Road trips can be so much fun! The open road, new sights to see, and unpredictable adventures around every turn. Well, unless you’re doing them alone with your two kids who are out of arm’s reach in your minivan. Then it can be kind of a nightmare.
Recently I drove my two boys, ages 4 and almost 3, to meet up with friends for a day at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, Pa. Usually my husband would be along for a trip like this but since our business is seasonal, he’s almost always working weekends in the summer. I was flying this one solo.
So I did my preliminary Pinterest research for keeping kids occupied on road trips, and then set to work prepping the van for the trip.
My first order of business was setting up a way for the boys to reach a bin that was packed full of books, magazines, magnetic drawing boards, etch-a-sketch, sticker pads, road trip Bingo boards and other activities.These were items they either hadn’t seen in a while or I had picked up at the dollar store. Their little arms don’t have a wide range of mobility, so I put my husband to work creating a way they could easily reach the bin. With his mad engineering skills, he jury-rigged the bin with bungee chords on top of a cooler wedged between the boys’ bucket seats. They both could easily reach over the side of their car seats and into the bin that was now right next to them. Score!
As a back-up, I brought this long claw toy that if needed, they could use to pick up things they dropped on the floor. No more whining and crying that they dropped something. Another score!
A major concern for this particular road trip was the fact that my 2-year-old, Luke, was only recently potty trained. So I found some awesome new travel potty products, both of which came in handy. One was a small folding toilet seat cover which was great for rest stops and at the amusement park when he had to sit on the big toilets. There are quite a few different kinds to choose from, but I liked that this one came in a small bag that could fit into my purse. Another great find were TravelJohn Jr. disposable urinal bags which have odorless, non-toxic gel inside that absorbs the urine and is spill-proof, reusable and can be thrown away at the end of the trip. I loved not needing to bring along a little travel potty or figuring out how to dispose of the pee. In fact, we could just pull over, the boys hopped up out of their car seat, did their business into the cup attached to the top of the bag, and we were back on the road.
Up front, I had a stack of their favorite books on CD, my phone to play Pandora kid stations through the Bluetooth, and a small cooler full of snacks. Tucked away in the console, as an emergency backup, I had my iPad. Surprisingly, between all the reading, talking, singing, game playing and end-of-day-snoozing over the 5 hours in the van, I never once needed the iPad. And by no means do I judge those who give their kids electronic devices or movies to watch on road trips. I had fully planned on doing the same, but was pleasantly surprised that they neither wanted or asked for it.
It reminded me of the road trips I took as a kid with my family, only having each other and a handful of activities to keep us entertained. At least until Game Boy was invented, then we spent mindless hours in silence stacking different shaped blocks together on a tiny little green screen. Now that’s quality family time right there.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Luke.