We are on our way into summer, and while I don’t have much of any change in my work, my wife is officially on summer break. This means we see each other daily and that I can work reasonable hours. It also means that we get to go on some adventures. We have not been on any sort of vacation in ages (not since before we got pregnant), so we decided it was time, and we opted for a road trip to the southwest. We’ll be leaving in just a few short weeks. My wife hasn’t ever seen the Grand Canyon, so we made that our ultimate destination, so for a whole week, we’re going to be travelling down the California coast, stopping for a couple of days in San Diego, and then making our way to places like Sedona, Las Vegas, and the High Sierra. My mom is travelling with us, so we’ll be glad for the extra hands and the built-in, very eager babysitter for those nights my wife and I want to get out and experience some night life.
We may be crazy taking a lengthy road trip with a two-year-old, but it feels right. Most days, we’re driving for about five hours. We’ll make stops as needed, make sure he gets to run around, and have ample in-car activities as well. We’re going to try to work around naptime so that he sleeps plenty in the car. We have no idea how it will go, but we’re eager to do it. So far, some strategies we’re working on are as follows:
- We are giving BG his own mp3 player stocked with all of his favorite music. We will certainly listen to his music in the car as well, but giving him the option to have his own listening experience is something that should be entertaining a few times a day.
- Each day, we will give him a special travel gift. These are little activities he can do in the car. We’ve got lacing cards, a wooden fidget puzzle, magnet games, stickers, and more. They’re all tiny (saving space is a high priority!) and should all keep him at least a little busy as we drive along. The added excitement of having a gift every day should make for something fun for him to anticipate.
- We’re working on making at least one big stop every day that is focused on something BG-centric (although we’ll all certainly benefit). We’ll go play buckets at the beach on our way down the coast, spend a day at the zoo in San Diego, head to a children’s museum in Las Vegas, and more.
- Our library has these amazing kits that include a book, the audio version of the book, and a related activity (maybe a coloring page, or some sort of game). We’ll be checking out a few of these.
- Grandma is bringing some videos of his favorite books. Scholastic makes these very simple videos of popular children’s books like Maurice Sendak’s best-known stories, for example. They’re essentially the book being read with the simplest animation of the book’s real illustrations. They’re quite wonderful and will be exciting for Grandma to share on her tiny DVD player.
- We’re bringing plenty of healthy snacks and will make some to bring too. We’re also taking some travel advice from a travel forum I found and bringing make-in-the-car snacks like ingredients for trail mix. BG loves to measure things out and mix them up, so we’ll bring a collapsible bowl for him to do some “cooking” in the car.
- Ultimately, we plan to be as flexible as we can. We’ll leave when we can in the mornings, stop when it’s clear we need to, and try to avoid too many expectations.
The one thing that has me a bit nervous is that we won’t have room to bring our stroller. Granted, we don’t use the stroller that much anymore, but there are times when it feels like it would certainly be useful. At the zoo, we can (and will) rent a fun little stroller thing, so that will help with tired legs. At the Grand Canyon, I’ll probably put BG on my back in the Ergo to some degree. He’s not a good hand-holder, and it terrifies me just a little that he might rip free from our grips at just the wrong time (I have a disturbingly vivid imagination). We don’t have plans to do much hiking, but we’ll certainly be keeping him close anytime we’re near edges at all, and the Ergo seems a nice option, especially because we won’t be on the road much that day. Vegas should be interesting (read: terrifying) sans stroller. We don’t plan to stay there long (it’s really an opportunity to enjoy some pools and for J and I to have a fun night out), but we’ll definitely be requiring more of BG in the way of walking and holding hands than he’s shown he can do before. I imagine there will be moments we regret this lack of toddler conveyance (I already go into mild panic attacks when imagining him running off in large crowds), but the reality is there will be three adults to either lead him by the hand or carry him. It will be okay (right?). After all, he does have to learn to walk responsibly eventually.
I’m excited that we’re doing this, all anxiety aside. BG does well in the car, especially when he has company in the back seat, and we all welcome the opportunity to spend time together. Those ingredients alone should lead to more than a few moments of happiness along the way, although any road trip/travel with two-year-old advice you may have, I’m happy to hear!