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  1. Default WI to CA travel with 2yr old

    Hey all,
    First off, I am completely new to this forum so sorry if there is a better place for these questions. Also, I know there is probably threads out there with similar questions, but my head is swimming with research so I thought I would just ask for help here. My husband and I are moving from Wisconsin to California at the end of August and we are traveling with our going to be 21 months old daughter. We have never done a travel like this with her and could use all the advice we can get. First off, I was thinking that since she is not use to long car rides we would take the trip slow and do 4 hotel stays (bringing us to just under 7hrs a day in the car) and take time to take advantage of hotel pools and such to burn off her energy. Is that a good call or do you think it would be better to push it a little more and get there faster? Neither my husband or myself is comfortable driving at night while she sleeps since we don't know the route well and I am unsure of how well she would sleep in the car anyway. We are planning on having her sleep for naps in the car though. Also, what can I do to keep her occupied? We have a LeapPad and we are also planning on getting movies on my husband's iPad for her and picking up a etch-a-sketch type toy too, but at this point all these things only keep her attention for a short time; however, I know in just under 4 months she will be much different developmentally so I have no idea how to start planing. Also, any other tips any of you think to mention would be greatly appreciated as I am a bit nervous about this move. Thanks so much in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Alway fun with a baby on board!

    Family road trips are the best!

    Here are some tips to begin to think about:

    General Family Trip Planning

    Roadtripping with a baby

    These games are a bit beyond a 2-year old -- but a good list to think about.

    It's going to be fun!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Gramma of 2 chiming here with some ideas- we traveled with a 5 month old and a 16 month old last summer.

    First, you'd be surprised at how much a 2-year old can handle. Stop a lot along the way and let her run. She can do this if you stop at a park, in McDonald's playground, or someplace like that. Do this every few hours. She may nap -- my granddaughter napped a lot on our trip.

    Recordings and us singing kept the kids entertained across the country many times. Back when our kids would travel, they had favorite tapes, but today we would use CD's or the mp3 player. When we traveled last summer with our daughters and their children, we SANG. It's good entertainment for the kids, they were listening, and you know, now my 26-month old granddaughter can sing 3 verses of Mary Had a Little Lamb and on pitch!

    If you are good at telling stories, those are also entertaining. If you have books on CD for kids, those can be helpful too.

    We had a small tote bag of toys, way back when, and last summer. These are individual toys like small stuffed animals, plastic animals, the LeapPad (these days; ours was a See-n-Say). I would dole these out one at a time, and we'd clean up the back of the seat at each rest area to retrieve those that had fallen down.

    Even at 2, children often like either a playground or a motel at the motel. But they can be just as happy with the TV. If you have a laptop, you could bring a favorite video or two.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default some thoughts

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    5 days to make this trip should work out quite nicely for you. I'm of the opinion that more time is never a bad thing on a roadtrip. You didn't say exactly where your starting and ending points are, but keep in mind that online mapping programs are usually very optimistic, so if that's where you are getting your 7 hour a day estimate, you really could be looking at more like 8-9 hours a day.

    You are smart not to try to drive through the night, as all that would mean is that you'd be exhausted while your child is wide awake. You are correct that most kids will use the on the road time to get in some extra naps too.

    I'm a big believer in putting pretty strict limits on the amount of screen time a kid has during a roadtrip. One of the best things you can do during the day is stop frequently. They don't have to be elaborate stops, even pulling off into a city park to spend 30 minutes at a playground is a great way to help add some fun to the day - and bring that next nap on a little sooner! I'd also recommend spending a little time in the back seat, so you can play with her, read, and interact with her while you're heading down the road.

    Otherwise, relax! This should be a great trip for you and your family, enjoy it!

  5. Default

    Thank you all for your advice and especially your encouragement! Everything I have seen when researching this trip is basically "how to survive traveling with your kid." You all are the first I have seen to be positive about the travel part so thank you!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default We Were Kids Once Ourselves

    Most of the regular contributors here got our start in RoadTripping before we could drive, and in some cases before we could walk. In my own case, my family routinely traveled every other summer from the east coast to visit our extended family in Wisconsin. Those trips are some of the fondest memories of my childhood and were instrumental in my continuing to make numerous extended RoadTrips up to and including my current trips in retirement with my own grandchildren. The one bad memory I have from these trips is once when my oldest sister insisted we keep all the car windows closed (this was before auto air conditioning) and not stop to get out of the car because she had just had her hair done for the trip. That lasted about four hours before the rest of us (5 others) were in open revolt.

    I will echo what others have said here. If you are getting your time estimates from a computer-based algorithm, add about 20% to those times 5 hours in the computer is 6 hours in the real world, 7 is 8½-9. Stops don't have to be long or elaborate, but they should be relatively often, say every 2-3 hours. There are ample opportunities for such stops all along the major Interstates.

