As tentative as I was to spend a total of 24 hours in the car keeping two 14-month-olds comfortable and entertained, the thought of a family road trip did appeal to my sense of adventure. When I discovered that the Niagara area where Mike and I vacationed a couple of years ago was a good half-way point to stop, the journey looked even more enticing. I found an affordable Hilton Garden Inn right off the expressway and a short drive from downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake, an area we knew my mother-in-law would love with its Victorian charm. With an another affordable but sophisticated hotel (Holiday Inn Express) to stay at in Massachusetts, the trip came together nicely.
Luckily my father-in-law took plenty of fantastic pictures on the trip including the ones in NOTL below. As many strangers have pointed out over the last year, I tend to have my hands full! I created photobooks from his pictures and mine that we'll be sharing with family members, so I'm holding off on posting reunion pictures at least until they've been shared privately.
Our trip went smoothly (we hardly missed a beat getting a tire repaired on the way back) and was enjoyable for all. We were even able to take the babies to the beach and swimming for the first time in the hotel pool (the next post will have pictures) in NOTL. Most importantly, we made some great memories with family including Mike's parents who caravanned with us for the whole trip and Mike's brother and sister-in-law who flew to out MA from Minneapolis. Introducing Michael and Sophie to their extended family, especially their great-grandparents, was also very special.
Here are some tips for travelling on the road with young toddlers that worked well for us:
- Plan driving around the usual daily sleep and eating schedule, and expect to stop every couple of hours.
- Pack lots of snacks, sippy cups, and small bowls for serving.
- Bring portable foods for meals like bananas, jars, pouches, and milk boxes to cut down on unhealthy and expensive meals on the road.
- Buy Tiny Diner portable placemats if you haven't already.
- Bring a variety of toys for the car and some bigger ones for the hotel.
- Don't forget the lullabye CD's, especially the ones that are already familiar.
- If the kids are in captain's chairs in the middle of a minivan facing the rear, strap a laptop in the very backseat with a seatbelt for an emergency DVD (Baby Einstein's Baby McDonaldwas our pick). I also sat back there occasionally, and they seemed to appreciate the visits.
- Pick a hotel on the way that offers entertainment for all to add to the vacation experience.
- Get the kids used to Pack and Plays at least during naps the week before if they're not already comfortable in them; bring extra sheets just in case.
- Create a sleep environment similar to home. For us that meant bringing sleep sacks and the sound machine.
- Keep the diaper bag stocked with the fundamentals at all times for those many stops.
- Let your type A tendencies run wild in order to keep it all organized along the way. I used a bunch of reusable shopping bags and nicknamed them "the kitchen,"the playroom," and "the nursery" to keep everything straight.
- Buy a Chysler Town and Country. It made our trip very comfortable!