I drove 2200 miles with 5 kids and survived… barely.
Ok really it wasn’t that bad. The drive out there was as I expected it to go. The drive home- not so much.
So, how do I drive with 5 little ones 11-3.5 months? I prepare. That was the problem coming home. I had all my stuff in the car but not organized and ready for the 3 year old. I had packed the car in the dark and was tired and in a hurry. I also just wanted to get home. If I had taken a few more minutes preparing to make things go right, I might have saved myself a few hours of going wrong.
Exercise! At potty stops, have the children run to trees and back several times.
Snacks! Have healthy snacks available and present them in no-mess containers like the little Gladware containers that fit in cup holders. I had some dried fruit, trail mix, and arari crackers from Trader Joe’s. These little cups are great because they fit in the cup holder and don’t spill.
Toy Bags! I pack a toy bag for each child. It contains coloring or activity books and a couple of car appropriate toys. I also have a toy bag with a few new toys by me which I parcel out during the trip. Having the bags packed and ready to use helps the little ones find things. Unfortunately on our trip home, my daughter Strawberry had her stuff scattered all over the car and her sisters weren’t very good about giving it to her. Having it in the bag helps her to see what she wants to play with.
Audio books! I don’t do movies in the car. But we do audio books. Either on CD or downloaded from the library’s collection. A good story can make the driving more interesting. I also have several Sansa Clip mp3 players for the kids and kid headphones so they could listen to their own stories too. Each mp3 player I loaded with stories that child would like.
Water! Have a water bottle for each person to drink during the trip.
Interim Milestones and good food! On a very long trip, there have to be interim milestones and celebrations to keep everyone motivated to get along. Meal times make great milestones. Parks and restaurants you know the location of are great places to stop and eat. Over the years, we have discovered a few restaurants that are about at proper meal time spacing on our trip. They have food that my family eats (vegetarian, whole food) and my kids look forward to going to those places. I look forward to eating something that will keep me fueled to keep driving. The break from the car also helps with enthusiasm. Yes, it takes more time to stop and sit down, but it also helps the drive go faster. Food doesn’t have to be expensive, just quality.
Here we stopped at a restaurant for dinner, but before that we stopped on the side of the road with a picnic lunch. I find it is good to mix sit down with picnics on the drive and try to have one of each during each long leg of the journey.