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My best friend lives 2.5-3 hours away. They can't drive due to a disability. They have 3 kids under age 5 and I have a 2 year-old. We're both busy SAHM (Stay At Home Moms) but would love to hang out more. Spouse and I only have one car though, and I don't want to spend the night away from them,so I've been thinking of maybe taking a day trip out with the toddler to see my friend.

I would have to drop off my spouse in the morning at their job, and could get to the highway after, but there'd be a lot of traffic at rush hour. I could take the more scenic route (more chances to stop if toddler needs something) but that'd still mean I'd get to my friend's house by 11am or a little later, stay until probably 6pm, and presumably get back home by 9pm at the latest.

Is this too much, especially for my toddler? My spouse thinks so, and doesn't see the point since my family lives in the same town as my friend, so we can just see them whenever we're down to see my family (we try to go about one weekend a month). IDK, I guess I'm just trying to find a way to spend more time with my friend and their kids without having to squeeze seeing everyone into a single weekend, but I also need to be fair to my kid and spouse. Thoughts?

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    Not an answer, but how is public transportation in your area? Any reason your friend could not get on a train and meet you halfway?
    – AsheraH
    Apr 22 at 4:47
  • How often? Every day would be a lot, and I wouldn't go any more than once a week - especially coming back so late. We've done a pretty big road trip (with some days driving 5 to 6 hours) with an 18-month-old and had little issues from him, though we did have to keep him fed and also stop for breaks (more for us and the rest of the kids though). It depends entirely on the child and if you've got support (we had one parent driving, the other passing snacks when needed). If it's just you, you may have issues driving and keeping them entertained.
    – user25730
    Apr 22 at 5:52
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    Hint: Do not post personal or unrelated information in online forums. Noone needs to know that you drop off your spouse at 7:30am or who picks up your spouse(or your kid) if you don't. Stay "anonymomous" :) Apr 22 at 8:33
  • Your question is confusing and badly worded. It's difficult to understand what you're even asking.
    – Savage47
    Apr 22 at 10:21
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    Isn't there a way for your spouse to got to work without you driving him there? I ask that because i know a lot people that tries to minimize "long" drives by leaving real early and have the kid sleep in the car. You could, let's say, leave around 5 AM and arrive by your friend's house with the kid only having 1 or 2 hours of drive awaken (depending on how much the kid would sleep in the car, if at all).
    – gmauch
    Apr 22 at 12:50

6 Answers 6

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This might be highly dependent on the child itself. We've done a few really long drives (>8 hours) with ours, even before they were a year old, and never had a problem, so we usually don't even think twice if the destination is "only" 2-3 hours away as we know they can handle it, and we know of others within our friends who do the same. However when some of our friends visit us, they usually complain that after the first hour (of a >8 hour drive), the trip becomes impossible with the child(ren) not bearing the trip anymore, and they need lots of stops and figure out activities for the kids to do to entertain them.

You probably know your children better so should ask yourself how well they behave during trips like this. If you are already doing this once a month or so you can gauge how well they behave, how much trouble they are causing you and how many times you need to stop to have a break, and what activities you need to fill those breaks with (toilet stop, playgrounds, eating, other playing activities etc.). If they don't really cause any issues during the trip you might be okay doing the trip yourselves alone, but if they need constant attention I would suggest you postpone the trip to the occasions where you have help.

Even if they manage, make sure you prepare for all eventualities and prepare enough food, nappies, extra clothing, dummies (if they use them), and enough activity items to entertain them if they need it. Also don't forget to think about how much extra time this would need (e.g. if you stop at a playground you will likely need to spend at least half an hour there). Toddlers can be usually also easily distracted with tablets and similar devices for at least 30-60 minutes, so dependent on your "screen time policy" with your child, this might be also be an option to extend the length of the trip and make them less fuzzy.

One additional thing to consider is to check how comfortable the car seat is and whether they are able to sleep in the car. If you are driving during their usual nap time (if they have one), and they have no issues sleeping in the car, you can easily extend the time, and they will also get some rest and have more energy at your destination for hopefully more meaningful activites than sitting in the car.

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    Yup, this is a good take. My two have been able to handle 6+ hour trips with no trouble since birth, but I've a friend who's two year old doesn't do well even for two hour trips. Apr 22 at 12:28
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If you make the drive once a month, how is the car ride for your child then? Could you make the same car ride alone with just your child?

