Taking a trip with a toddler or preschooler is no small feat. Shaking up the routine of little ones that thrive on it can be daunting and make even the most seasoned parents wonder why they decided to leave the house.
But with a lot of preparation and a little bit of luck, a trip with your little is something that everyone will look back on fondly.
Here’s how to do it:
Pick a destination that’s not too far away
A long, multi-day road trip is a ton of fun when you’re in the company of adults that can share driving duty or older kids that can keep themselves entertained with books and screens. When traveling with the car seat set, time in car means boredom, pent-up energy and just an extra layer of crankiness.
Try to pick a destination that takes no more than one work day’s drive. Aberdeen is less than eight hours away from Fargo, Bismarck, Sioux Falls, Minneapolis, Duluth, Omaha, Rapid City, Des Moines or even Winnipeg.
What might take a couple of well-seasoned adults eight hours to drive might take a family with small children 10 or 12, depending on stops. And that’s OK.
Expect to make bathroom breaks at least once a hour, if not more. Try to keep them short and to the point.
In addition, try to plan some longer, fun pit stops. This can be a picnic at a park or a stop at a museum along the way.
If kiddos can get a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy, the time in the car won’t seem quite so bad. Try to time these with your normal play times, so nap time happens while driving.
We have a few suggestions for stops along the way to Aberdeen:
Loosen up some rules
Whether it’s screen time or snacks, make the time spent in the car extra special with things kids don’t normally get to do.
You’ll still want to have some healthy options for food and some hands-on activities, like those special markers that only write on the special paper or car-appropriate toys.
Don’t pack your days
Leave lots of room for flexibility. A destination like Aberdeen offer a lot of options, very few of which need to be booked in advance.
Kiddo has a meltdown in the middle of Storybook Land? Admission is free and ride tickets never expire. It’s raining cats and dogs? Head to indoor attractions like the Dacotah Prairie Museum or Allevity Entertainment.
Pick a few different things to do on your trip, and don’t make any promises before you’re sure they can happen.
Take an extra day off
Having a full day back at home to unpack, clean out the car and just generally get back in the swing of things before heading back to work/day care/everyday life can solidify those good memories and help forget the stresses of the trip.