Many years ago I read who-knows-where-online a tip for traveling with young kids: keep to their schedule. Drive during asleep times and plan for their active times was the advice given. I took this to heart and have figured out how to make long drives fun and stress-free: We turn the long drive into a fun adventure!
Our family has driven to Myrtle Beach every year since 2012. It is a long drive. Some families choose to push through. We do not. We have found our toddlers are difficult to occupy in the car for trips beyond 4 hours. They are too young for fun games like “car bingo” or navigating a tablet. Crayons are dropped. They can not read a book solo yet. And there is not extra room in the backseat for a parent to help entertain. So we make the driving portion of our vacation an adventure, and our older boy looks forward to traveling just as much as the destination. We always have something along the way for the kids to look forward to.
During our most recent trip, we travelled with a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old. We leave right after the workday is over and drive for 3-4 hours and stop for the night. After being in the car for that long, they have energy. A lot of energy. And we are going to sit in a hotel room with all that energy right before bedtime? Nope. We book a hotel with a pool. Pack an overnight bag, throw in swim stuff. Problem solved. It does not take long for swimming to tire them out!
We finish the drive the following day with another adventure. When we first started doing this I thought to myself, “We will be driving when the kids typically would have circle time, activities, play time, etcetera.” Therefore, we split up the remaining 6-ish hour drive with a stop for the kids. So far, this stop has been some type of children’s museum. We drive about half way, stop and play, eat lunch, then finish the drive—during nap time!
Our trip home is an adventure, as well, with setting out early, stopping after a couple of hours, play and eat lunch, nap and drive, and stay at a hotel with either a pool or near a mall to walk around. We have found that the kids do not whine about being in the car because they are not in it for more than 3-4 hours. Totally stress-free driving. Additionally, the kids have an easier time leaving the condo to return home because the vacation is not over yet! An adventure still awaits.
Fellow Contributor Mary Yohannan offers great advice for Must Have Items when driving to your vacation destination. Someday the kids will be old enough that we will be able to drive straight through to Myrtle Beach. But so far we have chosen our method because it simply works so well for us. Since I work full-time, it is fun to take these stops and enjoy some extra family time. Sure, we get to our condo or to home later because of our stops but we enjoy seeing other cities, even if it is only their children’s museums we have seen so far.
And the most ironic part? We have been to 7 or so different children’s museums or activity centers and our kids have never been to the children’s museum here in Pittsburgh!