    Four days is about the lower limit of what you can do this trip in. Green Bay to San Francisco clocks in at around 2200 miles, most WI to CA drives are a bit shorter. That means 525-550 miles a day, so keep that in mind as your traveling. Watch your odometer and if you fall behind that pace, you'll have to think about adding a day or at least part of one to the driving portion of the trip. You can also use that daily driving criterion to figure out where you should be at the end of each day and find child-friendly, suitable, and economical accommodations before you leave and pre-book. This will save you the hassle of trying to find a place at the end of each day.

    If done right (and you seem to be doing just that) this will not be an ordeal to be survived but a chance to enjoy some fun time(s) with your toddler at the start of her own discovery of how much fun travel can be.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-19-2014 at 08:08 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Plan well and enjoy.

    Just chiming in with the same message. Planned well, this will be a memorable trip, and, who knows, the first of many. Those who look on such trips as something to endure, rather than enjoy, have probably never learned how to enjoy a roadtrip.

    When travelling with our children we always made a point of being on the road early, and tried get more than half the distance covered before lunch. We found our children were always more settled during the morning than later in the day.

    Arriving at your hotel well before bedtime, is also a good idea, to allow your daughter to familiarise herself with her new surroundings.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cal12 View Post
    You all are the first I have seen to be positive about the travel part so thank you!
    How could we be anything other than positive about a well planned roadtrip?


  8. Default

    Oh wow, thank you again you guys! I am actually getting a little excited about the trip now :)
    We are going from the Denmark, WI area (about 1/2hour from Green Bay) to Redding. From what I am seeing it is 2,208 mi. In all my nervousness I guess I did not think much about the additional time it would take over what the map sites are giving me, thanks for the reminder. Also, to those of you who traveled from Midwest to the coast, is there any super long roads where there is nothing? Like should I be watching out at some point for things like "200mi to the next gas station"? Know it might sound stupid since I am only asking from seeing that stuff on tv and not my own experience but its something that crept into my mind. Thanks for helping me with all me newbie questions, I would not be so concerned if not for the little one...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A few more tips

    Alternative view on the sleeping issue....

    Road Trips for kids should produce happy memories -- it's not a job. When time is tight, what I suggest is to travel later in the early evening -- A couple of hours past dinner at least. Then a nice restful sleep in the motel with the idea towards sleeping in a bit (good for adult drivers) and time for a quick period of play in the pool before packing for another day.

    For some odd reason, the link to roadtripping with a baby is not loading well, so I've copied Anne's Top 10 Tips here: (It mentions some precautions for traveling in a RV -- Anne's vehicle of choice, but the tips work for other vehicles too). If you can get the link to load -- there are some cute photos!

    Baby on Board: 10 Tips for Road Trips with the Baby
    by Anne Sponholtz

    A baby in the back seat does not mean that your road trips are now limited to visits to the grocery store and the pediatrician. As a mom, grandma and experienced road tripper, Anne Sponholtz has earned a diploma in "Traveling with Baby 101." She offers a few tips that can help make your road trips with baby memorable in all the right ways. Parents, you may start your engines.

    When my youngest was 6 months old, my husband and I decided it was time to take off on a 379-mile road trip to Key West, Fla. Friends and family shuddered at the idea of such a venture with a baby, but we were road trippers, and hitting the road was part of our life. Since then the odometer has ticked off plenty of miles with babies on board. Sometimes it gets crazy, but it's always an adventure.

    Here are 10 tips to smooth the way.

    1. Be flexible

    When baby is on board, you never know what is in store for your travels. Sometimes baby is happy, other times fussy, and being prepared to swing with baby's moods can make traveling a lot easier on everyone. So don't be too ambitious and don't set your travel plans in stone. Be as flexible as you can and expect to stop often. My daughter and I figured a 90-mile trip with one of my youngest grandsons would be a breeze, but on the trip out, the baby was fussy and we had to keep stopping to pacify him. It seemed to take forever to get to our destination, but on the return trip, baby was perfect, and we made it home in record time.

    2. Keep a list

    Ellen Damaschino, a professional organizer featured on Parents TV, advises making a master packing list you can use for all your trips. Tuck it away in the baby's travel bag, preferably one with lots of pockets, so you can check off the things you will need on your return trip home. A master list might include such things as diapers, wipes, lotion, changing pads, garbage bags, formula - if you are not nursing - and juice, water, snacks, baby food and utensils, if baby is a little older. If baby is on any medication, include that on the list. Pack a first aid kit, and don't forget a thermometer, flashlight and your insurance cards. A small cooler to keep juice and formula cold should make the list. Use travel-sized items for packing. As Damaschino suggests, pack for travel time, not for the trip. You can make purchases once you arrive at your destination.

