Advice about Car Trips
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Advice about Car Trips
Hi--I'm a little embarressed to be asking this sort of question, but really, it's
become a problem.
My husband is a loving, caring father and husband, but he is a bit impatient, and
can be a little hard on our two sons, probably because he grew up in a very tough-
guy-or-pathetic-guy sort of home. A semi-major problem we seem to be having is
that during car trips, he HATES to stop and let our sons (ages eight and ten) use the
bathroom. We do go on car trips pretty often, so it is not like a once-a-year thing.
When one of the boys says they have to go the the bathroom, he will outright
refuse. He says they should wait, have to hold it, etc. and will sometimes not stop
for over half an hour, even with the boys whining for him to stop. My husband, like
my sons, is very stubborn. He believes, he insists, that at this age they should be
able to take any ''mild discomfort'' silently, and that when they are older, they won't
be allowed to just ''go'' whenever they want to. My husband always drives, which I
am really grateful for (he knows that I don't like driving and do it so much to and
from school, etc.).
Needless to say, my sons don't like this (I try to make my husband to stop, but
sometimes I am not there, asleep, just too tired to deal, etc., and also, I know that
his father did this and seeing how stubborn he is...), but I am more concerned about
their health. I have heard that this can be dangerous to children's health. Does
anyone know if this is true? I think that if their health were in danger, he wouldn't
do this so much, or at all.
For my sons' sake,
As a Social Worker I am concerned about the situation you described in your posting. Although I do not work in Child Protective Services it would be legally and morally mandatory for me to report this situation to CPS. Minimally, CPS would require that you and your husband attend parenting classes. You are supposed to be an advocate for your children,. You appear to be in denial of your husband's abusive behavior. Please look at ChildAdvocate.org with regard to ''denying children the use of the bathroom when needed.'' You are subjecting your children to discomfort, at the least, and possible bladder infections which can lead to kidney damage. I hope you will read it and show it to your husband. You should both be in counseling.
I have personal experience that proves your husband wrong. When your sons are adults, they WILL be able to just stop what they're doing and go to the bathroom when they need to go. I do it all the time. I'm not talking about a medical problem; I just almost always need to stop once every few hours to pee (on a trip, walking around shopping, at work, whatever.) I've noticed, though, that I tend to need to go more frequently than others and I am horrified at the thought of having someone tell me that they would not stop the car if I had to go. How would you react if you needed to stop and your husband refused? Please come to some sort of agreement before your next trip (w/ husband, yourself & sons.) The boys must go before leaving the house, not drink a liter of soda in the car, no lingering in the candy aisle at the gas station, time limit, etc. And talk to their pediatrician to be armed w/ additional helpful information. I've heard that holding your urine too long c!
an cause urinary tract infections,
etc.) Just plan your trip length to include stops as needed. Hopefully you'll all feel
less stressed about it.
Know My Limits
Your husband said, ''when they are older, they won't be allowed to just ''go''
whenever they want to.'' Really? I'm an adult, and I can choose to go to the bathroom whenever I want.
I think he is being completely unrealistic and controlling.
let my people go!
As a woman with a frequent need to urinate and a husband who (used to) like to decide for me when I needed to go, your mail really struck a chord. My son's pediatrician once told me how important it is for children (and adults, but especially children whose bladders are small) to empty their bladders before riding in a car. If there is an accident and the bladder is full, it can burst. That's what she said, and boy did that stick with me. I just insisted before getting into the car (and of course all bladders were emptied before getting
in) that if anyone needed to stop, we were going to stop (my husband has the same weird thing about not stopping, which he will use all kinds of excuses to motivate). Refuse to go or get in without that agreement and quote the pediatrician. Your sons' bladders will get bigger as they get older, but so will their dislike for your husband's macho ways (and they might assume those ways themselves).
frequent rest stops
Your husband seems to have a sadistic streak- No good will come from allowing him to subject your boys to holding their bladders to the point of pain! Why do you allow him to do it? Get over your dislike of driving and tell him that you will drive on trips and that the boys will use the bathroom whenever they need to. Need back up? Ask the boys pediatrician to speak to your husband (over the phone or in a
note?) to outline the possible harm his behavior is causing.
Emotional if not physical for sure! If your husband is doing this cruel thing to his young boys, what will he progress to as they get older? Don't take another car trip with this man until you get this sorted!
Very sympathetic (with a small bladder)
I don't want to sound cruel, but your husband needs to grow up and let your sons use the restroom.
Is he really so focused on making good time that he can't pull into a fast food place so his beloved sons can relieve themselves?
I think you should put your foot down and make your sons comfort level first. Drive if you have to and end this cycle of ''real men don't cry'' and ''you can endure some discomfort.''
Just imagine what your sons must think if their dad won't pull over even if they are begging? And what if you had a daughter?
Would he pull over for a girl or is this just an old school ''boys must be strong'' thing? And yes, they can get kidney infections from holding it too long. But that shouldn't be the reason your husband pulls over; he should do it, because his kids are asking.
Stand up for your sons.
