I’m writing this post to you from sunny, Florida! We’ve driven down the East Coast a few times for vacation since my eldest was born.
My least pleasant memory took place 8 years ago. We arrived at a small inn, after driving with my carsick 2 year-old for over 4 hours. As soon as we pulled into the tiny lot, B began spewing vomit into places of the RENTED vehicle that were NOT visible to the naked eye.
Our room was located around the corner from the intimate bar where guests and locals were eating and drinking. I proceeded to carry 8 towels sopping in throw up, through the lobby, past the bar and into our small room. I bathed a screaming, ill child with little water pressure and put him to bed. By the time Papi and I went to check out the bar (separately), most of the guests had disappeared. Coincidence?
As parents, we all have stories like this. As ADHD parents, we may have more than we can count. The planning and innate boredom that comes with “road tripping” can make vacations like these more treacherous than rafting Niagara Falls.
For us, it’s important to plan for the “journey” as well as the destination. Here’s what I’ve learned in over 10 years of traveling with children.
Before the Trip:
- Plan in advance for EVERY STOP you will take. We don’t drive for more than 3 hours without stopping. For our latest trip from Washington, DC to Amelia Island, Fl, we stopped in Richmond, a restaurant with a playground in North Carolina, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston, South Carolina.
- We don’t drive more than 8 hours without overnight accommodations. On this trip, we stayed overnight on the beach in Myrtle.
- Plan a trip to Michael’s or the Dollar store WITHOUT the kids, before you go. This lesson I learned from my mom. Have a few cool, small package crafts the children can complete at restaurants, or waiting to get into a museum, even in traffic. Also use them as rewards for “behaving” in the car (i.e. no loud voices, no badgering siblings). Your patience will thank you.
- PACK LIGHT!!!! This may seem counter intuitive for ADHDers who need to be “prepared,” but plan your trip around a washer and dryer. We never bring more than 4 complete outfits for each child (if you have a baby in diapers then double that number). Each child over 3 should wear the backpack they packed. If they can’t carry it themselves, they must REMOVE items.
- Pack a cooler with not just snacks, but sandwiches and filling foods, as well. I pack my cooler the night before, then store it in the freezer all night so it stays cold for the entire day of driving (leave fruits and veggies in the fridge, until the morning of your trip).
- Always choose a hotel with a kitchenette (sometimes Air B and B condos are cheaper and better than hotels because they have more space and feel like home). This ensures ADHD kids and parents eat right, even on vacation. I pack mini hummus and guacamole cups with tortilla chips and veggie straws, apples and oranges, PB and J sandwiches, Pirates Booty and even sliced cucumbers and carrots. All of these food items will spoil if not stored in a refrigerator within 10 hours. At Myrtle, our “room” had a full kitchen with stove. I even made the high protein mac and cheese I packed, and we never had to eat out.
On the Road:
- Make sure the places you stop are kid-friendly! Maymount in Richmond is a beautiful Mansion with lakes, animal petting and parks galore. We arrived before it opened, but there was a playground with an old train caboose to play in. It was just as memorable to my children as Myrtle Beach!
- Leave as early as possible, while still getting enough sleep for Mami and Papi. We shoot for 6am. If it’s closer to 7, we still get ahead of highway traffic for most of the day.
- Bring a DVD PLAYER or tablet. We purchased a used Buick Enclave two summers ago when I learned I was pregnant with baby #3. A major selling point for us was the DVD player. We head to the library before the trip and each child picks out a few movies/shows. If you don’t have a DVD player, download 5-10 children’s shows on a tablet before you go. There are tablet “hangers” you can use. Place the tablet in the “hanger” on the back of front seat headrests so your children can watch, together.
- Plan an “active” stop at a playground, a lake with a walking path, a free zoo, etc. before nap time. Get ’em tuckered out so they fall asleep.
Hold your partner’s hand and enjoy the quiet sites along the road. Remember why you started this family in the first place!