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Old 04-08-2008, 02:09 PM   #1
twinspluscade
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Tips for driving long distances with kids?

We are planning our first trip to Disneyland, in September. We will be driving from Iowa. . Although both dh and I have done long roads trips, this will be the farthest the kids have ever gone by car (we flew to WDW).

So, I'm looking for tips/advice from people who have driven that far before with little ones. Our kids will be 6,6 and 4 when we go.

Mapquest has the drive at 26 hours and 30 minutes. Is Mapquest usually reliable as far as timing goes? I'm hoping their time is a bit exaggerated .

We're planning on logging in at least 12 hours of drive time our second day (not including stops). Good idea with kids? Or should we cut down the time a bit?

Do you just play it by ear where to stop for the night, or know ahead of time where you want to stop?

Any "must haves" we should bring with to keep the kids occupied?

Thanks!
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Old 04-08-2008, 02:19 PM   #2
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We drove to WDW in 2005, at the time my kids were 4, 2.5yr and 15 months....we drove down from NY (long Island), we had a dvd player in the car, crayons, books, etc. we basically just stopped to get gas and to eat and everyone did a potty run or diaper change, we did pretty well....we stopped over night in Savannah Georgia...then left around 7/9am can't remember exact time, and got to Disney by noon time....
I say you pretty much would have to play it by ear,you really don't know how traffic is or how you or dh would feel after driving for a while, the bad thing with my DH was he is stubborn and wouldn't let me drive, he felt it was easier for me to go back and forth in the van if the kids needed something, he's too big to fit through the van, ..........HTH's
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Old 04-08-2008, 02:29 PM   #3
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We drive to VA every other year from South Florida and it's about an 18 hour drive. Last time we had a DVD player with 2 screens, magnet toys, crayons and coloring books, and snacks (candy comes in excellent when they start to break down).

Now ours is a a slightly shorter drive but what we did that worked excellent is leave at 3 AM. Our son was up for about an hour as he was excited, but he slept another 2 hours after that. We then stopped about every 2-3 hours for stretching, gas, eating, etc. (not all at once, though!). He took one more 1.5 hour nap on the way. We arrived at 9 PM at our destination. Our son was just starting to get really cranky by then. He slept like an angel the rest of the trip.

What DIDN'T work was on the way back. We left at 4 PM which was right around rush hour traffic, so we were significantly bogged down by that. We stopped in Georgia or South Carolina at about 1 AM. Got up and left by 9 AM the next morning and were home by about 4 PM. It felt much longer, our youngest (who wasn't with us the 1st time as he flew with grandparents) was extremely cranky, they had trouble sleeping at night in the car, etc.

So to make a looooong story short it seems like it's best to have the kids get in the car somewhere in the early morning hours. That way, they've had some sleep, but they should still sleep some more in the car. And then drive as long as you can that first day. That way, the next day you'll have a shorter day. They are so much crankier the 2nd day it seems.
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Old 04-08-2008, 02:39 PM   #4
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Mapquest etc. doesn't take into account length of time it takes for stops or shorten time for speeding. We have had a dvd player for 3 years now (almost 4) and we love it for traveling. Add in some silly cd's on a cd player, glow sticks, a little desk so he can color or play, cars, special treats...DS8 has always been a great traveler so ENJOY!!
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Old 04-08-2008, 02:43 PM   #5
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I've found Mapquest to be pretty good time wise, maybe even a little on the short side (sorry....) With the ages of your children the potty breaks are bound to be a little longer than 5 minutes. We have made many trips with little ones and the best advice I can give you is to make sure you have things to keep them occupied. We only recently started using a laptop for movies, but prior to that, we never had a DVD player, etc., and they were fantastic travelers. When they were younger, I did go to the Dollar Store and get a few surprises for the trip, but now (they are 14, 11, 7) they have their ipods, GameBoys, etc. I even make them talk to me sometimes.... .
I know this is a little unpleasant, but one thing I never leave home without on a long trip is a small wastepaper basket lined on the bottom with a couple of paper towels, then lined with 2 plastic grocery bags (so no leaks.....). It has come in quite handy a few times. The kids don't get carsick, but we have a couple of illnesses during our travels. This setup makes what could be a rather unpleasant situation quite manageable. Much easier to clean up than if we hadn't had it.........
Make sure the kids know what to expect also. It seems that when they know we will be in the car for the long haul, they settle in nicely. It's the 45 minute trips down the highway that I seem to hear the most complaints.
Have a very enjoyable trip - it's not a bad idea to plan to get a hotel with an indoor pool. It's always good for a little enroute bribery if need be!
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Old 04-08-2008, 02:52 PM   #6
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Here is my tip...

We have been traveling to Ohio from NC since my daughter was a year old. I learned a valuable trick on that trip that I have passed along to friends. I have found the biggest problem for the little ones sitting in the seats that long is they will tend to cramp or get sore, they sometimes don't get the idea of shifting around to get off pressure points. So, about mid trip I give each of my kids a dose of motrin...okay I know somebody will flame me for medicating my kids ...

Here's the thing...after a few long trips I figured out that they were having a hard time sleeping at our destination from being sore from sitting too long...very active kids and that is a long time sitting still. I give them the motrin and thsy don't complain anymore. Just an idea, and it works for us.
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Old 04-08-2008, 03:02 PM   #7
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We flew for 6 hours with our 18 mo. old last year. I know that doesn't compare to your LONG drive, but we had a few tricks we used for our flight. We had a little surprise for him to open every 30 min to 1 hr. He would play with it for a while and when he got tired of it, it was almost time for another one! We got little cheap toys. He thought it was fun. We also had a DVD player too.
This time we're leaving at 6:40am from an airport 1 1/2 hrs. from our house. We're hoping he and his little brother will sleep the whole way up there and some on the plane.

