5 tips for a successful road trip

Since buying a car here in Iran, we have traveled to the north and south of the country, and it’s been a great experience.

But we never thought about driving to Mashhad, which is about 10 hours away from Qom by car. For one my kids love the train ride experience. We always rent a koopa, or a cabin, so the kids get to climb up and sleep on their own bunk. It kind of looks like a slumber party, except we don’t have the freedom to leave.

This year, however, for the days of Arbaeen, (the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, grandson of the Holy Prophet) both my husband and I were off from school so we thought why not drive to Mashhad?

I was a bit hesitant of the 10+ hour car ride with 3 kids, my mom and us. But praise God, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be.

Here are a few tips I thought of for anyone gathering the strength to make a road trip with the littles:

  1. Leave early: We made it a point to leave right after morning prayers. We let the kids stay up a bit later at night, and dressed them in casual clothes. So when it came time to leave, we just took them to the bathroom, and put them in the car. They slept until our first gas stop break, where we stretched and ate breakfast.
  2. Combine rest stops with food/gas/bathroom breaks: We stopped a few extra times on our way to Mashhad, turning our 10 hour trip to a 14 hour one. But on the way back home, we were strict to combine our stops for prayer, food and bathroom all at one time. It helped save time, and frustration. *Important note: Make sure kids get out of the car during your breaks: Sometimes it’s easier to just keep everyone in during a rest stop, but it actually helps to get kids out to release some energy before being stuck in the car again. We would park our car in a more open place to let the kids run around a bit before heading back in.
  3. Entertainment: This summer I bought a new 2-screen DVD player for the car. I only pull it out for road trips, and then put it back in storage when we come back. It helped keep the kids entertained, and after 1 movie, we would turn it off, then use it again later. If you can, try to invest in something like this for your car, but be sure to only pull it out during special trips. Otherwise it will lose its value.
  4. Get a couple of new things for the trip: The night before we left I bought the kids small magnet kits that they could use on their steel snack tray for the car. They played together and it kept them occupied. A small new game or toy works wonders for taking the edge off.
  5. Keep lots of snacks: We kept lots of healthy snacks on hand for the kids to munch on during the trip. Fruits that are easy to peel and eat are best. Small, simple sandwiches also help ease their appetites if you are out looking for a place to eat. I also packed a few small lollipops and fruit snacks for those stressful moments.

Road trips can never be pulled off without a hitch. And even on ours, we were bombarded with the “Are we there yet?” a billion times, but the more prepared you are helps you maintain patience for those moments ­čÖé

Do you have any more tips to add to this list? Would love to hear about things that worked for your family during road trips!

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Top 10 tips when traveling with kids

Summertime is fast approaching, and that means vacation! It’s nice to look forward to a break, especially when you have kids.

But that variable is also what makes travel difficult – kids. 

Here is a list I’ve culminated over 8 years of traveling with children:

1. Pack lightly – A big mistake I used to make early on is packing like tomorrow was the end. Make sure to pack things you specifically need like medication, training pants, favorite toys, etc. Otherwise you can always buy stuff at airports, at rest stops, etc.

2. Backpacks are a lifesaver – After years of hauling around diaper bags, I bought a backpack and it changed the way I travel. No more falling off the shoulder bags, aching arms, or tipping strollers. 

3. Stock up on candy/sweets – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prevented a potential tantrum by just whipping out a lollipop or bag of fruit snacks. I save these treats for travel time, and that just makes it all the more sweeter.

4. Dress kids in clothes you don’t mind tossing – While I’m not a fan of just throwing away perfectly good things, I certainly don’t want to hang on to a pair of pants covered in vomit. Things happen during travel, and it’s one less thing to worry about when you can just toss a shirt or pair of pants. Diarrhea happens. Vomit happens.  Leaks happen. Sometimes they  happen together. I keep things they are about to outgrow, little faded, maybe has a tiny, itty bitty hole – basically stuff I can’t pass on to anyone. 

5. Purchase a few new things for the trip – A coloring book, a small toy, a puzzle. Kids love being surprised with something new while traveling. 

6. Let kids have their own luggage – Now my husband is not a big fan of this because he’s had to lug around 2 kids suitcases because our girls were tired, but on the whole they were a good buy. Kids love copying parents with their own personal things. And they enjoy rolling them around – makes them feel important. Plus I pack a change of clothes, underwear, snacks and toys in each kid’s suitcase so I end up carrying less, too. 

I personally am a big fan of the Skiphop Zoo rolling suitcases. They’re roomy, light, and have a convenient strap on the back that I can swing over my shoulder or a stroller handle if my kids get tired. Plus if you search around, you can often get them for less than $25.

7. Be flexible – When you have too many expectations, it ruins your trip. Layovers happen. Delays happen. Make room for flexibility. Plan your layovers/rest stops wisely. Let kids run around. Keep a few portable food items so just in case they get picky, at least they’ll eat something. I often make a batch of French toast to keep in my bag. Pack a few juice or milk boxes. The last thing you need is a cranky, sleep deprived, hungry kid. 

8. Don’t forget the wipes – Perhaps one of the most essential items to pack when traveling. They can clean hands, refresh your face, wipe gunk from clothes. 

9. Invest in a DVD player/tablet/electronic kids toy – And don’t forget the headphones. When all else fails, these things help divert children from going over the edge. Remember to break it out ONLY when you need it. Otherwise it loses its “new” factor. 

