Road Tripping with Littles

Fortunately, or unfortunately life has dealt its cards and we are the chosen ones to travel in order to see family. For 9 years, we were 8.5 hrs. from my husband’s family and 30 min from my parents. We moved this year and now we are 2.5 hrs. from my parents and 6.5 hrs. from my husband’s family. 

Traveling has evolved over the years. We went from being newly married to having 1,2,3 and now 4 kiddos to pack up and go 🤪 sometimes the dog too! 

As newly married without kids, Matt and I would pack lightly and adventurously. We took bikes and run clothes and would always stop halfway for a trail run up a mountain. The trip was quiet and peaceful. We could hit the road whenever we wanted, stop easily and quickly, or linger and do what we wanted. 

After two years we had one child. Oh the packing for one kid…why do we do such things to ourselves?  Our car at the time was a small Mazda 3. We would cram a pack and play, diaper bag, and all the things that entails, our two suitcases, a stroller for running… Not just a small stroller, but the Bob stroller. We typically did not bring the bikes anymore after we had our one child. The car ride consisted of crossing our fingers and hoping our daughter would be self-entertained for as long as possible before melting down. When the meltdown started, I would crawl to the back and entertain with books, silly kid nursery rhymes, this little piggy, peekaboo, etc… and when all else fails, I would take her out and attempt to nurse her if we were in a bind just to squeeze out 30-45 more min of drive time. But ultimately we would stop after about 3 to 4 hours to stretch our legs and let our oldest stretch or lay flat rather. Then we would press on and trudge through the last 4 hours as best we could kicking and screaming or occasionally getting a good nap. The last hour is always painful. But looking back on our travels our oldest was probably our best traveler as a baby. She slept well and was easily entertained. 

Transitioning to two kids wasn’t too bad if I remember correctly. We did get a new car, a Mazda CX5. So, a small improvement from the Mazda 3. The amount of stuff to pack didn’t really change too much other than a few extra clothes. Diapers ✅, diaper bag ✅, pack n play ✅, stroller ✅, baby carrier ✅. The entertainment was the same for me except my oldest could have snacks! Goldfish and Cheerios for the win! My second was a bit more vocal than my oldest so the quiet, peaceful rides were no longer.  

Three kids brought the debate of getting a new car or duking it out with 3 wide in the back. Financially a new car seat was cheaper than a new car payment. Along with a top of the car box. So, we stuck it out with 3 wide. Thankfully our oldest was helpful and could entertain and help pass snacks. I didn’t have far to reach to the back so all in all it was a win in the cozy closeness of 5 packed into the CX 5. Our travels slowed down that year because it was 2020 and into 2021. We did take a beach trip fall of 2020, so 10.5 hrs. to and from the beach to see my husband’s family. Some things in life you just forget when you have kids and I think a few of those road trips are some of them. 

We chose the Thule car box mainly because we know Thule to be a solid brand making good equipment that will stand the test of time and wear and tear. The model we chose was the Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier at 16 cubic feet. After reading reviews it seemed to be the best size for our family to hold all the stuff as we grew. We have had it since 2019, and I can say it has served us well. Sometimes the amount of necessary things to pack on a trip is quite amazing. I get claustrophobic in cars if piles of stuff are squished and cramped in every crevice of the car or around me, so having most of it up top eases my claustrophobia. Even if we had a Suburban I think we would need a car box. Packing changes per season. I mean, in winter we are packing 6 winter coats, 6-12 pair of shoes, hats, and gloves, Christmas presents, food and scooters! Summer seems slimmer with just bathing suits and shorts/t-shirts. But then there are life jackets, sand toys, boogie boards, inflatable paddle boards, fishing rods, beach towels, and scooters or bikes. So, six to one, half dozen to the other. Four kids and an adventurous husband just means a lot of stuff! 

Our caboose brought on a new car. We settled on a Subaru ascent with bucket seats. The jury is still out as to whether I love this car. At this point in my life I am just glad it holds all my people and our stuff mostly.  TheCarMom needs to invent the ultimate affordable mom car in my opinion! I would buy it in a heartbeat. My two cents for the dream mom car are a microphone so I’m not yelling to the back and a retractable sound barrier of some sort that you can push a button and it rolls down behind the driver and passenger seats. 😁 No seat belt dings when someone is unbuckled maybe just a flashing light, and snack trays in the back of seats with dual purpose for an art table. I also need a spot for my purse. I don’t know why cars do not have spots for purses or diaper bags. Cars need less cracks and crevices for goldfish and the like to fall into. Or some supersonic vacuum that can get it all out. When you purchase this new said car, it should come with a lifetime supply of a monthly wash and detail. The trunk needs to be substantial in size like big enough to fit a double Bob stroller and third row seat widths wide enough for three car seats across.  Cup holders should be moveable in order to adapt to the size of a Nalgene or a Stanley or a to go cup of coffee. Leather/pleather always or something easy to wipe down. I honestly don’t have a big opinion about all the bells and whistles of technology but some of them are nice such as seat warmers and steering wheel warmer, beeping for when you are about to change lanes and don’t see a car due to kids screaming in the back or something to that effect. I do appreciate Apple car play to see driving directions and ability to play kids playlists etc. But to be honest we have never had a TV in the car and I’m holding out for a tablet. I’m sure I am missing out on some peace and quiet, but so far our kids have survived and I think they are doing ok. Will love to hear what “Musts” you want in the ultimate mom vehicle. Now moving on.

Our caboose is also the loudest. I’m not sure how to describe the volume that can come out of her little mouth but it has brought me to purchase some Loop noise reduction ear plugs. And not just for car rides but on the daily. Maybe being the 4th she feels like she is never heard? So far, the engage Loop ear plugs have been helping tremendously. I can still hear the noise but the sheer shrillness of her loudness is softened and I can be a kind mom instead of a frenzied overstimulated mom. Highly recommend. 

Along with being the loudest she is also the worst car sleeper. At best, we get a 45 min nap regardless of timing as to whether it’s her normal nap time when we leave etc. If we can keep moving she will nap longer, but inevitably we have to slow down or stop going through a town and she wakes up as soon as the car slows.  I forgot to mention that our third went through a car sickness phase. We tried car sickness medicine which helped some and sometimes did not. I would sit in the back between the bucket seats one cheek on the edge of each seat holding a diaper like a bib in hopes to catch the mess. Bless her, she was pitiful and it was always a gamble as to what would happen. We even changed our route for several trips to reduce the amount of curvy roads. Knock on wood, the last three trips we have taken she has not had any car sickness. Praise be!

In closing, my no ordinary wisdom for the day is that traveling is and will always be a challenge. The logistics are ever changing and some days it seems easier than others. But as I tell my girls, if you don’t travel you will never see anything. Traveling is the hard part and no one likes sitting in a car for 6-8 hours, but we learn to resolve conflict, be patient, kind, creative, bored and do it all as a family. All things beautiful and important in life are seen with traveling.  So, a big fist pump to you mama, whether you are the driver or passenger passing out all the snacks! Take deep breaths and put in the ear plugs (wink). 



Adulting, Raising chicks




Road Tripping with Littles

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