Traveling in California takes a long time. Probably it’s a general statement that applies to the whole of United States, but particularly to Southern California. Whenever we have to travel from Southern California to Northern California we take into account hours of travel…it’s pretty much a day if you count stopping to eat some food and getting out of the car to stretch your legs. If you throw some young children into the mix, then the equation gets a little more complicated. However, there are a few things to do that make the trip to Northern California a little more bearable.
Northern California is far from Southern California
We recently had to travel to Sacramento for a weeding and we obviously had to take our two children with us. One of them a toddler and the other a newborn. Yeah, it’s true you look it up on the Google Maps and you get around 6.5 hours driving time. For a Southern California resident, 6.5 hours of driving is not too bad. But that’s driving straight to Sacramento, it doesn’t include any stopping on the way. So is there anything that makes the trip somewhat bearable for children? We found a few things.
Leave early…I mean very early in the day
The best advice we got was to leave early in the day…I mean really early. We wanted to leave the house at 5 am but we ended up leaving a little later around 5:30 am. We didn’t have any breakfast and we moved the children straight from their beds to the car half asleep. The most important thing here is that they actually fell back to sleep again…yes ! In addition they slept until 8:30am when we took our first break. This was the key to our success: getting to about half way with the kids not even noticing much that they were in the car that long.
Have a portable DVD player for your children
Normally, we don’t want our children to watch TV very much, but on long trips this is the only thing they can actually like to do. Otherwise they get very antsy and bored and they’ll make lots of noise. We bought our portable DVD player for our daughter on our trip to the Grand Canyon. That was a life saver especially on the trip back which lasted more than 10 hours.
Make sure you get a DVD player that has a jack for external headphones as well as having a car power adapter that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter. Batteries don’t last very long on these things, so a car charger is a must for long trips.
The easiest way to use a portable DVD player in the car is to strap it to the headrest of the driver or passenger seat. We found that getting a long piece of Velcro worked very well because we have cloth seats in our car. It will work OK with leather seats as well if you buy it long enough so that it wraps all the way around the headrest back to itself so it can be fastened.
Bring headphones for the portable DVD player
This was also another little life saver. Our youngest was sleeping quite a bit because he was just a newborn, but the oldest child wanted to watch movies. Good thing my wife brought a pair of headphones along. This way my daughter could enjoy the movies without waking up the little one. So the children were quiet (one sleeping and one watching a movie) and we had peace and we could enjoy talking to each other for most of the trip.
Take snacks and water for the trip
This is a no-brainer but so important. Kids get hungry very quickly and often because they don’t eat much at one time. So, you have to be prepared.