So I wanted to share our recent (well not so recent anymore) traveling experience. Hubby and I undertook the 10 hour drive (which means about 12 hours of travel) to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. Now I know you may be thinking WHAT IS SHE CRAZY? 12 hours in the car with 4 little kids!? Well we survived and lived to tell our tale, as well as did our children. Did I mention that we did it without electronic entertainment?
First off in undertaking such a long trip at crazy holiday times is selecting your departure times. We were pulling out of our driveway at 4am on Wed before Thanksgiving. Kids were in their jammies and told they MUST go back to sleep, which they generally did, though I did catch S trying to read her Where's Waldo book in the pitch darkness of the car! :) Second we planned breakfast in the car: bagels with cream cheese, juice boxes and bananas. Note I should say I can't stand bananas so it was a sacrifice on my part to smell bananas, but it was fast easy. By delaying breakfast as long as possible we ensured that when we finally stopped the kids had already been in the car at least 5 hours and would really have to pee.
Another thing about traveling with 4 little ones: be prepared to stop frequently for potty breaks and standing rule in our car is if one has to pee: THEY ALL HAVE TO PEE! We also travel with a potty in the car, thus if we are on the freeway with no stop in sight or on the NY thruway just past a rest area we can have them pee without squatting/standing. Although my kids are pretty good about not peeing frequently. That being said we also don't dish out lots of drinks when we undertake trips. While it may sound cruel, it saves issues. Although Al did have an accident not that far along into the trip, which is highly unlike him.
We pack lots of snacks to travel: chex mix, nuts, peppers, carrots, cheese sticks, a few cookies and we even had M&Ms kept as a bribe. For the adults we had a large carafe of coffee predoctored and water, lots of water.
But back to the kids. The day before I had them pack backpacks full of car-friendly toys and activities. My favorite trick is each child has a 1/2" 3-ring binder that I fill with coloring pages, mazes, etc. Each child was required to have crayons/markers available to them. The backpacks had carabiners attached to the top hooks and then were hooked onto seat-belts or wherever I could attach it so they would not drop them. Al's marker bag was even hooked into the backpack. Books also, lots of books. My kids love to read and Al and S will frequently trade back and forth.
We did stop and McD's for lunch- it's a real treat for our kiddos and a chance to be a little crazy. I personally don't think it's fair to expect the children to sit and behave in an "adult" restaurant after sitting all that time in the car. It's always a little difficult to reload in the car after a long lunch, but those McD's toys are a good incentive. When we travel the toys are not opened until we are back in the car!
Honestly all in all the trip up to NY went smoothly. It was our return trip that was difficult. Probably because we made it longer by taking a side trip to Niagara Falls and then went to avoid some traffic and wound through some interesting farm roads in OH.
So let it be known that even in 2011 (I know it's 2012, but we traveled in '11) that you can travel long distances with 4 little kiddos without electronic entertainment. The only electronics were our cell phones (for the adults) and CDs we custom designed for travel, one for sleep and one for play.
Hope this helps all you out there in blogland!