Although you describe your husband as loving and caring, not letting kids take bathroom breaks is not loving or caring behavior. Even if holding it in is not damaging to your kids physically, it could be damaging emotionally. It is a control issue. Kids should have the right to decide when they need to use the bathroom. They are the only ones who really know how badly they need to go. I hope your husband will decide to change his behavior, since it is pointless and just plain mean.
gotta go when ya gotta go
WHY should they '' wait, have to hold it''? Not only is it not good for ANYone's health to ''hold it,'' frankly, I think it is cruel to force children to forgo going to the bathroom!
Eliminating waste is not a trivial, inconvenient desire, it is a physical NEED. It is a parents job to see that their childrens' needs are met. Your husband has a responsibility to stop the car when his children express their need.
OK, since you asked... your boys sound normal. Your husband sounds immature. What is he so angry about? What's the worst case scenario here - that he will have to stop once or twice on a road trip? Can he try to give your sons incentives instead of threats? (A penny a mile for no stops, a big milkshake when you get to your destination, something like that.) I ran this one past my husband, who also had a 'tough-guy' dad who had to control the family's road trips, and he just shook his head. The answer is yes, it's bad for your sons' health - their mental health! Is this the kind of childhood memory that your husband wants them to have? I'm glad you wrote, because I think you'll get a lot of answers similar to mine. I hope you'll stand up for your kids.
It's supposed to be FUN
My dad used to do this to us and I actually think it is abusive.
Having to hold urine is a very uncomfortable, anxiety producing situation to put a young child in. What would your husband do if one of your sons ended up losing control of his bladder and peeing in the car? I don't mean to offend you but my guess is that your husband may be overcontrolling to the point of mild abuse of your sons at other times as well. My dad was abusive in other situations--he had a very bad temper that he could not control. Now he has prostrate problems and has to stop the car to pee all the time himself and is worried about where bathrooms are, etc. I consider this poetic justice. At any rate, since you have boys they can probably just pee into a big, wide mouthed bottle without having to stop the car. That solves this particular problem but doesn't address the wider issue of the way your husband is willing to ignore your sons basic physical needs and cause them psychological distress.
You know, my uncle once did that to me -- refused to stop until I was quite literally writhing in the back seat -- and I have never quite forgiven him. Your husband has got to change this attitude, which is borderline cruel, and you need to stand up for your boys (none of this ''too tired'' nonsense). Having to urinate, even frequently, is not a sign of moral weakness. To leave a child suspended, with a biological need and no assurance that he'll be able to deal with it in relatively short order, is just mean. As for the health risks:
Some additional suggestions:
1) Insist and verify that they go to the bathroom before you leave home.
2) Once you've stopped for one of them to go to the
bathroom, make sure that they both go, even if the other one says he doesn't need to.
3) It's fine to say (if it's true), ''well, we'll be there in 10 minutes, and you'll just have to wait that long.'' Longer than about 10 mins. is just unreasonable.
4) Since you have boys, you can just pull over to the roadside, if need be. It's not a big deal. Pity the poor parent of girls.
Yes, it is bad for your kids to hold it. It can lead to bladder infections. Trust your instincts on this one. Its not like your kids are whining because they want to stop for an ice cream cone. Physical discomfort because of needing to go to the bathroom is very real. When children learn to ignore the feeling, it can lead to incontinence as well. Your husband is doing them no favors. hes making them feel bad, uncomfrtable, and possibly giving them health issues for no reason. He can be firm with them in other ways (like when they are whining for a ice cream). Going to the bathroom when they need to is their right and its is unacceptable to expect them to do otherwise.
I think your husband is not being reasonable. We got some information years back from a urology institute about bed wetting, and one of the things I remember is that it is common and normal for boys to wet the bed at night up to the age of 12 because they often may have a weaker bladder up to that age. I remember our doctor saying my step son could do bladder stregthening exercises. So the concept of your sons bladder not being strong enough to hold it out for extended periods of time may apply in the case of long road trips too. Your husband shouldn't hold a young child's bladder to the same standards as an adult bladder. I would definately ask your pediatrician about any physical problems this could cause (not to mention physicological).
One solution is to bring a plastic bottle along the kids can pee in. This is what my brother-in-law does with his 3 boys. I personally would not do that.
What concerned me the most about your posting is that your husband doesn't recognize that going to the bathroom is a natural process, and a child cannot hold ''it'' like an adult can. Why would your husband have a ''control'' issue over peeing on a road trip? I couldn't help but feel sorry for your kids.
Do you or your husband want your kids to remember how they HAD to hold their pee/they were uncomfortable or crying/your husband's steadfast stubborness on going to the bathroom OR do you want them to remember that road trips are FUN, HAPPY events in their childhood?
Pull over and let them pee for goodness sake!
I have a solution for the ''symptoms'' but not the ''problem.'' I don't like your husband's attitude, but it sounds like that is a much bigger issue. To relieve your sons' need to pee during trips, I suggest purchasing something called a ''Travel John.''
These are sold at auto parts stores and most likely online.