10. Remember to rest – If you’re like most parents, you forget to take care of yourself. Get a good night’s sleep before the day of travel. That way if you’re on the road, you’re able to focus. And if you’re flying, you don’t get cranky or frustrated. 

Most importantly, remember to have fun! 

Traveling gets tricky

We have been blessed to get many opportunities to travel with our kids.

By plane, train, bus and car – they have done it all. And thank God, we as parents have been pretty good at handling the kids through these adventures.

But now it’s not even the actual “travel” part I mind so much. It’s when we reach our destination that I start reaching for the Motrin.

Goodbye, cheerful flight attendant. Hello, horrible jetlag.

Mind you, I enjoy traveling. And especially now that we live so far from family, going home is so much sweeter than before. But kids on jetlag could potentially be used as a form of torture. Mix in a change-of-weather fever, and you are set!

All of a sudden those kids you seemed to have in control have now become a different kind of creature – those who thrive on no sleep and sugar-coated cereals. As you finally nod off to dreamland, you are awoken by a 6-year-old at 2 a.m. who is hungry. Or a 3-year-old who forgot to go to the potty. And since you are living out of a suitcase, you spend the next 15 minutes literally playing hide-and-seek with clothes.

And that’s when I miss being home. I miss my routines. I miss not living out of a suitcase.

But I digress. Traveling also makes me a little giddy. The excitement of packing and knowing you are going to see loved ones. The fun of watching your kids enjoy their trip with their own suitcase and get little presents from the flight attendants.

As the kids get older, I have also found that the more flexible you are while traveling, the easier it gets. I break all the rules: candy at takeoff? Sure thing! TV nonstop? No problem!

And I try to give myself an extra million doses of patience, too. Kids aren’t going to cooperate the entire time, and you must leave room for that. There are going to be lines, there is going to be waiting. I like to play “I Spy” or hand out extra fruit snacks during these times.

Traveling can be a pain, but I like to look at the gold pot at the end – and that is knowing I am going to visit family and spend time with those I love! Can’t beat that!

That understanding nod

Recently we were traveling by plane and had the wonderful experience of waiting at the airport (our flight was delayed), while one kid was sleeping in the double stroller, one had a diaper leak, and one was hungry/tired/bored.

Finally as time comes to board the aircraft, we lug past business class with our bulging backpack, a diaper bag hitting every seat, plus a sleepy-now-awake-and-angry-and-also-throwing-a-tantrum toddler. Did I mention another kid was now also sleepy/cranky/screaming?

And as I plop into my seat, I couldn’t help but think about the faces those business class passengers were making at us. Definitely not like the understanding nods that fellow parents give you as you tote around your kids and their seemingly never-ending necessities.

Ahh, business class. Sharp dressed men and women with no toys or huge bags around them, maybe a laptop propped comfortably in front of them. Or swiping on a tablet they don’t have to share. Or reading a newspaper. A newspaper!! I remember those… I used to work at a newspaper and have an unexplainable love for flipping through the pages and getting ink on my fingers.

You want to know the last time I read a newspaper? When I spread them out on the floor so my kids could paint and not get the floor messy. Yes, it was an old edition and yet, I still kept reading…..

The last time I looked at a tablet? I only get a minute of tablet time anyway, just enough time to scroll through the news headlines on the lock screen before a kid comes to me grabbing it and wanting to play some game involving making a pizza or feeding a cat.

While we sat squished in coach, I told my husband to let’s travel business class when the kids get older and we are able to enjoy having our tray table down without a kid banging on it. He gave me a weary smile.

And I think flight attendants never have children. Or it seems that way. Because they will always give you anti-kid friendly directions, like, “Please put away that LeapPad until after the plane takes off,” (cue crazy child screaming).

Or the best one is when your toddler is trying to run down the aisle and you are trying to contain him, and the flight attendant comes by with those wonderfully attractive child seat belts. Yes, I can see my child will now certainly calm down for this.

As I wrangle with my son to get the belt on him, the lady next to me sees my son flailing about, she brushes off the flight attendant and says, “Just put it around him so it looks like it’s on.”

I smile at her and do exactly that. (Disclaimer: Yeah, I know it isn’t safe. But I had my son with me under my belt.)

It felt nice to finally have someone understand me and what I was going through. This nice lady didn’t grunt when I accidentally dropped my shawl onto her seat, or groan when I bent down for the 10 millionth time to pick up a pacifier from around her feet.

Even as we departed the aircraft and made our way onto a bus to get to the terminal, the odds were still against us. I had a toddler now sleeping on my shoulder and no stroller. My husband had a 3-year-old sleeping on his shoulder, and he was practically dragging our 6-year-old who was also sleepy. With my bag hanging in the crook of my elbow, I just leaned against the side of the bus and prayed to get home NOW.

God must have heard my prayer, because all of a sudden a woman traveling with her mother motioned to me and gave me her seat. I thanked her with my words and my eyes, and every fiber of my being.┬áHer mother asked me how many kids I had, and she smiled this smile that said, “Oh yes, I’ve been there.”

It really makes a difference when you sympathize with people. We all have been in different life situations. Whether it is dealing with children, spouses, parents, neighbors, coworkers, certain health issues, etc., we have all been there. It just takes a smile and an understanding act of kindness to show that yes, I am also human. I understand where you are coming from.

Isn’t this why God put us all on this Earth together? To learn from each other. To learn to live with each other. And more importantly, to become selfless people who care for one another.