Have Kids, Will Travel (and do Anything to Avoid Insanity)

We are headed for the Florida Panhandle, affectionately known as the “Redneck Riviera,” in less than two months. This means it’s time for me to start obsessing over little details like what the weather forecast will be 80 days from now two states away and how many diapers to pack for Amelia. Because he is not an obsessor, but he likey the gadgets, especially those that make an 8-hour plus car ride with two children under the age of 5 tolerable, the hubby is thinking of buying a portable DVD player. And because a time-release beer dispenser in an automobile would be illegal, although maybe for a riding mower it would be okay.

I’m just wondering if any of you own a portable DVD player and what other tips you have to make an 8-hour plus drive with small children tolerable (short of tranquilizer guns…kidding! Sort of!) This is Amelia’s first trip to the beach. The last time we went was shortly after Caitlin turned 2. We left after dinner and the hubby ended up driving into the wee hours of the morning because he is Super Daddy like that and also a night owl. However, this time we’re thinking of shaking things up a bit and leaving in the wee hours of the morning at around 6 a.m. (which is a wee enough hour for us.) To say we’re really looking forward to a vacation is an understatement. The hubby owns his own business and being a small business owner is not unlike being a slave to yourself and eating, breathing, and pooping your own business 24/7. We’re taking our bikes to Florida as well as our cool new bike trailer so we can haul the girls around and pretend we’re super athletic, outdoorsy family. There is a new playground at the public beach for the girls to enjoy and hopefully the pool at my dad’s condo will be good as new after hurricane damage sustained nearly two years ago. But back to the portable DVD player…let me know if you have one and what you think of it because it’s never too early to think about a beach vacation, especially when mentally your pedicured toes are already squishy with wet sand and your hand is wrapped around an ice cold bottle of Corona. I can hear the surf now if I hold an open Corona to my ear. Aaaaaaaah.

Side note: I’ll be damned if I wait and put sunscreen on the girls until we get to the beach, because we have unfortunate videotape of Caitlin’s first walk on the beach and instead of it being a sweet moment captured on film, she is screaming hysterically, projectile snot flying out her nose, because mama wasn’t thinking and let Caitlin apply a miniscule dollop of sunscreen on her arms which Caitlin rubbed into her eyes. We had trouble finding anything to wash her eyes because we were surrounded by, well, the beach and salt water (thank God for bottled water).


  1. AmberN says:

    DVD player would definitely work on Caitlin. I know it works wonders on my 4-year-old cousin for at least half the time! However, I do not know any children under the age of two that have been successfully lulled by the call of the television. Usually they think there’s too much going on around them, although I guess it depends on the baby 🙂

  2. Mayberry says:

    We have a portable DVD that has been a godsend on airplanes. Haven’t tried it in the car. Consider earphones either for the kids or yourself–although we find it hard to keep the earphones in place on Jo’s head. Maybe there are some kid-sized versions out there?

    The only truly reliable thing that keeps my 15-month-old happy while traveling is food, and lots of it. The messier the better, of course.

  3. Renee says:

    We had a DVD player in our van, and it really helps with the girls. Even John (21 months) gets pretty caught up in it at times. We brought some Baby Einstein DVDs with us and he’d sit quietly through the entire 30 minutes.
    I’d say ‘give it a go!’

  4. Jill says:

    We’ve done this since the twins were two, and it is no vacation, but it can be done. We never drove all the way, though. We spend the night in Prattville, AL because after 7 hours in the van with toddlers, that last stretch from the Alabama state line to the beach can seem endless.

    DVDs are very helpful, and Mayberry is right on about the headphones/earphones. Or else you will not have ANY peace the entire trip. Bring at least one new movie they have never seen. Lots of snacks did not help us because they led to more potty/diaper stops. Quiet games that involve stuff that sticks to a traylike playing surface are awesome, like large magnet scenes or those felt kids you can move around work well. Crayola Color Wonder drawing stuff is good because they can’t get it on themselves or the car seats. Before leaving, I would buy a couple of cheap, new toys like these, hide them in the van (if they know you have toys, they will pester you about them every other minute) and bring them out at timed intervals along the way.

    And by all means, do all the sunscreen in the condo because they will want to head straight for playtime. One twin became hopelessly terrified of a seagull that stalked us, though, and spent all his beach time in my lap. You just never know. You’re brave for trying it, and I wish you the best. Keep a flexible schedule and you’ll do great. And bring lots of Wet Wipes for unexpectedly filthy bathrooms along the way!

  5. Nicole says:

    I vote for the DVD player all the way. We travel a lot by plane and by car, and that baby has saved mama’s sanity more than once. I got a case that can be strapped between our two bucket seats at just the right level for Miss Claire.

    We also have a LeapPad that she seems to enjoy when the DVDs get boring.

  6. Pattie (Domesticator) says:

    I can say I spent two nine hour days in the car with three kids driving down South. I think a DVD player is a wonderful distraction. A friend of mine also bought my kids those little plastic lap tables at a local toy store and gave them some paper, crayons, and coloring books. It worked wonders! I did not let my kids watch a movie until at least three hours into the trip. That worked pretty well. I didn’t want them to get too bored right off the bat.And oh…vacation!!! That sounds sooo nice 🙂

  7. mamatulip says:

    We don’t have a DVD player in our van, but I have a good friend who does and she SWEARS by it (they do long drives to her home state like, twice a year). She picked it up for about $100 and her husband installed it quickly and easily.