They are an ingenious little well designed product filled with the kind of absorbent powder used in diapers. The opening is contoured plastic to fit the body snuggly, and when you pee into it your pee immediately becomes a fairly solid ''gel,'' so there is no spilling possible. We use them on long trips just to save time and our boys -- and girl -- think they are fun. They are certainly cleaner than roadside restrooms! My husband used to commute 1.5 hours in traffic and used them occasionally as well. I hope they help alleviate your sons' discomfort, although I worry that your husband will look for other ways to ''toughen them up.'' His attitude is distressing from many points of view -- it would be nice if he could change it.
Concerned about your boys
No, this is not good for them. However, they way you described it
reminded me of a sort of game my father told me about that his
grandfather did. It was a teasing sort of thing; his father always
stopped in fifteen minutes or so, but it was, like a I said, sort of a
game. Is this what your husband does? Whether or not it is, he shouldn't
do it, but I was rather wondering if that was the case, which would put
a rather different light on it.
I was really quite surprised at the number of responses you got
and how angry they were, especially when public schools do the same
thing. If social services is this mad at a man you said was loving and
caring, I wonder why they haven't gone after the schools that restrict
bathrooms far more than your husband does. Forget twenty minutes; a
teacher can forbide a child from going for up to an hour and a half! And
the arguement that children want to get out of class applies just they
same here; you children may, sometimes, have just wanted to get out of
I would say, speak to you husband about it, but I don't think you
should be as alarmed as some people wrote. If you were, I would suggest
not sending your children to school from grades 5-12.
Just My Two Cents
I have to respond to the Social Worker who felt that the controlling
father who would not stop to let his children use the bathroom was doing
something that CPS would not only investigate, but become involved to
the point of forcing the father to attend parenting classes. This is
utterly ridiculous. I am a CPS social worker of 6 years and I highly
doubt that CPS would even go out on such a situation. CPS does not
investigate bad parenting, only abusive parenting. This is not to say
that what the father is doing is right, but this social worker's scare
tactics are ridiculous and inaccurate.
You've already received a lot of advice that the children should be
allowed to pee when they need to, but don't worry about CPS.
I know lots of folks shared their opinions on this in the last
newsletter (all of which I agree with in principle) - the post evoked a
long-forgotten memory, as follows: as a kid, I grew up near two cousins
who used to take long car trips with my aunt and uncle. My uncle had
the same ''no-pull-over for any reason policy'' and eventually the boys
just learned to pee into some sort of plastic jugs. However, for
whatever reason, they felt this was so humiliating and traumatic that
it's one of the few childhood experiences I actually remember them
recounting to me (now I'm frankly not sure why they would have shared
this information if it was so personal and upsetting for them, but they
did, and this was over 40 years ago). I never understood why my aunt
permitted this and in fact, looking back, seems like just another in a
series of mildly degrading events that my cousins had to contend with
during their childhood. Not good for the self-esteem of emerging young
Wouldn't let my husband behave this way
I remember my father doing this to me; he was a slightly impatient and
stubborn man (we might have made him that way; altogether we were five
boys). I didn't like it, but it didn't cause any real long-term
resentment that I know of. I was born in another country, perhaps
Americans view it more harshly. I think it depends on the situation. If
you are ten, maybe fifteen minutes away, and it is not an emergency,
then it is okay to tell them that you'll be there in ten or fifteen
minutes and they need to wait until you get there. If it is more, you
really ought to stop. It is bad for children to wait this long.
You said your husband was caring and loving. My father was loving and
caring as well, this was just a bad quirk of his. Think about whether
this is just an isolated issue, or whether your husband is controlling
and needs therapy. With my father, it was an isolated issue, and my
mother bugged him about it, and he would relent pretty quickly.
Also, part of what my father did was a game with us. We were five
boys with no radio, telivision, and I was the only one of us who could
read in the car without getting violently ill, and we all had to go at
different times (he could never convince us all to go when the others
went). I actually have some sympathy for his cause, now, but I don't
think it was the right thing to do.
We will be taking our 6 year old daughter on a car trip in a
couple of weeks. We have attempted to pace the trip accordingly
but we would love to hear from folks who have great ideas for
activities to do in the car on days when we will spend several
I started my son with books on Tape when he was 6. Doctor
Doolittle and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but there
are many to choose from. You can borrow them from the library
or buy them at Mr. Mopps. I bought a cheap cassette player at
Long's drugs with headsets and it was a big hit. He is now
10 and not only loves to listen to books on tape at home
but brings them with him on all our vacation trips.
Bring a frisbee, balls, jump rope, etc, and stop at lots of
rest stops to run around & play. (They're often very scenic.)
Word games are fun. (Capitals, 20 questions, A-my-name-is-
Alice, etc). Mad libs. The old license plate hunt is always
good -- find all fifty states, farthest place, etc. Music
(your own singi! ng, or taped music.) If necessary, bring a DVD
player. We brought our laptop and propped it up on a pillow
and folding chair. But go easy on the movies, cuz vacation
time should be a time for the family to bond.
We are just now finishing up a long car trip, 2000 miles, over
16 days,with our 2 boys, 7 and 9. Once we got to where we were
going we stayed put for 8 days, leaving 4 days up and 4 days
back. What we learned: 250 -300 miles a day during daylight
hours was about max, in terms of what our boys could handle.
