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Question of the Week - Car Tripping

Unfortunately, the caramama family went out of town for a funeral this weekend. My husband's grandfather passed away. Though he was 94 and it was expected, it was still very difficult. Because it's been such a sad weekend, I don't want to dwell on it here.

Instead let me tell you about a first for our family: We did our first big car trip as a family of four. (It was also the kids first funeral. I brought them only to the viewing part of funeral so they could see and be seen by their extended family members on my husband's side.)

I know you are wondering how the car trip went. It was pretty crappy, thanks for asking! We left Friday about 10:30. I had thought that the Pookie would take his long morning nap in the car, while the Pumpkin watched some DVDs on the player we bring with us on car trips*. The Pumpkin no longer hates the car and does well on car trips, unlike earlier in her life. She was a bit fussy throughout the car trip, but overall did fine.

Except on our stop. I thought it would be a good idea to stop at a Cracker Barrel (I love that restaurant) because they have that country store attached and it is generally a good place for families. It was not a good idea. That country store? Full of Stuff My Child Can Get Into and Grab. Also full of Things with Peanuts. There was no good place for my girl to exercise her legs, although my husband spent time with her outside on that front porch with the rocking chairs and checkers boards that they always have. In general, it was us trying to keep the girl from getting into everything and to eat sitting at our table and trying to keep the boy from fussing while also allowing both adults to eat. It was a bad idea, and totally my idea. But I have found two different fast food places with play areas for next time (which will be Thanksgiving).

As for the baby boy... Although he does not scream bloody murder constantly when in the car, he does get fussy. He didn't take any long nap, and instead was tired and cranky. When he would start to fall asleep, the Pumpkin would start talking or fussing and wake him up. We had to stop a couple times so I could feed him, because he would NOT take the bottle of breastmilk I brought for him. I did the Magic Boobs Over the Car Seat trick for him, which helped him get through some of it. But it was a rough trip. One that is 5 hours for adults, but took us almost 8 hours with the two kids. At least we didn't have the dog with us.

So this week's question is:
What tricks to you have to get your family through long car trips? Or what did your family growing up do for long car trips?

We learned with the Pumpkin that the best time to travel with her--and now we know with the Pookie--is if we leave right around bedtime. When she was a baby, I would have to nurse her to sleep, slip her into the already packed car while asleep and then take off as quickly and quietly as possible. She would sleep the whole way there and usually be transferred pretty easily in the middle of the night.

On the way home this weekend, we decided to try that trick. We left at 7:00 on Monday night. The Pookie has fallen asleep in the car before, so I didn't have to nurse him to sleep first. In fact, he fell asleep for the night about 7:30. The Pumpkin watched some DVDs and fell asleep about 9:15. It was bliss! Until we got all the way to the Beltway (about 30 minutes left to go till we would be home) and discovered that I-495 was indeed closed completely in spurts. We got on about four cars back from where they had stopped everyone. We had to wait about 20 minutes or so, and after 5, the Pookie woke up. He does that when we aren't moving. And he let his unhappiness at being woken up known. Which of course woke the Pumpkin. Who was really upset at still being in the car and now awake.

It. Was. Miserable! They were both crying as loud as they could, sometimes at the exact same time in the exact same melody (if you can call it that)--that was actually pretty funny to hear. Then when one would quiet, the other would cry and then it would start all over again. The whole time we were waiting, and then the whole rest of the way back home. The Pumpkin was so upset by the time we reached home that she was shivering while she cried. It broke my heart to hear my children so upset.

But other than that, the leaving at bedtime seems to be the way to go for us. We are always exhausted and can't do it often because it's hard to drive so late these days because we get so tired. But it works for the kids for now.

How about you? What do you guys do to get to far away places when stuck in a car? Are your kids as miserable as mine are? Or do they just love the car? And if so, maybe go brag to someone else, mkay? ;-)

*I was totally against bringing a DVD player on car trips at first. We never watched TV on our long car trips growing up! Surely our kids wouldn't need it! Then, I had the girl who hated the car seat and being in the car. Once DVDs would distract her, we totally used them and it was the best thing ever. I totally take back anything I said before about not thinking they were a good idea.


Katie said…
I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. I know well that even when a death is expected, and maybe even something of a relief, it's still deeply sad. ((((carafamily))))

Our longest trip with the Infanta so far is three hours. The last time we did it (about a month ago), she did ok on the way up in the morning; I was *not* sitting next to her, and we both napped a good portion of the trip. The way back sucked. I had to sit next to her (we were bringing a friend home for a visit), and she just doesn't do well with that anymore; she wants out of her seat and into my arms and undivided attention, which just doesn't work in the car. By the end of the trip, she was flailing all available limbs out of her seat in my direction, and I was plastered as flat against the door of our sedan as I could manage. Did I say it sucked? Like the vacuum of space? I was touched out, and she could hardly actually touch me.
Anonymous said…
Sorry to hear about Londo's grandfather. Our thoughts are with you guys and his family.