    I’m so tempted to get one for my kiddos, but I know we’d crash because Dave would be craning his neck trying to watch his favourite show, The Backyardigans. 😉

  8. malia says:

    Hands down the portable DVD player is the best purchase we made on our extremely tight budget! We bought ours two years ago and it has been put to great use. We just took an insanely long car trip with our two munchkins. I agree with some other commenters, we used it with the 6-year-old, not with the 20-month-old. But I will say that I’m not a fan of just having them sit there with it going the entire time. We limited it to one video a day but that’s still 1 1/2 to 2 hours of silence from the uber talker that is our daughter!

    Other tips…music, stuff everyone can sing-a-long with. I found some colorforms at Dollar General and my daughter loved playing with them on the car window. Cracker Barrel also has a similar thing where you can “dress-up” a little girl using those removable stickers. Actually Cracker Barrel has some great travel toys/distractions. The young ones are the hardest. My son really enjoyed playing with the magna doodle and looking at books. You can get kids board books at Dollar General for, you guessed it, $1, that your younger one might have fun looking at just because they would be new to her. A soft ball to toss around. A NEW box of crayons and a NEW coloring book. And my secret weapon? M&M’s I would ask my daughter questions about stuff about our trip and then give her an M&M when she answered. We gave them to the baby just to keep him quiet 😉

  9. Emily says:

    Oh, get the DVD player. I kid you not, you will love it. We’ve had one since around Christmas and it’s been great for those drives to Granna and Pa’s, about 2 hours or so. I agree on getting a new DVD and maybe really talking it up. Of course, with toddlers, they can watch the same thing OVER and OVER…
    And if they’re big on tunes (Caitlin probably is, I don’t know about Amelia) then maybe get a new CD too?
    Oh, bless you for making that drive. You can do it, I’m sure, with most of your sanity left anyway. We might take Jack to the beach next summer, at 3, and consider leaving the littlest man with grandparents.

  10. Charla says:

    I heart my portable DVD player so much; it has changed our traveling life! I agree, though, the secret is to buy (or even rent) new movies that they have never seen. Longer movies (at least 60 mins.) are the best because you don’t want to take the player out of it’s case to change the video every 20-30 minutes. And about Amelia…she may be too young, but I have a very good friend whose son LOVED the DVD in the car at that age. You just never know until you try. Oh, and get earphones for Caitlin, and maybe some tiny speakers for Amelia, because I bet she won’t like them on her head.

  11. Blonde Mom says:

    Ya’ll are the best…thanks for the ideas and tips! We have a LeapPad and I have been wanting to get the Dora book/cartridge so it sounds like a good time to have that waiting in the car as a surprise. Also, the Crayola Color Wonder stuff sounds neat (literally!)

    I survived flying solo with Caitlin when she was 23 months old so surely we can survive….Amelia will be almost 18 months old when we go and just a few months can make a difference.

  12. Kristen says:

    1.) GET THE DVD PLAYER FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!! It makes a huge, huge difference.

    2.) Plan to stop a lot – every hour or two (unless they’re sleeping, which would be awesome) – so the kids can get out and stretch their legs. It does make the day longer, but it is well worth it to avoid the problem of having screaming, crying kids to deal with.

    3.) Good luck!!!

  13. Anne says:

    The net majot road trip we tke, I imagine we’ll be plunking down the money for one of those dvd players too. I love your plans to take the bikes and put on a show of being outdoorsy! That’s just cool.

  14. mothergoosemouse says:

    I hadn’t heard “Redneck Riviera” since I was there! Really, FL isn’t so bad. It’s the beach towns in MS and AL that are the true redneck havens.

    Have a great trip!

  15. Mrs. Flinger says:

    DO THE DVD PLAYER. OMG. Seriously. I swore I wouldn’t do it but I tell ya, those ELMO 45 minute videos can get you pretty damn far. 🙂

    And have fun!

  16. Mary says:

    I say yes to the DVD player, the pedicured toes, and the ice cold corona! They all sound great.

    But in all seriousness, we do have a portable DVD player specifically for the car that is strapped to the back of the driver’s side seat. It wasn’t too expensive (around $100, I think) and it’s great. It’s certainly not going to help you for the entire 8 hours but it will help.

    Okay, your previous post about Apple-tinis made my mouth water. Gotta go see what liquor I’ve got chilling in the freezer! Have a great weekend!

  17. Chris says:

    Portable dvd player is a must. Make sure to get plenty of movies-they’re good for once you get to your destination too!

  18. Nancy says:

    We brought a laptop in the (rented) minivan when we were heading to the beach — J had it loaded up with movies for Mimi, and the headphones helped her to hear better and not constantly ask us to turn the music down in the van. Strangely, Rosie did not require much attention in the car (except snack food — which of course is critical) — she didn’t even nap, but sat contentedly looking out the window for almost 6 hours. It was weird.

    And I second Kristen’s comment about planning to stop every 2 hours. We’d stop for potty breaks and snacks about that often. It can be tiresome — J and I alone would pretty much have made the trip with one stop — but it kept the kiddos from burning out on the car ride.

  19. Kim says:

    I also originally thought those portable DVD players were over the top until I went on vacation with my sister. Her little ones didn’t make a peep.

    Can you imagine a trip without ‘are we there yet?’

  20. Esther - Bike Trailers Depot says:

    I’ve previously came across an article (can’t remember where I read it) that seems to imply kids are one of the impediments to great travel. Looks like your experience completely refute it!

    Does your kids play games? Get a PSP or something, that’s another “alternative”. Or try telling them interesting stories and adventures. That’ll keep them occupied 🙂


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