Books on tape was a hit, as was our silly Nickelodeon sing-along
CD. Hotels and motels with swimming pools as an end point
destination for the day also helped give the boys something to
look forward to, as well as a way to blow off steam at the end
of the day. A cooler stocked with cold drinks along with plenty
! of snacks helped to keep us on track. Pleasant journeys.
Hi. I checked the website for advice on this, and while some of
it could apply, most of it seemed geared towards children 3 and
up. We're planning drive from the Bay to Marysville, WA (north
of Seattle) in 11 days, stay for 5 days and drive back. We're
planning to stay overnight in Eugene, OR each way. We have a 2
1/2 year old daughter and are just wondering if anyone out there
has taken a car trip with their toddler and has any tips for
us. Am a bit worried about how she'll handle being strapped in
her carseat for such a long time (she's been objecting to it
We drove from Long Island to New Brunswick roundtrip, about 11
hours each way, with a 2.5 year old and a 3-month old. And we
My advice is to schedule lots of stops, and also be prepared for
unscheduled stops. You just can't hold yourself to a schedule. We
pulled off every few hours for potty stops and to run around at
the rest area. The trip up took about 5 hours longer than expected
and was a nightmare of crying and screaming; on the way back we
made great time and everyone was sunny. That was just the luck of
Good luck. You'll need it.
Swore I'd Never Do It Again
I have a 2.25 year old daughter who has always hated the car.
personally I would never attempt a drive over 3 hours but here is
what has worked on our few drives to point reyes. we start out
with some toys and snacks which will keep her occupied for a
while. when she starts to get restless I hop in the backseat and
read the many many books we brought along. keep in mind that you
do in fact get car sick even when reading pages with only one or
two lines and large print. thankfully the beach is closeby after
that. or, when my sister's family take long driving trips they
leave at night and pack the portable dvd player. the kids fall
asleep during the show and stay asleep for most of the drive so
one can actually enjoy the ride and talk to their partner, a rare
car treat in family life.
I had this exact problem when planning my Christmas trip this
year with my two year old. He hates driving (even an hour to
the South Bay is onerous!) and as a single Mom I was fretting
and dreading 400 miles in a car one way to Southern California!
So I prepared like a General going to War-I had all of his
favorite snacks, books, CD's. But the real lifesaver was the
purchase of a ''VCR in a bag'' from AudioVox. I got mine at
Target-about $250 or so. It was alot of money, and I don't
particularly like my son watching TV or videos more than about
30 minutes a day, but I assessed this as a safety and sanity
matter, and broke down. It was unbelievable-not a peep out of
him, once this thing appeared. In fact, on the return trip we
only stopped once for about 10 minutes for a diaper change and a
drink. After the trip, the machine disappeared again, only to
come back for our next long trip. For me it was worth it - I
justified it by thinking that I would have had to alternatively
buy two airline tickets to avoid that long car trip... (I can
justify almost anything, if I'm desperate!)
I have done several trips from the Bay Area to southern
Washington with my growing baby. Here is the method that worked
It involves making most of the trip in the morning. My son gets
pretty sleepy/crabby on the weekends at about 10:30 (despite
napping at daycare, regularly, at 11:45), so it seems that he
snoozes pretty easily in the morning.
The night before, I'd pack up the entire car, as much as earthly
possible, and try to sleep in my clothes. I pack up his clothes
for the day, putting them in the car. I get up early, about 2
hours before we usually get up, and pack the remaining things in
the car (refrigerated snacks & drinks for the trip, etc.), and
then at the last minute, pick him up and strap him in his
carseat, still in PJs. I have a stack of children's music
cassettes, and put one on (esp. the Sleepytime one). He settles
down pretty quickly and sleeps for the next 1-3 hours. When he
wakes, we stop at the next rest stop, change diaper or potty,
change him into his clothes, pack him back into the car with a
breakfastlike snack (cup of dry cereal & sippy cup of milk), and
get back on the road. By Redding, it's nearly time for lunch, so
we get off at I-299 and go to a park I know of. We play at the
park for about an hour and have our picnic lunch. Back in the
car, and since it's after lunchtime, you guessed it, snoozetime
again. Then we have the customary crabby 1/2 hour right before we
arrive at our destination (Ashland, about 2 hours South of
Eugene, I believe).
I also bring a Magnadoodle, and various toys I can hand back for
when he's fidgety. Hope this helps. If you want directions to the
park, email me and I'll dig them up.
My son is nearly 3 now and we started driving up to Ashland when
he was 3 mos old.
We do a twice yearly, 8 hour car trip with our toddlers. Here
are my suggestions:
1. a car TV to play videos that you can also move into the motel
room - good for 2 or 3 single-hour segments - and get
2. 1 or 2 new small toys they haven't seen before.
3. washable crayons, a new coloring book and index cards to
color on - hand crayons out one at a time.
4. lap desk (cheap at Target) or small white marker board to use
as a desk.
5. deck of cards, maybe with their favorite characters on them
or letter or number flash cards.
6. lots of snacks! at meal stops, let the toddler run around
instead of eating. We get a milk shake or smoothy for drinking
in the car when we leave.
