How to Survive a Day Trip With Kids Solo
Some days I feel like a walking contradiction. I want my girls to make friends but the homebody in me is happy to avoid play dates and going to the park. When my husband, Chris, works late, I panic because it means I’ll be alone for that much longer with my girls. Oh, and the idea of him going away on a business trip makes me shudder. Yet, I’m willing to drive out-of-town for an overnight trip with the girls by myself, and I don’t think twice about it. How is that thinking remotely normal?
Last week, as I busied myself in planning an overnight trip to St. Louis, Chris looked at me and said, “I’m amazed by you.” His words stopped me.
“What?” I asked him. I must have misheard.
Chris smiled and repeated, “You amaze me.”
“Huh? Why? What prompted that?” I asked him, completely blindsided by his random compliment.
“This trip,” he replied. “I don’t know how you do it.”
Laughing I answered, “I’ve done it before. This isn’t the first time.”
“I know. You still amaze me.” And he left it at that.
As I continued with my plans, it hit me that my dear partner in life has only gone on a trip without me once, and he was with his family (and his mom there to help the whole time). Since Ginny was born five years ago, I’ve made several solo driving trips with my girls. All of them (or almost all of them) have been to St. Louis. Before we moved last year, the drive took less than two hours. Now it takes close to three hours. Basically, what used to be a day trip is now an overnight one. Seeing as I’m a pro going on day trips solo with kids, I thought I might share how I manage to survive!
Plan, plan, plan
When I was single (or, heck, before we had kids), I could go on a trip with very little planning. I’d decide when I got there what I wanted to do. Now with kids, I’ve learned that planning goes a long way. I decide what we will do ahead of time and then figure out what supplies we need (then bring extra…always). The last thing you want to do is run into a store to buy last-minute items when your children are anticipating fun away from home.
Be ready to turn around
Seriously. Anything can happen to change your plans. One year I was supposed to go to St. Louis for Easter, but we never made it out the door because of a lingering illness in Grace. Good thing we didn’t because by lunch time, Ginny was sick. Had we driven down there, we would have turned around and headed back home. On my last trip, I threatened my girls with returning home if they didn’t behave. (Quick tip: Never threaten when you are not willing to follow through.) I was prepared to load us up and go home instead of doing all that we planned. Luckily, my girls got it together and behaved.
Activities for your kids
Honestly, for a day trip, I don’t bring much. Since I’m the one driving, I can’t juggle activities for my girls as I try to watch the road. Instead, I make sure the girls bring a favorite toy and have 1-2 books each. Usually, this is enough to keep them entertained for the drive. We also play games like “I Spy” and “Count How Many Cows You See.” (The latter game ends up with inflated numbers, most of the time.)
It’s very important that you have music you can listen to and sing along with to drown out any fighting. Do not play kids’ music for the entire drive. If you do have kids’ music, play it in the last few minutes of your trip (and only use as a sanity-saving measure).
Meet Up With Friends or Family
I always try to meet up with my friends or extended family on a trip. Sometimes we eat a meal with someone and other times we might go to the zoo together. On our most recent trip, we did all the above.
I have discovered that on an overnight trip with excited children that holding a sleeping contest actually works*. I tell my girls that the first one to fall asleep wins a treat in the morning. So far, we’ve only had ties.
*This may only work one time, but it is well worth it.
Never forget that wine is your friend (or whatever you use to “medicate”) at the end of the day. You earned it!
For me, I love coming home from an excursion. My girls are so worn out that they quickly fall asleep for a good portion of the drive. I finally get a moment of peace. Then, when we do get home, I hand the kids over to Chris and say, “Tag. You’re it!” (Well, maybe not, but I might next time.)