Florida to Virginia
My husband was deploying, so I decided I was going to head up to Virginia with my two babies to be with family during the first month. My mom bravely volunteered to ride along and help with the kids. I braced her for what was coming. When I first had the idea to drive from Florida to Virginia, I presumed I would have to stop every hour at least. My youngest would be 4 weeks old and my oldest 19 months. I planned in my head to have to spend 3-5 days making the trip; stopping at hotels and regrouping each morning. I planned to have to stop and nurse constantly. I imagined both kids crying (and probably me) crying the entire drive and me asking myself every 10 minutes why I wanted to do it in the first place. If you think this sounds dramatic, you’ve never driven in the car with a baby/toddler who is able to cry for four or more hours straight, who didn’t sleep AT ALL on an ELEVEN hour drive from Florida to Texas, and who’s cry is the same decibel as a firing rifle. Thankfully though trip went nothing like I imagined and I am so grateful.
The start of the trip crept up on me and even though my Saint of a husband had meticulously packed the truck, organized the bags by “for the drive” and “when you get there”, and made sure all the electronics were charged I still felt like we spent the entire morning rushing around doing last minute packing. It didn’t leave me much time to soak up the last minutes with my husband, but it also didn’t leave me anytime to cry (sob) about the upcoming separation. We took turns holding the baby and packing while my mom took care of our toddler.
Around 1130 AM we said our goodbyes, cried some tears and hit the road. All was well at first. I planned to keep the iPad up front and pass her toys to play with for the first few hours. Then I thought I may be able to convince her to nap and THEN I would put on a movie for her… About one hour in, she was crying so loud and uncontrollably that I pulled into a CVS, nursed the baby, bought some snacks, and mounted the iPad. (YES, I KNOW – but you weren’t there, so don’t even judge me) We kept it up and playing the same three episodes of Mickey Mouse Club House for the rest of the day. My husband rigged up a charger so that it wouldn’t die – GENIUS.
Around 1.5 hours into the trip, we merged onto I-65 and directly into stand still, bumper to bumper traffic. Great. SO GREAT. We realized that we made the most rookie mistake in the history of road trips; we left the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Yep. We did that. No turning back now. We drove through about 5 more hours of touch and go traffic; Mickey Mouse on full blast and me pumping/giving the baby bottles when he woke up hungry. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for dinner. Eventually, we made it past the bottle neck and were able to make it to Chattanooga, Tennessee. A trip that should have taken us 6 hours 15 minutes, took us over ten hours. We made it to a hotel around 10 PM.
We travel often, but this was my first experience in a hotel with both babies. Oh man. I did get a one-bedroom suite so that my daughter could have her own sleeping space (the living room) and she wouldn’t be woken up by the baby through the night. We all got to bed around 11:30 after baths and getting situated. Around 1 am the baby woke up, followed by my daughter, followed by my son, followed by my daughter – over and over and over until around 6AM. It wasn’t my best experience, but we did survive. (Thank you Starbucks Venti Latte Mocha Machiatto)
The next day was much smoother traffic-wise. We had no major delays and were able to make it from Chattanooga to my parent’s house in Virginia in about 9.5 hours. We stopped in Gatlinburg, TN to get gas and stretch our legs at the local Bass Pro and we stopped in Christiansburg, VA to meet a friend for dinner at Cracker Barrel. As a Virginia Tech grad, I basically HAD to stop in Christiansburg! Even with the two long stops, we made great time. The baby slept the whole day and Charletta ACTUALLY NAPPED for TWO hours after we left Bass Pro. It was an early Christmas Miracle to be honest. I felt like a super mom.
Thankfully, I did have help and my mom drove most of the way so I could pump and manage the kids when things started going downhill (AKA when Mickey turned off or the baby was hungry). We made it with only a few melt downs from each of us. I even considered doing the trip back by myself with the kids for a minute, but then I snapped back to reality.