7. in car potty! with a bottle for pee and a bottle of clean
water for washing out potty.
My husband just learned that his job is being terminated
at the end of June. AND, we are expecting our first
baby April 17th!
We are playing around with the idea of using his leftover
vacation days in June (the baby will be 2 months old) to
travel coast to coast for a month or so.
Most of my family thinks we are crazy.
We are seeking advice from anyone that has done this or
has any thoughts in general about this type of adventure.
Shira and Boaz
Dear Shira and Boaz -
I traveled with my newborn to Singapore (17hr flight)
when he was six weeks old. In my opinion, it is a very
good time to travel as the baby's only needs are to eat
and sleep. If you're breastfeeding (as I am), it's even
easier. We also took a sling which I lay the baby in
to breastfeed and then he usually fell asleep in the
sling immediately after eating. We could then set him
down in the sling without disturbing him. The time
change (16 hours) affected him quite a bit when we
reached our destination and we had a cranky baby on our
hands but he got over it.
Go for it. I think it gets more difficult the longer you
wait. Good Luck.
My thoughts are that the only possible downsides to
your plan is that your 2-mo. old will get very
accustomed to sleeping in the car (which may impact his
nighttime sleep abilities bcs he'll sleep so well in
the moving vehicle that he won't sleep at night in a
non-moving bed). If you are breastfeeding you'll have
to stop more frequently than you might otherwise in
order to nurse (baby must stay in carseat at all times
when car is moving). Also try to make sure he doesn't
spend so much time in the carseat that he gets flat-head
syndrome! Otherwise I think the trip will be a lot
easier than it would be when your child is older.
Hi. I'm assuming that you are talking about a road
trip. I have friends that were moving back East when
their baby was three months old so they decided to drive
the whole way with the baby. It was difficult for them
because the baby needed to nurse quite frequently so
they had to stop a lot, the baby hated the car-seat
(an unknown for you until your baby arrives), and
having inconsistent sleeping arrangements made the baby
upset at night. You, of course, should do what feels
right - and I think instinct will give you that answer
AFTER you meet your new baby. Good luck to you. And
congratulations in advance. Having the baby might just
be adventure enough!
signed, a Mom
Go on your trip!! We traveled a lot with our first when
he was a newborn. We flew to NY, Copenhagen and Hawaii.
Now that we have a 2 and 4-year old I can tell you that
it is A LOT easier to travel with a newborn! For one,
they can't go anywhere or touch anything you don't want
them to. They're not crawling (the WORST time to travel),
so you don't have to worry about disgusting floors or
their being antsy to move around a lot. Also, at
two-three months, the baby is probably not really yet
on a ''schedule'', so you're going to be tired anyway.
If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me
directly. Good Luck!
We had big plans for when our baby was two months old.
We were going to go camping, at a leisurly pace,all
the way to Seattle. We did a trial run, driving as
far as Mendecino. We discovered that our baby was
anything BUT oblivious to his surroundings. He hated
being in the car, hated the dark and didn't stop
''kvetching'' until we got home where he went on
smiling for about three hours straight!! Every baby
is different, but I would strongly recommend doing a
mini-trip before commiting to a cross-country adventure.
I can think of few things that could be worse than an
unhappy baby stuck in a car in the middle of America
with both coasts being too far to reach... Good Luck!
An experienced mom
Can anyone offer strategies for surviving a long car trip
with a 10 month old? We're planning to drive to Nebraska in
July. (Yes, I know it would be easier to fly, but one of the
main reasons we're going is to bring back items stored in my
One idea we've heard is to start out very early in the
morning - say 4 or 5 am - to get much of the day's driving
done while the baby is still asleep. (She usually wakes up
around 10 am.) We'd stop for the day at about 3 pm to let
Elizabeth move around, play in the pool, etc. Is that
Another twist - My husband's station wagon does not have air
conditioning. Should we take my car, even though it's much
smaller (Celica), or are there ways to deal with a baby and
no air conditioning?
Thanks for the help!
I would DEFINITELY take the car that has A/C. You will be
miserable without it. Once you get out of the Bay Area, July in
the ''real world'' is hell in an auto with no a/c. Maybe others
have good suggestions on ways to expand the storage capacity of
your smaller car?
P.S. I think the idea about starting and stopping early is a
I would definitely take the car with air conditioning if
possible. Open windows are no substitute, and a screaming,
unhappy kid on a long trip is just excruciating. Another hint:
bring along large-size 'blue ices' in your cooler. Put them in
the carseat when you stop for lunch to keep the seat cool while
the car is parked.
If you decide to take the car without a/c (and I agree with
everyone else on this, that you should try to go with a/c) be
sure that you and the baby don't get dehydrated. (This may apply
in the car with a/c too.) I drove across the country in the
middle of the summer, in a car without a/c, and the combination
of hot humid weather, and the drying effect of the open windows
meant that I got more constipated than I have ever been in my
life. This is something that you obviously want to avoid with
your little one.
My 14 month old daughter and I are taking an 8 hour car trip (1
way) alone. My thoughts, for now, are to travel at night. Though
it's a little scarey to consider taking I-5 almost all the way
down at night.