Good luck and have fun!!
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Old 04-08-2008, 03:14 PM   #8
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We do the same thing for our long drives, I go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of small things that will also be useful/amusing for the trip (little reading lights, stickers, window clings, window writers, pencil crayons, notepads, gum etc....) and wrap each in tissue. Then when the kids have been sitting for a while, or especially when they are being well behaved, we will surprise them with one of the little presents. They love it, and it is a bit of a tradition now with us. I also make each one of them little binders with a bunch of travel games and a map of the trip down and back so they can keep track of where we are, and I have even made a visual of what the trip will be like so they can tick off things as they pass and see how close we are to arriving (it would have a picture of breakfast, lunch and dinner, then motel, breakfast lunch and dinner, with a box beside each to put a checkmark in). This really helps with the constant asking "are we there yet" which drives my DH insane - but of course the youngest will just ask (even immediately following stopping for lunch) is it dinner yet? We also take the DVD player and some books on tape, but not much else, in the beginning we way overpacked and ended up with clutter spilling out everywhere in the van, which makes everyone grumpy! Best of luck with the trip, for us it is just about 24 hours, and we've done it almost every way possible, straight thru, leaving in the middle of the night, leaving in the early morning, leaving after school, no matter how you do it, it's one LONG trip (which is why I always try to find and book a cheap flight before DH gets it in his head that it might be fun to drive again !!)
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Old 04-08-2008, 03:23 PM   #9
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When we drove to Disney, we tried to plan it so we departed our house at around 4 pm. Then we stopped and got something to eat about an hour 1/2 into the drive. Then we had the DVD player to occupy them til they fell asleep. Then my hubby and I took turns driving thru the night. It was great cause the kids slept through a huge chunk of the driving. It was a life-saver. By the time they woke up, we were close enough for them to really get excited and it make the time go by alot faster. I should also note, we made it a point to stop for our arrival day in Florida to stop at the beach. This gave the kids some much needed time to run and have fun, then it was only a short hour drive to our hotel in Orlando, where they were able to get to sleep early enough to start fresh the next day.
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Old 04-08-2008, 03:57 PM   #10
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Mapquest puts the drive from my house to WDW at 21 hours, 20 minutes. My brother and SIL drove to WDW from my house and it took them a little over 26 hours both there and back, just to give you a bit of a reference point. I imagine the extra 5 hours is stops for gas, meals, restrooms, traffic, etc., as Mapquest doesn't take any of that into consideration.
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Old 04-08-2008, 04:03 PM   #11
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Pre-plan your overnight stop at a hotel with an indoor pool, and be sure to get there early enough to use it.

Swimming tires out children and relaxes adults, something that is important when you have been awake driving for hours, but they have been sleeping all that time in carseats.

Our first major car trip with a toddler we were wiped from driving but he was fully rested when we arrived at our overnight stop -- he ended up watching a Scooby-Doo marathon all night long because we simply could not get him to sleep in the hotel room, so finally at 2 am we gave up and went to sleep with him watching cartoons. Since then we have made sure to go for the swimming break, and bedtime actually happens at a decent hour.

Also, if it isn't raining, try to map out where there are outdoor playgrounds in the small towns along your route; it will do the kids a world of good to spend 30 minutes climbing, swinging and sliding. Fast-food playgrounds are not as good; too hard to get them out after only about 20-30 minutes, and also no fresh air.
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Old 04-08-2008, 04:50 PM   #12
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We are coming from DE, mapquest has us at 17.5 hours and it usually takes us 15.5 and we have dd5 and ds7, but for some reason we never make that time coming home. When drove last summer with some friends it took 13.5. We must have been flyin but we defintely took few stops than with the kids, but when we stop we run inside "pee" and run back in the car and GO.
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Old 04-08-2008, 04:59 PM   #13
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Here are my tips! (We've driven once from NH when our kids were 18 months and 3 and we'll be driving down in a few weeks with our 3 kids now who are 4, 3, and 1.)

Get a DVD player!

Find a hotel with a pool and a restaurant on-site if possible. No one will want to get back in the car to go out for dinner or snacks!

We also try and stop for lunch at a McDonalds or BK with a playplace so the kids can run around and work off some of their built up energy.

Mapquest actually overestimated our driving time by almost 2 hours. Really, we weren't driving that fast! We just made sure we were nowhere near a major city during rush hour and it worked to our advantage.
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Old 04-08-2008, 05:16 PM   #14
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The last time I drove from Iowa to southern California was in 1974, in a station wagon with no air-conditioning. I was 9 and my brother was 5, fun times! and Disneyland was amazing .

It takes about 3 days each way to get there. One thing I remember my parents doing is getting off the interstate and going into towns to find the town park to let us play and run around and get the wiggles out, usually combined with a picnic lunch out of the cooler.

We've driven to Niagara Falls and routinely do 11 hour drives to see my parents in Arkansas, my DD9 is happy with a stack of books and her ipod, my DD7 is glued to the DVD screen most of the time. my oldest used to watch more movies when she was younger, but now prefers to read.
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