August 18, 2014

7 things that made our toddler road trip great

5 days, 2 hotels, 1 car. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? It actually wasn't. A learning experience, to be sure, with lessons I'll carry with me long into the future.

We drove with my mom two states away for a family reunion, arriving early to spend time with my brother and his sons (hence the second hotel). I don't think my son has ever eaten in so many restaurants in so few days, and for the most part he was pretty well-behaved. I even learned how to change a blowout in a dirty, cramped bathroom with him standing up! I felt like I was earning my stripes at times, but those moments were rare. We all enjoyed each other's company immensely, especially the boy who is a born extrovert and loves loves loves people.

The first hotel we stayed in had adjoining rooms for us and my mom. She stayed in the single king room, we took the double queen. We had the boy sleep in one bed with a border of pillows around him, while we slept in the other. And -- miracle of miracles -- he slept! The first night he woke up and cried a bit, but I shushed him back to sleep quickly. No big deal. In fact, it was nice to sleep in the same room and see him wake up smiling at us. Letting him go bug Grandma while I was showering was a big plus too.

The second place we stayed was a rustic duplex-style cabin -- the four of us stayed in one, and my brother and nephews stayed in the other. With 3 bedrooms in each, there was plenty of room to spread out (despite sharing one bathroom). The boy contented himself exploring the rooms, the grass, the people, the dirt, and anything else that looked appealing to a 2 year old.

While the trip wasn't completely devoid of minor temper tantrums and such, it was far more successful than it could have been. That said, here are 7 things that made our toddler road trip great.

  1. Sitting in the back seat with the child. He gets bored just like anyone else, so having my mom along on the way up was a godsend! Six hours in the car with only two extended stops for lunch and playtime was a good balance. He was so excited he didn't even nap until we were almost at our destination. On the way home, I sat in the back seat with him. We only stopped once, since he actually took a 2 hour nap.
  2. New toys, wrapped as presents. Just simple things -- a couple of new cars, a couple of books (I brought the tablet with new games and we never even used it) -- and a new backpack for them.
  3. Old favorites. We brought two lovies and a plush puppy that he adores. Comfort objects made a big difference, especially at bedtime.
  4. His comforter. One more comfort object.
  5. Flexible bedtime. I'm usually a stickler on this one, but letting him stay up just half an hour later practically guaranteed an easy bedtime and good night's sleep. I gave him every opportunity for a solid nap, but didn't stress if he didn't sleep his normal amount.
  6. Play Doh. Not in the car, of course. But during some down time or when he was getting bored at the hotel, this was perfect.
  7. Prayer. I do believe that God answered my prayers for a successful trip and gave me peace. And even though my brother, cousin and I came down with a stomach bug at the end, it was really great.