Given that you drive there regularly, I'd suggest to use one of those trips as a test drive: Both you and your spouse should sit in the front seats and not engage the child overly much (after all you would need to concentrate on driving if you are alone). Start early in the morning as you would when driving to your friend and drive the more scenic route. Try to map out play grounds / parks beforehand, so your child can run around in the breaks inbetween.

All in all, however, I'd side with your spouse. A 2-3 hour drive is taxing for a child even with toys and breaks. I did a similar drive to my grandmother with my toddler and it nearly resulted in an accident when I became distracted by their constant whining (long road works where I could not stop). So be careful and test your limits beforehand. Don't drive if either of you are not on your best!

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If you want to make such a trip I would try to use 'sleep' as the main occupation for your toddler.

Being awake and active for 2 or 3 hours while being restricted to a car is very boring for a toddler and hence very stressful for you. Doing that twice in a single day seems almost certainly not a worthwhile price for a few hours of fun with other kids.

However if you can arrange the timing in a way that your kid will sleep for most of the way this can change from a very stressful to a very enjoyable trip. On the way home this is probably fairly easy if you leave a little after dinner. Maybe you can arrange the way there to coincide with the kids after lunch nap but this seems more tricky. Remember also that even if you do manage, you will have 5 or 6 hours less sleep time than your kid.

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Your son already knows how to travel with mom and dad, so it's matter of adjusting your routine to find what works for traveling-with-mom, and I fully believe that you and your son can travel and do it in a way that's fun and appropriate for both of you.

Things I did to make traveling better for my kids, that might also work for you and your son:

  1. a step stool for him to put his feet on to rest his legs, so his legs aren't dangling from his car seat for three hours.

  2. food/toys/books that he loves that he only gets in the car.

  3. a routine for activities that ends in stopping and your son getting out of his car seat. I cycled through talking to my kids, playing a game, then giving my kids food, then giving them their car toys/books. At the end of that cycle we stopped so they could get out of their car seats.

  4. I mapped out playgrounds where we could stop, and my kids liked those stops the best.

  5. if one of my kids napped and woke up we would stop if it was during the day. That transition at home meant "wake up and move around," so I recreated that routine even during travel, and that helped my kids adjust to being awake again and then we could get back on the road.

  6. my kids were 7yo and 4yo and we traveled 6.5-7 hours across the State, also to visit, and we stopped about once an hour. The drive took longer, and we were tired by the time we arrived, but also happy and ready to visit. For your son, I would start looking for signs that he needs a stop at 30 minutes, and error on the side of stopping more often at first.

In my experience it's not a matter of "if" you travel with kids, it's matter of "how" you travel with kids, and the benefit of seeing your friend and having your son play with her kids is such a wonderful reason to travel, I would encourage you to make a plan and give it a try.

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I remember many six-hour trips when I myself was very young, and more clearly when my siblings were toddlers.

The time isn't obviously more important than what's happening on the trip. Even if you're the only adult in the car, do you have disks and tapes - maybe, even screens - for entertainment?

Separately, where does "6 hours in 1 day" come from? I Ask that because to me, "in 1 day" seems either too obvious to mention, or simply confusing, if not both…

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You already make this trip once a month to see relatives so you already know how your toddler is going to behave. Only you can decide if the behavior is tolerable twice in one day without the help of your spouse.

One tip I saw on this site for long road trips is to have your child's feet supported with some sort of stool so that their legs are not dangling and cutting off blood circulation during the entire trip. Just think about how you personally prefer a chair which lets your feet rest on the floor instead of leaving them dangling.

You'll also need to consider how to give assurance/attention so that you're not ignoring your child for extended periods. There's nothing "scream-ier" than a child who feels ignored/abandoned.

Giving the child an electronic device to watch shows is an option but I find that they usually press something and the show stops or cell phone signal degrades and the video stops to the point that the child throws a fit. Tread carefully in deciding whether that is something you wish to contend with.

Plan for at least a single 15-30 minute stop along the way to refill their snacks, drink cup, freshen their diaper, and take a short walk.

Recently we drove from Florida to New York due to flight cancelations with our 3 and 4 year olds. It was an 18.5 hour drive which took closer to 23 hours due to all the stops and driver switching. They were absolute troopers and even slept for 6 straight hours at one point. When awake the max was usually 3 hours. It was a tremendous help that we had more than one parent of course.

All-in-all, go ahead and try a day trip. You will quickly determine if it is something you can do more often. You could also consider doing the trip on a day which your husband does not have to work. I love my kids but I do appreciate the blessing of getting a whole day off from parenting.

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