FAMILY TIES

A road trip helped put toddler strategies to test

2013-06-06T00:00:00Z A road trip helped put toddler strategies to testOpinion by Sarah McKeown Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Traveling with a toddler - or any-age kiddo - may be challenging, but it's definitely doable. As summer approaches, it's time to think about possible vacation destinations and how you plan to arrive there, relaxed and with happy children in tow.

My family recently took a trip to the San Diego area to visit my husband's parents. A few simple strategies before and during the drive contributed to our low-stress travels.

• If driving, doing so during naps (or whenever the little ones are sleeping) helps the time go by. Planning our trip, I was all for beginning the eight-hour drive at 4 a.m. After all, our now 18-month-old son, Zachary, would still be sleeping, and we'd be able to get a few hours of driving in before he woke up. But my husband, Shane, who'd be our driver, wasn't prepared to wake that early.

We ended up leaving at 6, and Zachary woke up as soon as we headed to the car. However, he did take a nice nap soon after hitting the freeway. As a kid, I remember the drive going by much faster when I slept!

• We only made pit stops when our son was awake. Shane and I agreed that we wouldn't stop for gas, food or restrooms until Zachary woke from his nap. Stopping the car for too long might wake him, and we wanted to drive as far as we could while letting him sleep. Awake for the entire drive would be no fun for him, especially while strapped into a car seat.

• Debut a few new toys or books. Zachary is a big fan of books. Shortly before our travel I bought a set of Elmo books with fun flaps for him to lift. I pulled out the books for the first time while on our trip. We also brought some toys that we'd stored away, and they proved entertaining once again. The new books and "like new" toys piqued interest for a longer time during our lengthy drive.

• Provide music or movies, if possible. Zachary loves music, so we packed several of his kids' CDs. I found myself singing along to the fun songs as well.

Our son recently got a gift from Grandma: some great DVDs, full of music, singing, animals and bright colors. So we decided to let him test them out in the car. It wasn't until partway to Yuma that we tried to turn on the DVD player. It's always smart to check for a good battery in the remote control before you leave home - something we forgot to do.

Thankfully, Zachary is a great passenger, so we continued on our trek sans movie. After checking a few stores in Yuma, Shane found the right battery. The movie now playing, our little man was happily occupied for quite a while.

• Have favorite snacks packed and readily available. Purchasing must-have snacks before piling into the car saves time and keeps tummies satisfied. We made sure Veggie Straws, crackers, cheese and avocado were within arm's reach when the closest restaurant was miles away.

• Bonus: dogs help to entertain! We decided to take our two small dogs along for the ride. Zachary loves the dogs and being able to pet and watch them during our trip really helped him stay calm in the car seat. During pit stops, he enjoyed stretching his legs while running around with his four-legged friends.

These tactics proved helpful during our recent trip, and we'll be using them again on future ventures. I hope you'll find these tips helpful as well.

Here's to safe travels and a relaxing summer.

Email Sarah McKeown at east@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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