Hubby and I love road trips. He enjoys driving, while I enjoy putting my feet up and soaking in the sights. For both of us, the road is much more interesting than the destination (where all we end up doing is sleeping and relaxing mostly 😉 ). Before sonny was born, we used to travel to tourist destinations near Delhi at the spur of the moment and did not need an elaborate plan in place to ensure a smooth trip. Just shove in a few clothes, shoes, and other day-to-day essentials and we were good to go. It did not matter if we forgot an important item, we could buy it on the road or make-do with whatever was available (And no one would be bothered or have a meltdown because they needed just what they needed and nothing else!).
Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Jaipur, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Nainital….you name it and we have taken a weekend trip there without having to put in much thought into it. We even dared to travel more than 1200 kilometers on road to Hubby’s native place in Bihar from Delhi, just because it sounded fun! (And it was….although I was very skeptic at first. Long distance road trip isn’t that scary or painful here in India anymore as the roads have improved many folds in the last few years and the stopovers are much more “family-friendly” than one gets to visualize, thanks to news articles).
So far, so good…..but now, with a preschooler in tow, road trips can no longer be impromptu; the planning phase needs to be a little more elaborate, a little more extensive. Nonetheless, once you master the checklists and the tips-n-tricks while traveling with a kid, it turns out to be as much fun (and in fact, even more) than the no-kids version. We love our day-trips in and around Delhi and always return home happy, exhausted (the good kind!) and with great memories (Read “To Infinity and Beyond” and “The Metro Ride” for some of our recent short distance day-trips to places within 100 km radius from home. I will get to writing about the Jim Corbett National Park Weekend Trip hopefully sometime soon! Then again, I am on vacation 😉 to my parents’ place and am finding it hard to do anything except sleeping and eating, while sonny is busy enjoying with his grandparents!)
Anyway, to get on with today’s post without further ado, I am sharing with you my “sonny-customized” travel tips and checklists in the hopes that it will be useful and serve as a starting guideline for many interesting and exciting road trips in your future as a family too!
Tips & Tricks
- Prepare a first-aid kit, entertainment kit, food and drinks kit and miscellaneous items kit as per the Checklists Section below.
- Pack in your child’s clothes based on the formula as follows: No. of days outside home x 3 (Here “3” can be increased or decreased depending on the daily average cloth consumption of your kid and whether you plan to be on a beach/riverside etc). Don’t forget to include the travel time also in the number of days count (Chances of kids messing up their clothes increases proportionately to the number of hours in the car and their level of boredom!).
- Pack two pairs of shoes for the kid (One sports shoes and the other, easy-to-wash sandals which can double up as bathroom slippers)
- Synchronize the travel time with your kid’s nap times. The idea is to minimize the disruption of a kid’s schedule to the maximum possible extent.
- For long distance road trips, we prefer leaving very early morning while sonny is still sleeping and the traffic is almost non-existent. He wakes up refreshed after a full night’s sleep and we get to halt for breakfast at sonny’s regular hours. His excitement at seeing a new place on waking up more than makes up for sleep-induced irritability.
- For short distance trips, we prefer leaving after sonny’s mid-morning bath and meal. Once he’d enjoyed the sights for some time, he promptly falls asleep and naps for almost 3 hours by which time we are at or near our destination.
- For the duration of the car ride, dress up your kid in everyday comfortable home clothes (PJs if your child is into it, mine isn’t.). And don’t worry about what the rest of the world will think about your mothering skills based on your kids’ sartorial choices. Here the child’s comfort trumps suaveness any day. Also, please ensure that the pants are the ones with elastic waistbands and not ones with buttons. (Unbuttoning them in a public restroom on a “Curious George” isn’t easy!).
- This one’s for control freaks like me! Throw out your idea of a food schedule and poop & pee schedule out of the car window. Ask yourself this: Do you eat the same food you eat at home or poop and pee at the same time even when on a road trip? If not, it is unrealistic to expect a child to do the same. Unfamiliar surroundings disrupt body’s biological clock and hunger signals. So just let it be! Offer your kid food from time to time and don’t worry if he doesn’t eat much. He is too excited to care anyway (He can eat when he gets home)! As far as the potty schedule is concerned, just take him to the bathroom every time you halt on the road (and maybe, teach him to pee by the roadside beforehand!). For boys, it helps to carry an old plastic bottle for our tried and tested “pee-in-the-bottle-while-in-the-running-car” method 😉
- When a kid starts getting bored in the car, don’t bring out all the toys from the entertainment kit at once. Give him one thing to play with first, then when he is done with it, pack it back and bring out the second and so on. Play games like “What vehicles/colors/animals can you see on the road?” etc. If everything else fails, bring in the heavy artillery (Read iPAD or DVD Player), but be prepared then for him to miss interesting sights on the way.
- For nap time, make the back seat of the car as comfortable as possible for the kid. We always carry a pillow and a bed sheet, so that the back seat can be turned into a make-shift bed for sonny. Also, a wide-brimmed hat (or sunglasses) helps to keep away the flickering sunlight coming in through the windows, for an uninterrupted nap.
- Child lock is a must on both back doors. Preschoolers being attention seekers, it helps if an adult sits with them at the back. Though sonny is a Dora fan and makes sure we all wear seat belts (“so that we can be safe!”), you never know what will come to the mind of a child during a long journey. So being with him in the back seat to intervene and dismantle tantrums before a full-blown episode is really important.
- Talking of tantrums, remember to pick your battles carefully. Don’t exhaust yourself fighting the not-so-important things during a road trip. Will your child only eat chips? No problem. Healthy options are waiting back at home. Is kid jumping on a chair instead of sitting down at Bikanerwala’s? No big deal. He needs to burn off the extra energy and if the owners do mind, they will come and tell your kid to stop! Is he picking up rocks and dirt from the road? No issues. He is filthy and grime-y from the trip anyway and needs a good scrub once at the hotel.