THE DRIVE HOME
On our way back to Florida from Virginia, my sister volunteered as tribute. My sister is a mother of four small children. I am sure her idea of a “weekend getaway” didn’t include riding 17 hours in the car with me and two babies, but she did it. This trip we decided to take a different approach. My son was almost 3 months old, my daughter 21 months. Both kids had grown a little physically and mentally and I knew it would be a bit of a different experience. And it was.
This time we left at 7pm at night with the idea that we would drive for as long as possible and that the kids would sleep peacefully in their car seats. ….and for the first two hours, they did. Charletta woke up and we put on Mickey for her to watch. Latham slept. We made our first pit stop in Bristol, VA about 4 hours into the trip. The baby slept and the toddler did what she does best and ran around the store as if it wasn’t way past her bedtime. (Can someone explain to me how toddlers can live with no sleep and one cracker a day?)
**It needs to be noted that my sister and I both are still nursing babies, so we took turns pumping the entire drive – Medela makes a car plug – find it here: http://amzn.to/2laNsYx
Charletta started coughing and crying a little about 6-7 hours into the trip and by 3AM she wasn’t dealing well at all. We decided to stop and rest in a hotel in Chatanooga, Tennessee. 8 hours down, 7 hours to go. We arrived at the hotel at 3am and both kids slept until about 8am.
We took our time the next morning, got some breakfast at my favorite travel stop of all – Cracker Barrell – and we hit the road. We made several pit stops along the way including Starbucks in Birmingham and a long stop for some DELICIOUS food at Scott Street’s Deli and a play date at the MOOseum in Montgomery, Alabama. All was right in the world. Until it wasn’t.
While adventuring with kids, you never know when it will stop being fun and start being crazy. For us, that was directly after we left Montogmery…..THREE HOURS more until we made it. Three hours of NON STOP crying from BOTH babies. Three hours of my sister climbing in and out of the back seat comforting the baby, giving pacis back, offering snacks/bottles, etc. All of her time at Crossfit definitely paid off – that functional fitness of high-stress, quick reactions and climbing. (HAHA, but seriously) She was cool as cucumber through all of this and I was CONSTATLY apologizing for them crying and all she would say is “They are babies and they are just done riding in carseats” – graceful and calm per usual.
We made it though. We all survived and I am certain neither baby will remember either of the drives. Will I be making the trek by car again anytime soon? Probably not. Airplanes were invented for a reason. However, it’s definitely doable with two adults. When my children are older, I really believe road tripping will get easier. Maybe next time I will rent an RV….and a driver.
1) Bring lots of easy to access snacks & extra water bottles to re-fill sippy cups We used something similar to this cooler: http://amzn.to/2kXhgFi
2) Bring comfort items (lovey/paci) in the car
3) Pack snacks/drinks for yourself too!
5) Let the kiddos travel in PJs or soft/comfortable clothes
6) Keep everyone’s shoes accessible for stops
7) Keep extra diapers/wipes accessible for easy changes on pit stops
8) Keep extra clothes easily accessible for blow-outs (IT HAPPENED TO US)
9) If you allow your kids to have technology – do it (Ipad Mount: http://amzn.to/2mcn6mv)
10) If you don’t allow your kids technology a friend of mine recommended singing A LOT (she also drove from FL to VA with two babies under 2, so she knows!)
11) A good trash bag in the car is always helpful to manage empty snack & drink containers/wrappers
12) Stop as many times as you need and don’t be afraid to make long stops
13) Don’t get a certain arrival time in your head – it could happen, but it could also not happen and there is no need for added stress
14) Drink lots of coffee and if you don’t drink coffee, consider starting ;) ......and definitely consider their "Jump the Line" option if you need to stop and the kids are still sleeping. Go ahead, find the nearest Starbucks: https://www.starbucks.com/store-locator?map=39.635307,-101.337891,5z
15) You’ll make it. I promise!
16) Check out our page on Road Trip resources: http://www.bigbravenomad.com/road-trip-resources/
Let me know if you have any questions and leave any tips you may have below!
Fly Brave, Travel Often, See Everything,