Any thoughts or advice?
We recentlly took a 6-hour car trip with our 20-month-old
son. It was not always easy, but here were some of the
things we found that helped: Travel during nap time.
Hopefully, you'll get at least 2 hours while the child is
asleep. Keep them well fed and well hydrated. Take a few
breaks--check your map for towns to stop in along the way.
If you can find the local elementary school, you can find a
park to play in. A half-hour stop at a park allowed us more
peaceful travel time. While driving, try singing or listening to
tapes the child will like. Some friends gave us a tape with
dinosaur songs that had our son happy and quiet for the
duration. Somewhere on the ParentsNet website there
must be a list of good kid tapes. Good luck!
We recently drove to Texas and back with our 16 month old and
our dog. And we drive to LA about three times a year. My
advice would be for you to leave very, very early, like before
the sun rises in the morning, so that you can be finished
driving for the day around lunch time. Each morning of our road
trip, we left at 5 or 6 AM. Our son would eat a small breakfast
in his car seat and go back to sleep for a couple hours. We
would give him snacks and toys for another hour or so after he
awoke and then we would stop to take a break. Bring lots of
healthy non-perishable snacks. You shouldn't go more then a
couple hours without resting. Taking frequent rest stops really
helped, especially look for fastfood restaurants with an indoor
playground. And when you take breaks, get your toddler to
expend as much energy as possible. We would only drive for
about 8 or 9 hours a day, so it took 4 days to get to Texas, but
the extra time was well worth it. We also stopped along the
way to see all the tourist attractions. And since we left so
early, we would be finished driving for the day by around 2 PM,
and we could spend the rest of the day in our hotel's pool.
Dispite having a toddler and a dog with us, our road trip was
very fun and we plan to do it again next year. Good luck!
A road warrior of the I-5 corridor for many years, I have found
the best way to make the trip bearable (if not enjoyable) is to
leave around 6:30 or 7 at night, then stay at one of the
inexpensive hotels along the way. If you can make it as far as
Weed, that's great. Otherwise, Redding is a good stop and a
relatively non-taxing drive. It gives you a nice jump on the
trip while travelling during a time when your child may be
You can find coupon books at many rest areas along the way,
which will give you a discount on your stay (most offer rooms
around $35 for one queen bed and many will honor the coupons on
weekends if they aren't full -- regardless of what the coupon
If it is hot out, you can play in the pool before you leave,
which may help your child relax during the rest of the drive. I
picked up a cheap plastic tray thing that is designed to let you
eat/draw in bed but fits nicely over the car seat. It is a
great surface for the kids to draw on. A cookie sheet with all
sorts of magnetic things helps keep them occupied. I usually
stop at Walmart or Big Lots to pick up cheap toys that I don't
mind losing if necessary. They work wonders. A small cooler
with frozen gogurts and juices also helps the trip, too. And of
course tough as it is to hear them over and over and over again,
those favorite CDs can be a blessing. Best of luck!
Mom on Wheels
We recently drove to LA with our then 16-month-old daughter. We
left Oakland at 4:00 pm and drove until 6:00 (her normal
dinnertime). Luckily enough, almost exactly 2 hours along there
was a McDonald's with an outdoor play area. (I think it was in
Santa Nella). It was fenced in, so we sat out there and ate and
played. We tossed balls around for her to run after, played
chase with her... we REALLY played HARD for an hour and a half.
That sounds like a long time, but it worked out perfectly -- we
got back in the car at 7:30 and she was asleep at 8:00. We got
there at midnight, so we were somewhat tired - but it wasn't bad
at all. I think it was the perfect way to do it. Coming back,
we left mid-day and it was much more difficult. We stopped at a
rest-stop for a picnic lunch and let her run around again - that
helped, but there was still just a lot of awake time in the
car. The book ''Peekaboo Zoo'' (by Susan Hood and Simone Abel,
published by the Lamaze Company) was a *GREAT* hit on the way
home -- she looked at it by herself for at least 15 minutes at a
stretch on at least two occasions. Lift-the-flaps, lots of
animals... cute, and apparently right up a 16-month-old's
alley. I got it at Cody's on 4th Street.
Hi. I am not sure if this is insane or not, but do
people have any recommendations for driving across the
country with 4 children (ages 7,5,3,1). We are moving
my sister-in-law from New York to the Bay Area, and
they have a large van with a tv/vcr. I am hoping that
people have some good ideas about kid-friendly places
to stop and see, eat, and stay, as well as ideas for
how to while away the time in the car, discipline, and
general car travel tips. I am also looking for ideas
to make the trip memorable and fun, at least for the
older kids. I have kept many of the ideas from the
thread on long plane trips as well. The trip is planned
for June, but we are still unsure if it the best way
(for family sanity) to do this. I am hoping the
Parents Network will have enough good ideas to make it
work, as it seems to be the best way to get from there
One friend joined a local zoo. One of the membership
benefits was free admission to hundreds of zoos around
the country. His preschoolers thought their cross-
country trek was just one zoo trip a day for days and
days. They loved it
Hi, I am preparing to drive (8 days, 400 miles/day) I-40 across the country
the first week in August. Does anyone have advice on how to keep a 1 year
old and a 3 year old entertained on such a long drive? Does anyone know of
a tray that will fit across a car seat so my 3 yr old could have a flat
surface to write/color on? Thanks
I have taken many car trips with my kids, now aged 5
and 12. For the younger set I have gotten miles and
miles of peace from having books on cassette tapes.
