When my husband, daughter and I went on a road trip last summer, the three-hour drive to, and from, our destination was anything but pleasant.
Our then 1-year-old daughter cried for much of the trip, barely sleeping and only remaining satisfied with the various types of backseat entertainment I provided for minutes at a time.
When we returned home, I asked some friends of ours who frequently make that same drive with two little ones, how they do it. Their smart strategy for timing a road trip with young kids wisely is today’s hint.
Just in time for end-of-August and Labor Day road trips (According to a recent survey from Edmunds.com, 75% of Americans are likely to take a road trip by Labor Day), here’s the clever tip: start your drive when your little ones are set to go to sleep, whether for bedtime or naptime.
My friends who frequently make the same three-hour drive we did begin their road trip around bedtime so their young children are sleeping for most of the trip. Then, when they arrive at their destination or back home, they transfer their two children into their beds.
Others I know, meanwhile, take a similar approach, but leave around naptime. And people I know personally aren’t the only ones to employ this trick. Tawanna Browne Smith recommends it over at her Mom’s Guide to Travel, as does Suzanne Rowan Kelleher over at MiniTime. Other proponents of the leave at bedtime or naptime approach include infant and toddler sleep consultant Alanna McGinn and family travel writer Lisa Bessone, a Baby Center expert.
To be sure, this approach doesn’t always work, especially for little ones who aren’t good car sleepers. I know one couple with a 2-year-old son who left for a recent long road trip at bedtime, thinking driving while their son was asleep would be easy. Unfortunately, their son screamed for a good 20 minutes while they drove through mountains, possibly my friends say because he was afraid of the dark. They plan to try starting the drive at naptime next time around.
Meanwhile, Keryn Means of the site Walking On Travels wrote back in 2012 about how “leaving at nap time did not work for [her] family,” and she shares some good tips for families who find themselves in a similar situation.
But most of the stories I’ve heard about leaving around bedtime or naptime tend to be positive ones, so I tried it when we made the same trip this summer. We left at naptime and our daughter did sleep for a total of an hour or so during the three-hour drive.
Like this tip? It’s one of five tips for traveling with toddlers that I recently shared over at FamiliesGo! You can read all five of my toddler travel tips in the full FamiliesGo! post, “5 Tips for Traveling With an Active Toddler.” In addition, check out my advice on how to easily find a very kid-friendly rest stop, as well as my other travel-related hints.
What are your tricks for making road tripping with kids a bit easier? Share your tips and thoughts below.