Hola amigos. May was crazy! We traveled the whole month and we had so many memorable adventures. We traveled to a few of our favorite cities and then flew out to Colombia. We are new to North Carolina and didn't have anyone that could care for our fur baby Ryder, (our 4 legged rescue Border Collie mix) so when my in-laws in Orlando said they would love to have him, we set off to Orlando to drop him off. We planned out our road trip to stop a few times along the way so we could be as stress-free as possible, and also so all parties were comfortable (vocal and busy toddler and antsy pantsy fur baby). While many may take a big gulp at the thought of a road trip right before an international flight with a toddler, I am here to tell you it is possible and share with you what worked for us.
I scoured Pinterest for Traveling with your Toddler ideas, but I didn't find anything that would be remotely close to meeting Mila's likes. Also, I have tried it all before, so this post is the "I've already tried that but this is what worked for Mila". When we lived in Utah, I spent hours making her a quiet and activity book for a 4 hr road trip to St. George. She chucked the book in to the back seat in complete disapproval, sooooo yeah. Thanks girlfriend. Here are a few things we did for the Road Trip, I will share Flight tips too this week on another post.
1. Know your Toddlers likes and dislikes. If she hasn't shown interest in quiet books, don't start it now. It'll be a waste of time and then you'll feel defeated. Instead, spend time observing what she really likes and work around that. Mila LOVES animals. So I brought along a bag full of all her favorite safari and farm animals that we purchased off Amazon. I started handing her a few at a time about 1 hour into our drive. You could hear her in the back seat making animal noises and playing quietly.
2. Keep it simple. I think sometimes, we as parents overcomplicate things. While Pinterest has really great ideas and inspiration, sometimes you see photos of these elaborate car trip activities and it can be overwhelming because who really has those Martha Stewart skills. (I swear I am not hating on Pinterest, I love Pinterest, promise). A week before traveling, Manny (my hubby), and I spent teaching and talking to Mila about where we were going to go and how we were going to get there. We talked to her about it day and night. We explained to her who we were going to see, where we were going, and then we would quiz her on it. "Mila para donde vamos", "Como vamos a ir", "Quien vamos a ver", "Mila, where are we going", "How are we going to get there", "Who are we going to see", etc. By the time it came to travel day, homegirl knew exactly what was going on. I feel that predictability is so important for Toddlers, so they feel safe and secure.
3. Good Ol' iPad. Yep, there I said it. You know I'm a stickler for limited TV watching for Mila, but I knew that it couldn't be easy for her to be sitting in her car seat on a long ride. Plus, it was just for traveling and it's not like she does this on the regular, so, I loaded the iPad up with her favorite movies: Ferdinand, Rio, Frozen, and episodes of Dora the Explorer. When it came time where she was fussy and nothing else worked: Like coloring (on a cookie sheet with magnets holding paper), singing along with her favorite tunes, chatting with mom and dad, and her favorite stuffed animals ended up on the floor, THAT'S when we would bust out the iPad. Just do it. We bought a velcro iPad holder and the iPad just hung from the back of the passenger seat head rest.
4. Plenty of snacks. We packed a cooler full of her favorite things to munch on. Mila and I walked through the grocery store and we picked out her snacks, as I explained that these were special road trip snacks. She helped me pack the cooler, and when she was hungry she knew what to ask for. A few of her favorite road trip foods: Cheerios, cheese sticks, apples, bananas, yogurt, and almonds.
5. Give them something to look forward to: Our first stop was Charleston where we spent a few days. Charleston has one of our favorite aquariums, so on our trip there we were explaining to Mila that we were going to take her to the aquarium. We talked about what sea life animals she would see and what she would see when we took her to the beach. When we arrived in Charleston we gave her a little Sea Turtle toy to keep our conversation going and so that she knew what was coming up next.
Sensing a common theme here? We spend all our time talking to Mila and explaining things to her. We include her in every process and talk things out with her and meet her where she is vs. the traditional "I am the parent and you do as I say and you go along with it". One of our favorite Quotes:
“to enter into a state of pure connection with your child, you can achieve this by setting aside any sense of superiority.”
After we left Charleston and were Orlando bound, we followed the same steps above and integrated FaceTime calls with my in-laws (where we were dropping our dog off), so Mila had them to look forward to seeing in person. We got lucky and she napped the majority of the road trip to Orlando. We take the road on an hour before her nap time and she usually naps for 2 hours. Since we road trip in 4 hour chunks, that really leaves us with 1 hour before nap, and 1 hour after nap to be ready and equipped for Toddler entertainment.
I know this sounds easy. It isn't. I stress out so much during travel because I am a planner and over preparer. It's the Capricorn in me. High strung, OCD type of woman that stresses out and with the thought of anticipating the worst. HaHAH!
Can I tell you though, on our road trip to Orlando , like 35 minutes before arriving to my in-laws house, Mila had the most massive, volcanic, explosion I have ever witnessed in my entire life. I am talking about poop people. She was wearing shorts, and all the sudden from the back seat I hear "mama, mamaaaaaaaa", I casually turn my head, while Manny and I were rapping to TuPac, and I gasped in utter horror. There, sat my darling Mila, in complete shock while she froze in terror with her little hands and fingers stretched out and her little legs out straight. It was everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Her hands, face, legs, carseat, and I just yelled for Manny to pull over as soon as possible. Manny had no idea what I was witnessing because he was driving, and he hesitated even pulling over because he thought I was over exaggerating and being dramatic. HAHA. The only option and place to pull over was this run down grimy gas station. You guys, there was no where else to go. The closest place after that was 15 miles away, and I was not about to let my girl ride in a carseat full of volcanic eruption. I peeled her out of the carseat, and instinctively grabbed a bed sheet (I always pack a bed sheet on car trips) from the backseat, and ran holding Mila out in front of me to avoid getting poo on me and into the hole-in-the-wall gas station. Well guess what, they didn't have a changing table, so I laid the bed sheet on the floor of the gas station bathroom and changed and wiped Mila down with like 9837261938 baby wipes. I wrapped all the shiz in the bed sheet along with her clothes and tossed in the garbage. I didn't even think twice. We walked out of that gas station sans clothing, and my girl rocked it in her diaper. Poor thing.
This is what works for us. What do you find works for you? Give me all the details so I can add to my bag of tricks.
Thanks for sitting here with me and reading.