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Our little guy has been getting increasingly antsy when in his car seat for more than 20 minutes and we have a 6-8 hour road trip coming up in a few months. We'll be travelling for 1 day, visiting for 2 days, then heading home. How do we keep him entertained for these longer stretches of car-seat time?

Currently, he takes a 2-to-3 hour nap in the afternoon and hopefully that will continue to be the case when we travel. There are a number of rest-areas along the route but the more we stop the longer it takes to get where we are going.

asked 10 May '10, 15:05

Rob%20Allen's gravatar image

Rob Allen
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edited 10 May '10, 17:09


A few things that have worked for us:

  • new library books
  • inexpensive new toys wrapped up in tissue paper
  • those magnetic doodle boards
  • Crayola Colour Wonder markers & paper (the ones where the pens only write on the special paper)
  • snacks & special treats
  • portable DVD player

It may help to have someone sit in the back with him for at least a portion of the trip for some more direct entertainment.

And, finally & most importantly - a long stop or two (~45 min), preferably at a playground where he can burn off some steam. If you're really lucky, he just may have a nap afterwards.

We make a trip of similar duration a couple of times a year. We also had some luck with timing the departure to work with naps when the kids were younger (< 2), but as my oldest got older, that didn't work. She got so excited to go to grandmas that she didn't sleep and we ended up with a over-tired traveller. Now we leave during her "awake time" and the excitement wears off by nap-time.

Good luck!

EDIT: Just wanted to add that I have a bag of "car toys" that are only used on long trips. The doodle board, colour wonder stuff & portable DVD are in there so they aren't everyday toys - the novelty makes them "cooler". Also, if you're looking for a great car game, I would recommend Travel Crocodile Dentist - it doesn't have any parts to get lost and even though the recommended age is 4+, littler kids will have fun pushing his teeth down to see him bite.

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answered 10 May '10, 16:23

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Kate
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edited 11 May '10, 16:12

Thanks for the tips. I'll have to hunt down some playgrounds along the route.

(10 May '10, 17:10) Rob Allen
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+1 Really nice tips, I like the idea of longish breaks for letting off steam! Probably great for all passengers and driver too : -)

(10 May '10, 17:19) Emi

@Emi - you've met my wife I see

(10 May '10, 18:14) Rob Allen

@Rob Allen Ha ha I am the driver in our family, hubby is an award winning co pilot :)

(11 May '10, 05:06) Emi

We have made several long trips similar to what you are talking about with our kids. In addition to those mentioned by Kate here are a few other helpful hints.

We did have pretty good success with travelling at sleep times or in the evenings. A few times we left in the afternoon and would then stop for dinner time and put the kid(s) in their Pjamas and give them their bed time toys.

Don't expect them to sleep . Our son stayed awake until about 1 hour before we arrived at the end of an 8 hour journey.

We have a bag with a number of toys and books so that we are not continually picking up toys. I try to keep it to toys that will not cause too much damage if they did fly around the car.

I like to know how far it is to the next decent stopping point. Can you put up with the complaining until then.

I organize lots of small snacks. My son will often eat a lot while we are travelling. So we try to stop at places where mum and dad can have something to eat and/or coffee and the kids can burn off energy. My son is older now (4) so I say that when we next cross a bridge I'll give you something to eat or when we get to a certain song on the CD.

Expect at some point that your child will lose the plot. An older woman gave me some good advice when our son was tiny she told me when this happens have some music you enjoy and turn it up. My husband and I now will sometimes listen to our MP 3 players to drown out the kids. Realise that the more times you stop the more longer the trip. I did spend 30 mins one time popping a toy over the front seat into the back. It was the only way to stop our son crying.

In warm weather especially take lots of water for them to drink. My son would drink about twice as much water as normal when we are travelling. This was something I didn't plan for one time.

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answered 11 May '10, 00:44

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K D
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edited 11 May '10, 05:19

Emi's gravatar image

Emi
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Good point about the more stops the longer it takes. When they lose it in the last hour or so, know that the only thing that will make them stop crying is to get there and let them out of the seat! So, turn the music up, try to stay relaxed and go - they'll probably fall asleep just as you pull in the driveway :)

(11 May '10, 16:15) Kate

The only real solution to this is night driving (or not driving).

It's what we used to do, but I've clocked up quite a sleep deficit lately, so I can't (safely) pull all-nighters like I used to.

And for a 2-day stay it's a bit rough on the driver (I wouldn't bother driving that far for such a short stay, but I live in a smaller-scale country).

If it's any consolation, it's a phase. Our 5 year-old can now travel quite happily for hours and content herself with looking out the window, listening to music, drawing etc.

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answered 12 May '10, 05:49

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Benjol
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accept rate: 5%

we thought about flying but we'd have a stroller, car seat, pack and play, clothes for 4 days, toys for the trip and not to mention the hours of waiting in security, then the terminal, then baggage claim... he's a patient and well behaved kid but thats asking a lot.

(12 May '10, 17:10) Rob Allen
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Asked: 10 May '10, 15:05

Seen: 7,439 times

Last updated: 12 May '10, 05:49