your child to have room to play with their toys in a new way in their lap. My favorite is to get out magnets to let them play tick tac toe or just create for a while by doing something different.
4. Put on sing along music or an audio book they will like.
This requires some prep ahead of time, but find songs on their favorite shows and have them ready. I also love to look for an audio book that is geared towards kids to give them some non-screen time.
5. Timing is everything.
You know your child and when they will be crankiest each day. Try to plan a stop to run around at that time. My son is so young that the more we can drive while he is sleeping, the better! We try to leave at 4am when we can, so he can sleep for the first part of the trip and not feel so stuck in his carseat all day.