    3. Provide entertainment

    Entertainment can be the key to keeping baby happy. Bring along baby's favorite toys, a soothing music CD and a few new toys. Hanging mobiles from the car ceiling is a good idea so long as they don't obstruct your view out the windows. Blowing bubbles can entertain baby for a long time and is a popular form of entertainment among traveling parents. Just don't distract the driver! It's always a good idea to travel with a designated "baby entertainer" who can move into the back seat when baby gets fussy. Older siblings are often good candidates for this job.

    4. Check the weather

    If you have a choice of travel days, try to avoid rain and other bad weather. Some of the toughest trips I've made with babies have been in the rain, as getting out for pit stops in bad weather with a baby is difficult. Our RV has a built-in weather radio, but you can also check forecasts on several online weather services (see listing at the end of this article). RVs are great for bad-weather travel, as you can stop and get the baby out of his car seat for a while without having to get out into the elements; car drivers will have to plan rest stops at places where they can get everyone under shelter.

    5. Keep baby comfortable

    Keeping baby happy in her car seat can cut down on some of the stops. Window shades are a great help, providing some shade when the sun is coming in the car window. Small pillows and blankets strategically placed in car seats can provide comfort for baby, but keep an eye on baby to make sure they don't shift and interfere with her breathing. Changing baby's position in the seat is also helpful. Don't give infants too much orange juice. According to staff members at the Family Travel Forum, orange juice causes some babies to become carsick.

    6. Consider the larger items

    Strollers, carriers, pack-'n-plays, high chairs - oh my. The list of larger items needed for a baby just seems to go on and on, and it can be daunting when planning a road trip. But don't get discouraged. These days there are lots of options. If you are going to be in one place for a while, you can ship these items ahead; you can also rent many of them when you get there. Some larger items are now built like the popular children's toy - Transformers. For example, you can purchase a car seat that converts to an infant carrier and transforms into a stroller. RV travelers have the luxury of space. We once packed a full-sized high chair for a trip that included a grandson's first birthday. It was a great help keeping the birthday cake all over baby, instead of all over the RV!

    7. Travel safe

    Even if you think you know how to install a car seat properly, it's best to check with an expert. Local police and firefighters will often do this for you. And once baby is strapped into that car seat and the engine is running, never unbuckle him without stopping first. (RVers often have heated online debates over this issue, with some saying it is OK to let infants and babies out of their car seats in an RV. I fall on the side of always stopping before anyone unbuckles in my car or RV.) If you're traveling in an RV, check to see whether you will need to secure the car seat with a lap belt. One RoadTrip America Forum contributor had to purchase a new car seat, compatible with a lap belt, when he rented an RV that had this arrangement. You can check online for individual state laws covering age and weight requirements for children's car seats (the website is listed in the sidebar).

    If traveling in an RV, be sure to baby-proof it as you would your home, e.g. covering electrical outlets and keeping such things as the chemicals used for the holding tanks out of baby's reach. Above all, never leave a baby or any young child alone in any vehicle. You would never forgive yourself if something terrible happened while you "just stepped outside for a moment."

    8. Get some exercise

    Keep a lookout on your GPS for places like playgrounds or city parks where baby can get a little exercise, fresh air and a change of scenery. We stopped for lunch one day in the RV and even the littlest grandson enjoyed watching a squirrel play right outside our door. Swings at playgrounds are also excellent ways to give baby some exercise, and an old-fashioned picnic on a blanket provides baby a break from traveling and a chance to move around without being so confined.

    9. Think about when to travel

    Many parents prefer traveling at night, when the kids are asleep. I don't think my sister and her family ever took a trip that her kids didn't travel in their pajamas. As a youngster, whenever my family traveled we got up at 5 a.m., traveled several hours, stopped for breakfast and then hit the road again. Some experienced travelers, however, say it is best to keep baby on her regular schedule. That is the way I prefer to travel with baby, and it seems to work pretty well most of the time. Remember Rule No. 1: Be flexible. If you experiment with different timetables, you will find what fits your family's needs.

    10. Say "Cheese!"

    Don't forget your camera! I recently ran across a picture taken when we went on that Key West trip long ago, when my daughter was just 6 months old. My kids were more than a little surprised to discover there was a time their mother did not wear a one-piece bathing suit!

    Most importantly, relax and have fun. Babies grow up way too fast and before you know it, you will be searching for tips on how to travel with teenagers.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Quote Originally Posted by Cal12 View Post
    I am actually getting a little excited about the trip now :)
    Good to read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cal12 View Post
    Like should I be watching out at some point for things like "200mi to the next gas station"?
    There are very few places in the US where you can go 50 miles without being able to get fuel. I-70 in UT is one such place, a couple of minor roads in NV similarly have few outlets. But on the whole, you see fuel every few miles. Don't let your tank go below quarter full.


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