When it comes to traveling with children as a single Mom, the hardest part of the trip is often the car ride to and from vacation. Before your next vacation, check out these long car ride survival tips for single moms.
Many of the usual tips for keeping children occupied on road trips require an adult passenger to lead games, dole out snacks, monitor behavior, and pass out fresh toys. Driving to a new vacation destination is nerve-wracking enough. Add being the only adult in the car to that, and you have a recipe for high stress before vacation truly begins. After over a year of frequent travel alone with my 6 children I’ve learned a few tricks to make those long rides easier.
These simple tips will make long car rides less stressful for single moms with young children.
Long Car Ride Survival Tips for Single Moms
Keeping kids busy
Young children in 5-point harness carseats can’t reach very far and neither can the Mom who is driving the car! Figure out how to keep several toys in reach of your child. If there is an open seat, consider a strap in car organizer for toys. Often a tote bag will wedge between the carseat and side of the car. Consider reconfiguring carseat set up to put younger children within reach of older children.
Rather than passing out fresh toys and activities while driving, consider rotating toys and activities at each pit stop.
Electronics are your friend. No matter what your normal screen time rules, single mom travel is the time to throw them out the window. Consider taking electronics away for several days before the trip so your kids will be very excited for extended screen time while traveling. Load brand new apps, videos, and games before long car trips. Hide new games in folders, and pull a new one to the main screen at each pit stop to keep the electronic device interesting.
Discipline is another thing that is nearly impossible as the only adult in the car! The easiest way to deal with behavior problems while driving is to stop those behaviors before they even start. Keeping children busy, well fed, and rested is the biggest help in this area. Beyond that here are a few tips to deal with behavior while driving.
Set expectations and consequences before you get in the car. Be sure to only choose consequences you will follow through on. Elementary aged children can understand consequences that happen at a later time, such as losing vacation privileges. The first time one of my children missed the first 30 minutes of pool time was the last time we had a major car ride rule violation.
Get them excited about where you are going. I always show my children videos and photos of where we are going and activities we have planned on vacation. Understanding the purpose of the car ride makes it more bearable. Even my 2-year-old understands that we are headed to a pool. When he gets whiny we can remind him of all the fun things we are going to do.
Ask for help. Bigger siblings will often behave better when they feel helpful.
Don’t be afraid to remind older children that travel is a treat. I tell my children that if they make our vacation car rides difficult, I won’t be inclined to plan more vacations!
As a last resort, turn the music up to drown out the din… you’ll be at the destination and out of the car eventually!
Pit stops are easily the hardest part of single mom road trips. Single mom trips mean no more pulling into a gas station, while one adult dashes in the gas station to take a preschooler potty. Now everyone has to unbuckle and head inside at every stop. Those stops can quickly add a lot of time to the trip!
Plan to stop before anyone asks. For my family, I know I need to stop every 1.5 hours.
At each stop require that everyone use the restroom, whether they ‘feel’ like they need to go or not!
Pre-plan pit stops before you drive. My scariest moments while traveling as a single mom were the times I didn’t plan ahead and ended up stopping at a sketchy location. Especially while traveling at night, be sure to stop in well populated and well-lit areas. Map out gas station chains you trust before you drive. Pull them up on an online map and check the stores and areas nearby. That’s the easiest way to get an indication of safety. If you see check cashing locations, pawn shops, or cheap hotel chains nearby don’t stop there. If you don’t need gas, consider stopping at a store rather than a gas station. It might take longer to get in and out to the restrooms, but your family’s safety is worth it.
Children are often happily occupied when they are eating. I pack about 3 times the amount of snacks I think my family will need for each trip. Since passing out snacks while driving isn’t a good idea, you’ll have to get creative about how to pass out snacks during your trip.
If your children are old enough, pack snacks individual lunch boxes in their activity bags. You can call “snack time!” every 30 minutes or so, and children can choose their own snack.
If your children are too young for that, pass out a snack after each pit stop.
Plan on snacks that take a long time to eat, such as raisins or fruit snacks. A lollipop is great for late in the travel day.
Be sure to limit liquid for potty trained kids! Even for my bigger children I pack 8oz water bottles, or small pouch juice boxes. Free access to their usual 16oz water bottles means very frequent emergency potty stops! Give out one water bottle or juice pouch per snack time.
When all else fails I always swing through a drive-thru for fries for my toddler. That seems to keep him busy and happy for at least 20 minutes!
While car rides are the most difficult part of vacation for a single mom, the nice thing is that soon you will be there and it will be over! I always plan an easy day for our first full vacation day. After that ride, an easy day at the pool is often what we all need.
Don’t forget the ride home! It’s easy to leave for vacation well prepared with activities in bags and snacks packed, but to fail to plan for the ride home. Pack a few extra toys, activities and non-perishable snacks in your suitcase to replenish the car with for the ride back home.
If traveling as a single mom has you worried, check out these single mom travel tips to help ease your mind. Traveling alone may seem daunting, but with a little planning you’ll have a great vacation with your kids!