- Put the things that you will need during the car ride into a laundry basket (including a few extra pair of clothes for the duration of the ride) and put it under your kid’s seat (This gives them a footrest for their little wary feet and all necessities are just a grasp away). All other “for later” things should be kept in the car’s trunk. Don’t forget to put an extra pair of clothes for yourself also in the laundry basket for the accidental spills or spit ups directed your way.
- Stop whenever you, hubby or kiddo needs a break and don’t worry about schedule slippage. Remember, road trips are always more interesting and fun on the road. Destinations are just incidental add-ons.
- Always pack in a couple of “opposite” weather clothes at the bottom of your suitcase. For example, during summer, don’t forget to pack a light jacket and a shawl. You may never need to get to the bottom, but it’s always nice to be prepared (These “Anagata-Vidhata” ways have more than once benefitted me)
- First Aid Kit: The first aid kit can be kept in the front seat cabinet or in the trunk depending on your preference.
- Band-Aids – For the accidental nicks and cuts on the way
- Aloe Vera – Triple works as bump and bruise cream, sunscreen and face cream
- Anti-Septic Cream (Borolin) – For accidental cuts
- Pudin Hara – For that nasty heartburn
- Eno – For that indigestion on the way
- Crocin (Both adult and kid versions) – For Fevers or Body Aches
- Disprin – For headaches
- Honitus – For that sore throat and cough
- Electrolyte – To keep one from getting dehydrated
- Norflox – For stomach infections
- Anti-allergy wipes – For wiping accidental cuts, bumps, and bruises clean
- Any other medications specific to your family’s needs
- Food Kit: The basic rule for putting anything in the food kit is simple. Nothing messy, gooey or crumbly can go in. Anything dry and non-messy works. Again, one has to remember that this kit is only for emergencies to tide over hungry tummies till the next stopover. Kids should be encouraged to eat meals at the designated stopovers. Also, it helps to balance out the kit by stocking in sweet food items along with a few salty ones. Below are some options which work for us.
- Saltine Crackers
- Kurkure Puffcorns
- Drinks Kit: All drinks should ideally be served in spill proof bottles. But then again, we are not ideal. I give sonny water in his spill proof bottle and the rest of drinks as they come packed. But before doing that, I make sure to put a big absorbent towel on his lap covering him and the seat around him well. This has worked fine for us so far (Sonny hates spills more than us!). If it does not work, then spill proof bottles are the way to go. Here’re our drinks stash for reference:
- Juice (Regular juice packs from Real or Tropicana in 200 ml packs)
- Oral Rehydration Solution (The one which comes pre-packed in 200 ml packs)
- Flavored Milk (Amul milk which comes pre-packed in 250 ml cans)
- Entertainment Kit: This kit should contain anything that can hold the attention of your kid for more than 15 minutes. Ours include the following:
- Toys – Cars, Balls, FireTrucks
- iPAD/Portable DVD Player – For iPAD, it is always a good idea to keep a few offline videos downloaded on youtube (depending on your kid’s preference) before the trip. Ours include solar system songs and a couple of Disney classic video collections.
- Books – The easy one-line-per page ones which sonny can browse through all by himself (and has more or less memorized by now) works well for us as it does not need my intervention as a story reader
- Stickers – Sonny loves them, bindis, stickers, doesn’t matter, anything with sticky back works.
- Binoculars – This we discovered during our road trip to Jim Corbett. A simple Rs 100 binocular made watching the road for sonny much more interesting and he kept at it for almost the entire duration of the journey.
- Flashlight – Again a source of amusement for inquisitive minds even in broad daylight. Pair it with a magnifying lens and you have got yourself a self-sustaining 😉 silent kid for at least half an hour.
- Bubble Wand and liquid – Slightly messy but loads of fun!
- Toiletries Kit: This is something one is used to packing with or without kids. So no big revelations here 🙂 Pack whatever grooming products you may need on your trip.
- Lip Balm – For those easily chapped lips
- Body Lotion – For the dry skin
- Hand Sanitizer – For the times when washing hands is not an option
- Body Wash – This should be kept inside the suitcase (It is not needed on the road)
- Shampoo – This should be kept inside the suitcase (It is not needed on the road)
- Deodorant – For when the car perfume runs out or you start smelling like the road
- Toothpaste – This should be kept inside the suitcase (It is not needed on the road)
- Toothbrush – This should be kept inside the suitcase (It is not needed on the road)
- Hubby’s Shaving Kit – This should be kept inside the suitcase (It is not needed on the road)
- Hair Bands & “Clutchers” – For the much-needed ponytail during the summer
- Miscellaneous Items Kit: All the things that are quite essential and should be kept at hand during the car ride.
- Hand Towels – For all clean ups and wiping
- Baby Wipes – Again for all clean ups
- Pillow – For the little one’s weary head
- Bed sheet – For using as a light blanket for when the AC is on too high
- Toilet Seat – For potty emergency on the road or for using at the hotel
- Garbage Bags – You will be surprised at the amount of trash that can get accumulated on a road trip!
- Plastic Chattai or blanket – For sitting at some random picnic/rest spot on the road down on the grass (This one’s for hubby!)
- Sun Glasses – I had an iLASIK recently, so it’s a must for me 🙂
- Caps – Again for sun protection and to keep the wind-blown hair in check
So there you have it. My checklist and tips & tricks for enjoying a successful road trip with a preschooler this season. The most important trick, however, is to remember to have fun on the way and try to laugh even when things don’t go as per planned. Keeping your wits about you and remembering to breathe will get you to your destination stress-free and without much fuss. Happy Trails everyone!
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