Last year my oldest daughter and I took the boys on a road trip from Southern Ontario to Panama City Beach in Florida. It went really well. Amazingly well, actually. You can read all about that adventure here.
A lot has happened since our trip last May. Both boys have been diagnosed with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). A sad and completely preventable form of permanent brain damage. That, however, is a story for another day.
The littles are now 2 1/2 and 3 1/2. I know for lots of people that’s not really a toddler but kids with FASD are often younger than their chronological age which is the case for us. Still kind of toddler like.
So when I had some unexpected time off of work I decided to use up the last couple of weeks by heading back down to Florida. Alone. With two toddlers. I was clearly feeling very confident that day.
Did I mention I booked this trip with less than two weeks until we hit the road? I’m spontaneous like that. To deal with managing two toddlers on a road trip all alone, I prepped a variety of snacks and activities in advance.
First, I re-introduced the dual DVD player that I used last year.
I put it away at the end of the road trip last year and only brought it back out on the day we left. Can’t say I’m thrilled to listen to children’s movies for hours at a time but the boys really enjoy this and are generally quiet while a movie’s on.
Secondly, I re-used last years second hand wood trays for snacks and activities. This time they actually used them. I attached them to the seats with bungee cords and they held nicely while we drove. This gave them a space to put meals and snacks and was easy to unfasten to get the boys in and out of the car at rest stops. Yes. Liam colored on his last year.
I also prepared a number of different activities and separated them out before storing them in a large grocery bin in the middle of the van. There was a bag with cars, a mini-back pack with little people, a pile of dollar store toys, and some drawing and coloring activities. I snapped this pic with my iphone so it’s a bit blurry.
The bin fit nicely in the back seat of the van without rolling around which made it easy to grab activities when they needed a change.
The boys favorite, by far, was the sticker activity books I put together in a dollar store handled bin. I don’t know why I didn’t take a better picture so this is the best I’ve got.
They literally played with these most of the drive from Ontario to Alabama. Before heading off to Florida, I tucked them away and didn’t give them back until vacation was over and we were driving north. This kept them from being bored. By the time we crossed the border, Liam was covered in stickers. Border crossing dude was highly amused.
I also made a mini snack box out of dollar store bead storage boxes. Like the sticker boxes, I added the boys names to the top just for fun. This was a huge hit! So much wow, that I re-loaded them every couple of days for taking to the beach. We avoided a lot of tiki-bar snacks at the condo by bringing our own things.
I put together a bunch of other snacks and juice boxes in a shower caddy. This kept us from buying a lot of unhealthy junk at the gas stations and lasted throughout the trip.
Once we got to Florida, I brought most of the toys inside however, the boys mostly like to run around doing fun things with socks on their hands.
We had a fantastic time at the beach. The boys much prefer the pool which was fine by me since it was the last week of spring break and all in Panama City Beach.
Nuts, right? We were in Florida for two weeks, by the second week all the college kids had gone home and the beach was ours again. How great are those empty chairs? And that view?
The boys are finally able to eat in restaurants so we enjoyed a lot local seafood. Lunches were better for us because by dinner time, the littles were pretty much falling apart and tired from swimming all day.
These pictures are from Hunt’s over in St. Andrew’s Bay. A great local place with amazing seafood and very affordable.
I learned a whole lot about FASD on this trip that I didn’t fully understand before. Like the fact that we can only do one major thing a day. After the lunch at Hunt’s, I tried to swing by the Winn-Dixie. It was a nightmare. Liam was wild and completely out of control at the store and in the condo for the rest of the day. As much as I wanted to do a variety of activities, we just didn’t. I needed to learn to respect the boys needs and abilities. And that was just fine.
This trip was amazing, not just because it’s the Gulf Coast and we spent Easter in Alabama with our family but because I finally conquered my fear of travelling alone with the boys as a single parent. I really didn’t think I could do it alone and I’m glad to report that we’ve got this.
My only other piece of advice is to break up the trip in manageable chunks. We left at 3pm from daycare and made it to Ohio (5 1/2 hours). From there we made it to Helena, Alabama the next day (around 8 hours). And then headed to Florida the following morning (5 hours). It’s a long few days but was so worth it.
Yes, the sand really is that white on the Emerald Coast.
Do you have any tips or tricks for travelling long distances with young children? I’m always up for more ideas….email me or leave a comment.
Happy travels ; )