As you’re driving home from your three-day getaway this Labor Day, here’s an idea for how to find a free and easy place to stop and give your toddler a break from the car, assuming you’re struggling to find somewhere good to stop among a slew of smallish towns and you haven’t mapped out your stops ahead of time (as Kimberly Kauer of Silicon Valley Mamas recently recommended doing among her 8 quick tips for a road trip with kids).
Drive off the highway into any somewhat populated and seemingly safe town, go to the main drag (say, where restaurants are listed in this cool app suggested by Cool Mom Tech or on Yelp) and ask where a fun local playground is.
My husband and I hit on this hint when we learned the hard way that you need to stop when you go on road trips with a toddler, or at least when you go on drives longer than an hour and a half. About halfway through a three-hour journey that we had naively thought we could do without stopping, our daughter started screaming and there wasn’t much we could do to distract her from her car fever.
So I started frantically looking online for places to stop halfway on the drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe only to discover that we weren’t close enough to most of the attractions (like Fairyland and parks in Auburn, Calif., or Wheatland, Calif.,) recommended by the online services and apps designed to solve this problem. Such high-tech road trip helpers include MomMaps.com, Waymarking.com, and please let me know in the comments section of other good ones. Basically, we needed a playground pronto.
So we pulled off the road in Colfax, Calif., the town we were nearby, drove to the main street (where the Yelp-recommended restaurants were) and asked a local mother walking with her teenage daughter where a nearby playground was. “Just a couple blocks away,” she said and gave us directions, before sending us off with a nice “God bless you.”
Turns out what she directed us to was a newly done free playground with a water park area for toddlers and seemed to be the local hangout for stay-at-home parents in the area. In other words, we had struck playground gold just by asking, and hopefully this trick will work just as well for you.
What are your tricks and favorite apps for finding great road trip rest stops for toddlers and older kids?