This past month has been one of great change and adventure for us. Part of the adventure has included 2 out of town trips back to back. Yep, you read that correctly.. a 4 hour weekend road trip to Dallas for my family reunion and then a 9 hour road trip to St. Louis for my husband’s family gathering. We were gone for 1.5 days and then for 5 full days. The trips couldn’t have been more different and I wanted to share some tips and tricks I learned because of and during both trips. Please note that I am not endorsing any of the below items as “must use travel tips for SN kids,” I am simply laying out things I did or wished I had known/done during the trip so you can take them and tailor them to fit your special family and situation.
- It is OK to overpack for your SN kiddo (or any kiddo I imagine!) In fact I SUGGEST that you do just that. I’d figure on a minimum of 3 outfits per DAY. There are few things that can ruin a trip quicker than needing clean clothes and realizing that you are indeed out of them because you didn’t think the kids “needed” the extra bag. Trust me when I say this.. TAKE THE EXTRA DAMN BAG!
- Car seat tip: if you’re going for a LONG trip, have a kid that seems to ALWAYS be thirsty then you are going to have a wet car seat and it usually happens at the beginning of your trip because, ya know, a 9 hour car ride isn’t enough of a stressor. The best way to avoid this is to put a throw away bed pad (or puppy pad if you’ve already got some on hand) in the bottom of the seat. Cut a slit for the buckle so that it lays flat and doesn’t cause the car seat police to get all frantic. It’ll save the agony of pulling in for a pit stop and realizing not only is your little human wet, but they’ve soaked their entire seat as well since they drank 4 cups of juice in an hour.
- To help avoid those soaked seats if you’re not comfortable using an underpad, then do your best to limit beverages to 8-12oz every hour or so. Also, be ready to make a stop every 1-1.5 hours for a diaper change. If you can’t stop every 1-1.5 hours for a diaper change, please refer to #2. Also, for those of you that are all hoity toity in the “I’m not going to let my baby sit in a wet diaper for any amount of time,” when you’re in the middle of rush hour traffic in a big city and realize you’re kiddo has peed, you can’t just willy nilly pull over and change them, so get down off your high horse and join the rest of us just trying to get our family from point A to point B with the least amount of tears possible.
- Ziplock bags are kind of like duck tape.. they can fix a multitude of problems. Have dirty diapers? Throw them in a ziplock. Have wet or damp clothes? Throw them in a ziplock. Need to keep your phone dry at the pool? Throw it in a ziplock. My new favorite for ziplocks is to pack a day’s worth of kid clothes in one (that’d be roughly 3 sets in 1 gallon size bag) and vacuum or suck the air out and voila.. insta vacuum bags that give you more space in your kids bag (or the extra bag we’ve decided is ok to take..) Also, once you’re done with the day, throw the dirty clothes back into the bag so you can keep track of what’s dirty vs clean without having to do the “smell test.” Even if you think you won’t need them.. at the minimum, take a handful of gallon sized bags just in case.
- ALWAYS keep an extra set of clothes, a few diapers, and a small bag of wipes (ziplocks come in mighty handy for this one..) in your car AT ALL TIMES. don’t balk at this point.. if you use nothing else from this list, PLEASE keep this on in mind! On our St. Louis trip, we finally go to our hotel after 9 hours in the car. We unpacked and then headed to our final destination which is up and down hills with several curves/turns/switchbacks.. It’s about a 20 minute trip. 5 minutes into our first trip, little human pukes all over herself and the car. Guess who didn’t have any extra clothes. So we make a u’ey and head back to the hotel. 15 minutes, a bath, and new clothes later we are back in the car making our way.. this time 12 minutes into the trip, little human pukes AGAIN. Ah ha, I had grabbed a change of clothes before we left the hotel! Or did I? Nope, naturally I had left them sitting on the bed by the door. So as I get little human into the bath (again,) husband has to drive back to the hotel to get more clothes. so that was 40ish minutes wasted because I didn’t make it a habit to keep a clean set of clothes in the car. For the record, I learned the hard way to always keep diapers and wipes in the car. Guess I learned the hard way about the clothes too!
- Pack snacks into individual baggies or cups/bowls with lids before heading out. This makes life so much easier with little gets the munchies. The “snack size” ziplocks are great for this =)
- Instead of grabbing drinks at every rest stop or having to fool around with bagged drinks or hugs spilling everywhere and having a ton of trash – take a gallon jug or 2 of water, a straw thermos & a “squeezeum” as we call them, the little squeeze bottles of Kool-Aid or Mio. Its super easy and quick to pour in water and a little squeeze and voila, a spill proof drink. If you are driving without a helper then go ahead and flavor an entire gallon jug or a few water bottles and simply fill up at rest stops OR take 2 or 3 thermoses already full and ready to go, then just refill at each stop. **we only have 1 thermos and little human broke the lid long ago so she hands it back to us when she’s finished with her drink so it doesn’t spill all over her or her seat.
