My husband and I love to travel with the whole family and show our kids awesome places around the world. Most parents I know avoid travelling too far from home or stop travelling altogether when their children are too small to stay put in the car or in the airplane seat. It is true that car trips with toddlers are a mess most of the times, but I would never give up the opportunity to visit as many places as possible, just because I have a toddler to take care of, not to mention that with good planning, there is no way things can go terribly wrong, you can get out of every nasty situation with a bit of help and laugh about it later on. We have three kids and we take them with us everywhere we go, we even made a couple of trips abroad. Of course, flights are easier for parents, because you only have to get them something to do for a couple of hours, but car rides are difficult to manage. As long as you understand that the reason your kids behave like that is the fact that they get bored to sit on the back of the car doing nothing, as a parent I am sure that you will find a solution to this problem. Parents know best how to keep their kids occupied, because we use tricks all the time to get some peace around the house. Besides the time when we had to struggle with a little lost van keys incident, I never had problems with my children on the road.
The first rule is of course to make sure that you keep anything important out of their reach. If they happen to toss your phone out of the window, you can do nothing but watch as it goes. As mentioned above, we had an incident with the van cars one as well. I refused to give my boy a toy and hid it as punishment because he made a mess with his milk, but I soon regretted that decision. Never take a toy from a child. I was to learn this rule the hard way. At a stop for food, he took the van keys and hid them in the bathroom of the restaurant, so we discovered one hour later that we could not go in. We did not suspect anything and had to call a locksmith because of the lost van keys and delayed our trip with five full hours. In the meanwhile dark had fallen and we had to get accommodation at a model nearby, which was awful. He told me where he had hidden the key after I gave him back the teddy bear. Keep this in mind and get a spare key or at least get the phone number of a locksmith down for emergencies, because not having access to the luggage when you are on a trip with small kids is a nightmare.
Another important rule is to offer them as much space as possible, because you will need to bring toys, DVD’s and picture books after you to ensure they will have an occupation all the time. You also need that space to put everything you need like wipers, medicine, water bottles, plastic bags, clothes and so on at hand’s reach. Another thing we learned through trial and error is the fact that fewer, but longer stops are better than many stops on the way. Kids have more energy than adults and you will need to give them an hour to burn that energy before strapping them on the back seat again. Making them go back into the car after a five minutes stop will be a battle that you will definitely lose. After leaving them to play for half an hour, they might even be in the mood for a nap and you can enjoy a quite two or three hours’ drive. When you calculate the time needed to reach a destination, take into account the fact that you will stop more often than you would normally do and I recommend you to do so, because sitting in a chair all day long will make them sore and grumpy, not to mention that it will be bad for their health.