Traveling with Children

January 10, 2022, Tiffany Newman

Traveling is always challenging and sometimes stressful but traveling with two young children is a whole other ball game!  My husband and I both have families that live far away, and for Christmas and New Year, we decided to give it a try and go for our first road trip with two children. I was very hesitant to do this at first because our youngest (3 months old) hates being in his car seat and screams almost the entire time he is in it. Let’s just say I was not looking forward to a 6-hour drive with him. We have always made this trip in a single day, but because we know how much Caleb hates the car seat, we decided to make it a two-day event, so we were not putting too much stress on our son or us.

My oldest does not mind the car seat for the most part. When he was very young, he used to sleep most of the ride and fuss every once in a while.  As he got older, he didn’t like being constrained and started to fuss a little more in it. We decided to give in for longer car rides and let him watch movies along the way on an iPad. Thank goodness for this!  I never thought I would be a mom to put my son in front of a TV to go on road trips, but it is truly something that helps the entire family and keeps him busy for those longer rides. We download a few of his favorite movies, and he is content for hours. We also bring some of his favorite toys to play with when he needs something else to do.

Anyways, like I said, I was a little terrified and stressed about taking this road trip with our baby, so we broke up the trip into two days. We also usually have my husband or me in the back seat with both boys to try and keep them entertained, feed the littlest a bottle, or keep a pacifier in his mouth for comfort. This is truly helpful when we both are in the car together. The other thing that is different when traveling with children is packing. We take so much more stuff on vacations than we ever did before. Our car is packed! This leaves little room for us or the dog, which can create its own challenges as well.

Our vacation started the day before Christmas Eve. We got the car packed, picked up our oldest from daycare, and headed out. To my surprise, our youngest fell asleep shortly after getting on the highway and our oldest shortly after. Luckily, both boys slept through Portland traffic. I had a bottle warmer, breast milk, and toys handy when my youngest woke up. He was in a good mood, thank goodness, and I was able to warm up some milk for him to drink. He was happy as a clam and fell asleep again until we got to The Dalles. We stayed at a hotel with the kiddos, and they slept amazing. The next morning, we woke up and headed on the road to our next destination, another three and a half hours away. The kids were happy again and ended up napping in the car after we stopped for lunch. When my oldest woke up, he was a little cranky, so I put the iPad on, gave him a snack, and he was happy once again. When the littlest woke up, he was ready to eat, so I warmed up some milk and gave him a bottle all while on the road.

So, you may be wondering why I am telling you all of this. Well, for me, learning to travel in a car for long periods of time with one kid was a learning process, but with two, it was even more of one, especially when one hates being in the car seat. Here are a few of the essentials that have helped with our travel experience:

With one child, we used to just fill up an insulated water bottle with hot water and keep it with us. The water would eventually get cold, even in really good ones, and our son would not like the bottle as much. It also meant I had no way of warming up breast milk. When I had Caleb, I invested in a battery-powered bottle warmer.

Another thing I found so useful and mentioned is the iPad (or a portable DVD player), we purchased a used one, and it is specifically for watching movies in the car. I know these can be expensive, but if you can afford them and are okay letting your child watch movies, this is a lifesaver!

I would also recommend a portable white noise machine if your child is used to it. It is comforting to our littlest one, though the road noise helps a lot with that as well.

Another thing, breaking up the trip into two days was so helpful and relaxing for the whole family.

The last thing that is always helpful for us is snacks, lots and lots of snacks that your child likes. My oldest loves fruit leather at the moment, so I usually have that on hand for him.