- Call ahead and/or speak to your family or guests (wherever you’re staying with other people) and let them know your expectations for the trip when it comes to your little. Sometimes people aren’t aware of the struggles your child has and why you need the freedom to “little proof” the house/hotel room as soon as you get there. Things like bar stools, magazines or books on the table, anything breakable within reach and the like. Those are just personal things my little human is drawn to. I suggest this one before you even make the trip. If there is hesitation on anyone’s part, then make sure that it is a trip you really want to make in the first place and know that you will be “on guard” to make sure little doesn’t get into or break anything.
- If you are staying in someone’s house, ask permission before you just go moving things or hiding them from out of your little’s reach. Some people take great pride in how their home looks and is decorated so you don’t want there to be any hurt feelings or tension because you just automatically assume that it’s ok with them for you to move things. Also, see point # 8 about communication.
- If you are staying in a hotel that has things like a long mirror that isn’t screwed into the wall or extra trashcans everywhere or tissues in the vanity that are at the perfect height for little hands. Call the front desk and explain the situation and ask for the removal of such items for the length of your stay. We have both asked and not asked permission for this, but ALWAYS put things back exactly like we found them. The 3 biggest things I can remember is a hanging long mirror & a standing lamp went into the closet and the tissue box got removed from the bathroom and put on top of a vanity or tv. Also, if phones are a fun toy for your child, let the front desk know that you will not be reachable by phone so to please send someone to your room if anything is needed or to put your cell phone number down with your room # so you can be reached if necessary. We always unplug the phone because no matter where we try to put it, little human finds it and ends up with it. It’s much less of a stressor if it’s simply removed and a plus if little likes playing “phone.” it’s one less thing you have to tell them “no” to.
- Figure out YOUR schedule for your child BEFORE the trip. We made this mistake on our long road trip this year. Even knowing our little doesn’t transition well and does much better on a set schedule, we just threw that out the first day or so. It was awful. We were trying to spend as much time with family as we could and so dinner, medicine, and bedtime were all thrown off. We had a very cranky and somewhat confused little girl. So after day 2, we realized that someone was going to have to bite the bullet and keep to little’s schedule. Since it was husband’s family we were there to see, we decided that I would go back to the hotel with her at the appropriate dinner/medicine/bed time so that she would be back on her normal schedule and wouldn’t be so agitated.
- If you are “tag teaming” it during your visit/vacation make sure there are clear guideline/understanding between you and your spouse/partner/friend as to how long and when you will “tag out.” This can be a sensitive topic for some, but we have found that as long as there is open communication that no one feels left out or that they are being the only “parent” during the visit. Whether it be one takes the morning and one the afternoon, switch off every hour or 2 hours, or one does one activitity and then switches with the other, just make sure it is something you can both stick to. I’ve found this lessens the stress when there is open communication and a plan. It’s also ok if it’s agreed that mom or dad will be the “sole” caretaker for the child for the duration of the trip so that the other can enjoy their family or whatever activity they have chosen to do. Whatever floats your boat people. Just make sure that everyone is on board.
- Food/Feeding issues. Right now our little has about 6 things that she will eat. Knowing this, we brought along breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for her to eat. We did luck out that both our families had food she would eat so we didn’t have to break into our stash, but it is much easier to go ahead and pack a cooler of foods you know your child will eat than to have the struggle at each meal to get them to please eat something that the person has fixed or that you have ordered at a restaurant. A trip is NO time to try to introduce new foods unless your child initiates it. Most SN kiddos are already out of sorts on a trip away from home, so keep it as simple and consistent as you can.
- Make sure you have plenty of entertainment for the drive, especially if your kiddo isn’t fond of their carseat. This could mean games, coloring pages, a special toy or two, or downloading their favorite shows and movies onto a phone or tablet for them to watch. We are very blessed in that our little human loves her carseat and being strapped in. As long as she has a set of her play keys, a Minnie mouse or bear stuffed animal, and frozen or moana when she asks for it then the trip will go pretty smoothly. ::knock on wood::
So there you have it. My tips and tricks for having as smooth of a trip/vacation as you can. Some of the above things I did and some I wished I would have done during our last 2 road trips. I’ll chalk it up to life experience and the joy of passing on my little bit of knowledge I gained during the 2 experiences! Do you have any tips/tricks you have that I have missed or haven’t learned yet?! Please share away so we can add them to our arsenal of parental tools!