Certain books and tapes have come to define the trips.
Be prepared to make more stops then you would ever do
on your own. We would eat at rest areas and then play
tag, baseball, frisbee, anything that would get them
running - to help use up their energy. Just don't
exhaust yourself. After hours in a hot car we would look
for a lake on the map and just go and throw ourselves in
for a relaxing dip. It's not for a day at the beach but
to refreshen ourselves so that we could keep going and
for FUN. Sit them on opposite sides of the back seat,
buckle up, and have a fun safe trip!
We have driven cross-country (Ohio-California) three
times with our son (now 3, then 1 1/2 and 2) and have
made various long car trips in addition. The single
most important thing (as we experienced it) was
frequent stops. This can be tricky in Nevada, Wyoming,
and other places where there are long stretches in
which stops seem unappealing, but even just a
service-station stop or a beside-the-road-stretch stop
could make the difference between melt-down and relative
calm. We stopped at local playgrounds, local malls,
anyplace where we could walk, get a drink of water, etc.
The other important diversion was music; we had several
tapes (now memorized) and allowed our son to make requests
at will (even though it sometimes meant listening to
"Two Little Trains" so many times the parents nearly
melted down). In sum, it was easier than we had
anticipated! Good luck.
I must recommend an especially enjoyable tape --
something the whole family can appreciate -- E.B.
White reading "Charlotte's Web." Ages 4 through 73
were delighted and listened to it several times!
Subject: looooong car trip
Hi, any advice for surviving, if not enjoying, cross country car travel
with an almost three year old and a five year old. (Besides "you should
fly!") Also, any suggestions for fun stopping points along the north route
-- Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnestoa/Iowa/Wisconsin, Illinois,Indiana, Ohio?
I made my daughter a customized map so she always knew how far along we
were on long road trips. I started doing this when she was three.
You could just draw a map on a piece of paper, but I got an old copy of a
road map and cut away most of the excess so that all she would focus on
were the roads we were going to take. Then I glued that strip to the
inside of an old file folder so it would be easy to find in the car.
When she was young I glued a picture of our house at the beginning and a
picture of our destination at the end. Then I drew stick figure sketches
of some of the "major roadside attractions" that I knew we'd pass along the
way. It turned the question "When are we going to get there?" into "Where
are we on my map?" Also, as we passed each item she had a sense of making
progress, and we would look forward to the next thing on the map.
For a trip to Disneyland I marked the major interchanges we passed, as well
as the Altamont Pass Windmills, the cows in Coalinga, the windmill at Santa
Nella, the mountain range at the Grapevine and stuff like that.
This response is to Mimi, who is bravely undertaking a car trip with her
small children. Kudos to you! My parents took my sister and I
cross-country to Wisconsin, Ohio and Minnesota to visit relatives when I was
four and she was six--in a '63 VW bug! We had a wonderful time! There are
great places to stop along the way: Yellowstone National Park, the Black
Hills, and so on. (Nevada and Utah can be a little tough going because of
the long stretches of desert.) I would read up on the national parks and
the history of the settling of the west, and use the time to talk about U.S.
history, the kinds of animals that live in different parts of the country,
and so on. The educational aspect is tremendous. And once you get to Ohio,
if you have the opportunity to go swimming in any of the old quarries (I
know they have them around the Cleveland area), I have wonderful memories of
I would suggest taking lots of stops along the way. Also, if you don't have
one, invest in a CD player for the car and buy some great music. My five
year-old daughter loves musicals and also really likes the CD which features
Leonard Bernstein conducting "Peter and the Wolf" and then follows with
talking to kids about music using "The Carnival of the Animals" as a
teaching tool. Klutz books also has a book on surviving car travel for kids
that just came out. I have not seen it, but it has gotten good reviews, and
in general I like their publications.
And guess what? My family did the same trip again two years year
later--with my two year-old brother in tow!
I think you should be congratulated for taking this trip. Your whole family
will benefit and you will have created some incredible memories.
Surviving you can do, enjoying may be another matter. We drove from
here to North Dakota last year around this time with 6 children from 4
to 16 years old and two vehicles. We rotated children in cars when
things got tough i.e. kids fighting. My daughter had a van in which
they had hooked up a VCR and TV - that was great - they would put in
the childrens favorite videos to watch. We went through Reno to Salt
Lake where just before Salt Lake there is a museum on the Great Salt
Lake, they show video's on the history (which you can buy) it is a
good stop and great for taking pictures and where the children can
actually touch the lake. We also stopped in SLC and toured the Morman
Temple area taking one of their little tours which explains the
history, however, this might not interest children of 3 and 5. We
drove through Wyoming and I must say they have the cleanest road side
rest areas of any of the states we went through. They have picnic
tables and the rest rooms are heated and well taken care of - I can't
say enough about their rest areas , also a good stop for food, etc. is
little America. We stopped quite often so the children could stretch
their legs and at the signs where they said entering whatever state or
leaving whatever state we had the children stand under the signs and
took pictures. We stopped at the marked "observation sites/points"
and would take pictures also. In South Dakota be sure to go to Mount
Rushmore. Our 4 year old talked all this school year about being
there - it made a big impression on him. If you have time to go
through the towns surrounding Mount Rushmore they are great fun. We
went north from there so do not know anything about the other states.