We, too, found planning trips around either nap time or bedtime is best. Sometimes it's not possible and then we resort to kid's music or Christmas music. Even in the middle of August, we will play the Christmas CD which hasn't left the CD player since two December's ago.

DH has talked about the DVD idea recently as well. We're contemplating getting a portable one since our family vehicle doesn't have one factory installed.

Other things we do are point out things he likes ... he loves diggers, bulldozers, big trucks and pretty much anything having to do with construction. Which is weird because we didn't really encourage it at first until he showed interest.
Karen said…
We use DVDs for Micah, and the older kids have iPods, or play the alphabet game or scavenger hunts, or keep track of license plates. I love that.
paola said…
I have started prodding my hubby about the dvd player for the car as my second Everyone I know says what you have just said!!

The key for our trips is that the kids MUST NOT BE over-tired. Ideally they should have had a 11-12 sleep ( normal for them)so they can fall asleep easily around their usual nap time ( they both still nap thank ch..t!). The times we have gotten up around 5 for holidays, neither has fallen back to sleep in the car, and has had real problems falling asleep at nap time ( even in a bed). This is something I have discovered this summer holidays and I wish I had known earlier.

Oh and it's only the little one (2.5) who hates the car. My boy (4.5) has always travelled well, unless there are curves and then its vomit city.
ImpostorMom said…
So sorry for your loss.

I only have the one but so far we totally rely on the DVD player. This last trip was to the beach and it ended up being about 6 hours. We used to do the leave at night thing but he no longer sleeps in the car so it's all daytime driving for us these days.

This time we watched some movies, he played with his leap pad and did some coloring I think. He took a short nap and we stopped at a Burger King with a (thankfully deserted) playground so he could run around. Aside from one short crying jag on the way down it was pretty uneventful. Just how I like it.

I can totally see how throwing a baby into the mix will change that though.
meggiemoo said…
Both my kids hated the car with a white hot passion until they turned 4 months or so. I have done the contorted boobs over the carseat many times with both of them!

We drive to the eastern shore (about 3 hours and change) every couple of weekends or so. My 3-1/2 y.o. son is pretty great in the car now, although he has a tendency to talk or exclaim really loudly, which then wakes up the 5-month-old, which then upsets me, and consequently, him.

We were coming back from the beach one afternoon and both had fallen asleep quickly. It was heaven. Then we realized we needed to stop for gas soon. Rookie mistake. The stoppage woke them both, and they were both inconsolable for an hour after that. Absolute hell.

The worst ride was when my DD still hated the car and cried off and on for the last 2 hours of the trip. I was crammed in between their carseats to try and comfort her, and I thought I might lose my everlovin' mind.

Haven't resorted to the DVD player yet, but we may be driving to Florida this winter (insanity?) and would definitely do it then.
Charisse said…
We aren't in the car much on a day-to-day basis as we walk or transit for our commutes. That means that Mouse is not super used to the car and gets cranky sooner--but actually, now that she's 5 and almost a 1/2, she's OK for up to 2 hours or so just talking to us, listening to music, etc. like we normally would. We're going to LA again for xmas, which is about a 6-hour drive from SF, and I'm guessing we'll be deploying the DVD player for that one. Works like a charm.

She's also out of the carseat now (in a booster) so falling asleep isn't as much of an option as it used to be. Not that I want my little low-sleeper to nap, ever, for any reason, but bedtime used to be a possibility. Really, at this age it's just like having one more person along, with a smaller than average bladder.
I'm sorry to hear of your loss, and that your first family-of-four road trip took place under such sad circumstances.

Le Petit thoroughly hated the car for the first nine months of his life. We drove down to Toulouse when he was a month old, about eight hours on the road, and he was crying for about five hours (I think) and sleeping for the other three. We stopped frequently to nurse, because I never figured out how to do it while he was in the car seat, but it was one long road trip.

Since he's gotten older he's turned into a good traveler, thankfully. The magic toys of the moment are Legos, something called a 'toddler tote' with pegs and rubber shapes by Lauri (looks bizarre to an adult but fascinates my two-year-old), books and toy catalogs. He luckily doesn't seem to get car sick when he reads, and can spend hours staring at the catalogs before eventually choosing to rip them apart. What fun!

Our biggest problem at the moment is that le Petit takes his arms out from behind the car seat shoulder belts. Unfortunately, European car seats don't seem to have the second chest buckle, and no amount of pleading, explaining, or struggling with him will keep his arms in a safe place. I'm still trying to come up with a solution.
Shellie said…
The best way to handle this is to stay home :). But, a bag of tricks is great with sensory items, games, healthy snacks, books, etc. For a road trip it's great to get something new the kids have never had before to hold their attention. Another great item for babies is a tube that attaches to the bottle so they can suck without anyone having to hold the bottle. That is, if you can get the baby to use a bottle at all!

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