Thanks to Toyota for providing the 4Runner to facilitate the post. All opinions are my own.
Well, we did it! We took our first vacation as a family of four to California and survived!
We did a week in Palm Desert, with a couple days over at Disneyland in the middle. We were a bit worried about the 110* temperatures while we were in Palm Desert, but by timing our pool time and indoor activities we managed to get through the entire week without sunburns.
Here are a few of my tips to survive traveling with toddler and babies.
Pack New (or Forgotten) Toys
Toys are always more exciting when they are new. I generally pick up a couple new items or find items that had been hidden in the back of the closet for a few months, and toss them in the backpack to pull out when needed. Pop It! are perfect for this because they’re exciting, lack small pieces to lose, and are light weight for travel.
Colorful washi tape is also great for the plane because it is easily removeable and can be used for a ton of different games.
Find Unique Attractions
Sometimes it is those random attractions that end up being the most memorable for the trip. As we were planning our vacation, I looked up a handful of local attractions and put them in a “maybe” list. Since the weather was so warm we figured we’d play it day by day.
Emmett is currently dinosaur obsessed, so this dinosaur roadside attraction quickly made it’s way to the top of the list. Had the weather been 20* cooler we probably would have spent a lot more time here.
As we were driving into town, we saw a sign for another attraction that was a drive-thru windmill tour and we added it to our list for a potential activity. The tour had ten different stops around the windmill farm to learn about the history of wind energy. We were able to do it at our own speed, and the first few stops allowed for Emmett to get close and touch older equipment.
Make Sure Your Luggage Fits
I joked with my best friend that my kids only weigh 50 pounds combined but they require over 100 pounds of luggage. Between the double stroller, car seats, and luggage we needed a large trunk. As we were walking back to our car when we returned home I commented to Brad how when it was just us we would have done this trip with two small suitcases.
Fortunately we had plenty of trunk space in the Toyota 4Runner! Brad was impressed that our large suitcase easily fit vertically in the trunk which left plenty of space for our giant stroller and other bags.
Buy Consumables At The Destination
As we were getting ready to board our flight I placed a Target Drive-Up order for diapers, snacks, and breakfast items since we had a kitchen at our hotel. It was ready by the time we landed so we did a quick pick-up and we were on our way.
We didn’t finish off everything we bought, but had some friends in the area who could use the remaining items so we didn’t have to pack them home or toss the leftovers.
Plan Drives for “Car Naps”
When we were looking for potential activities for the afternoon, we would check our list and see which ones would be about an hour drive away. Brad and I would pick up our Starbucks and enjoy a peaceful ride through the desert until we reached our destination.
The 4Runner was a comfortable ride and there was plenty of space for both Anneliese and Emmett’s rear facing car seats in the second row. Brad and I enjoyed listening to satellite radio and used both the native GPS and Android Auto to reach our destinations throughout the week.
Find Ways to Stretch Your Legs
While Emmett may be small, his energy level is not. We wanted to make sure that these car nap drives ended at a destination where he could get out and run.
From Palm Desert, Joshua Tree National Park was a great answer. We did the loop on the north end of the park and he got out multiple times along the loop to check out the rock formations and climb a bit.
We grabbed a picnic lunch and enjoyed eating it out of the trunk of the 4Runner. It definitely brought back camping memories from my childhood. While we stuck to the paved roads, the 4Runner could have taken on the 4×4 required roads within the park!
Enjoy the Memories
Traveling with kids is not easy, but the small moments make the lifelong memories. Emmett gained confidence in the pool over the week, and Anneliese continued to take in everything around her.