If you ever get through Montana a nice place to visit is the Custer
Battlefield and Museum. Good luck.
Long car trips: there are books on tape for kids, some of them terrific.
An inexpensive cassette player and headphones will keep some kids happy for
a long time, and allow the adults to talk, or listen to their own tape for
a while, or enjoy the quiet. Good on those long desert stretches. Beverly
Cleary is one of our favorites.
For the looooong car trip subject:
A few years back I took my three kids--then 11, 9, & 6--on a 3,400 mile,
10-day loop around the west. Alone. I was terrified that I was making a
huge mistake, but it was wonderful--easily one of the best times we've ever
had together--so here are my tips:
1) Motel 6. Kids stay FREE, clean, reasonably priced, and easy to change
reservations while on the road. Make as many reservations as you think you
can pin down as soon as possible.
2) A great big container packed with car toys & drawing supplies on the seat
BETWEEN the kids. This not only gives them lots to do, it also keeps elbows
and whatnot from straying onto "my side." Some "surprise" extra car toys
hidden deep in the trunk is another good idea. It's best if the container
has a lid so they can also use it as a drawing surface.
3) A smaller cooler packed with cold fruit drinks in the front seat. Also
munchies, which again should be kept in the front.
4) Stop for ice cream whenever asked. OK, you can say no every so often,
but typically don't go more than maybe 2 hours or so during daylight without
at least a quick stop of some sort. As much as feasible, travel at their pace.
5) Drive as much at night as you are capable. You can cover a lot of ground
after sundown, and you get the bonus of being able to listen to all sorts of
right-wing lunacy on those broadband stations that you usually don't hear
around here--a good reminder of why you live here and what it's really like
6) A rental car unless yours is pretty new & in great shape. Not only do
you not spend the whole drive listening for that weird rattle you've been
wondering about for months, you get air conditioning, typically a tape
player, and you are pretty assured everything's working right without adding
garage trips to your pre-trip insanity. Worry about the upholstery as much
as you'd worry about your own; not more. They have better cleaning
equipment than you do. Well worth the money.
7) Walkmans. One for each kid and a spare. Plenty of batteries. Otherwise
you'll go batty listening to "The Wheels on the Bus" 2,700 times.
8) Be very clear to any kid who can understand that the first day will be a
solid driving day, because you have to get through Nevada before you get to
anything. Assure them that after that the driving days will be shorter
and/or more broken up. This both helps them get through that first day and
also trains them a bit for the rest of the trip.
8) Buy a Golden Eagle Pass at the first National Park you stop at. It'll
pay for itself.
9) 3 & 5 may be too young, but my kids loved Craters of the Moon National
Park in Idaho. Bizarre volcanic landscape where the astronauts trained for
moon walks. Cinder cones, craters, lava caves (which almost surely won't
work for kids that young; they're mostly a bit tough to get into). I'd
picked it just because of location as a place to take a break, but it turned
out to be a great highlight of the trip.
10) Yellowstone. Don't even think of skipping it or spending only a day,
plan at least 2 days; a buffalo herd created traffic jams are common and can
take an hour or more to get through (but is more fun than it sounds), and
the park is big with things to see in all parts. If you can afford it, a
night at Old Faithful Lodge is very cool, but there are more reasonable
accommodations--I can't remember the name now, but some cabins over by the
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone are nice. Again, make reservations. Be
prepared for crowds, but well worth dealing with.
11) The Tetons are spectacular, but unless you can take hikes are
regretfully just a fairly brief picturesque drive.
We went south at that point, so no more to add for the rest of your itinerary.
Yellowstone & surrounding, Badlands, thunderstorms over the plains, your
DoD dollars in silos, get used to seeing corn!, the RV capitol of the world
(Elkhart IN), the Mennonite museum in Shipshewana Indiana, a Great
America-like theme park in Sandusky OH. Just a few things I can think of.
Just a comment re: those lap desks that seem like they would be perfect
for a long car trip. That's what we got ours for, and you can find them
pretty inexpensively at most toy stores, like Toys R Us. Crayola makes
the brand we got. It's okay, but now I also see that any sort of flat
surface, like a plastic serving tray, for example, would work just as
well. Most of them, like the one we have, has storage space under the
lid for paper, markers, etc. But when you're drawing on top of the lid,
you don't have access to the stuff inside, without continually taking
the lid on and off. And our 5-year-old still has trouble getting the
lid on and off by herself, so it means stuff is either continually
falling out all over the car, or I have to stretch around from the front
seat to help her out in the back seat every 5 minutes. So now I think
it would be just as useful to have any sort of flat surface, a pad of
paper, and a plastic baggie full of markers. Cheaper -- and more
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