KL 2013: How to survive road trips with 2 Toddlers

Over the Hari Raya and National Day long weekend, we went on a road trip again. We went to KL with my parents and siblings this time.

I have always been very concerned about road trips. The thought of being trapped in the car with the 2 kids for few hours, is dreadful. And the safety and security while on the road is also top on my concern list. However, as I get more “seasoned” in road trips, I start to appreciate the time we have in the car bonding as a family. And sometimes, things aren’t as bad as we thought it will be. Kids can behave better than we imagine.

Having said that, there are still careful planning that needs to be done. So here are some tips that I have for planning and surviving road trips. Especially with 2 Toddlers (Zai is 3.5 y.o. and Loi is 22 months).

Loi in a Luggage
Loi in a Luggage

Tip 1: GPS is a must.
We don’t own a GPS, so we relied on Smart Phone apps to work as our GPS. The two apps on Andriod we have tried that allow offline navigation are Route 66 Maps + Navigation and OsmAnd Maps & Navigation.

We tried Route 66 because it was the default application that was provided by Chubby’s previous HTC. So we used that the previous time we went to Cameron Highlands. Well, its quite accurate and useful, just that it is not free. You can choose to pay and use for a month or pay for a one-off lifetime subscription.

For this KL trip, we used the OsmAnd Maps & Navigation. This is a free application for the first 20 maps that you download. The UI of the application is not fantastic, in fact it is a little hard to navigate between the menu, but its free and UI can be learned. So we are quite happy with it. In fact, we are surprise that the app can recalculate the route pretty fast. When we were making our way back, we didn’t manage to do a U-turn in time from our hotel, but the app quickly calculates an alternative route for us and it is so seamless. My brother’s Garmin was still struggling to recalculate even when we are almost at the highway. So for a free product, I think it pretty much serves its function!

Tip 2: Invest in Walkie Talkie
Walkie Talkie are really useful on such road trips for communication between the two vehicles. We can easily “call” for toilet break or chat with each other to kill time.

Just take note that Walkie Talkie is a controlled product in Singapore. So buy only IDA approved Walkie Talkie. Else, you may get into some issues at the Singapore custom.

Tip 3: Travel in early morning.
And I mean real early. For this trip, we met up with my parents and siblings at about 4:30am in Jurong. You would think that is real early right? But no, we were still stuck in the Tuas 2nd Link for like an hour before we manage to clear the custom. Well, the reason for travelling early is not only to avoid the jam (especially on long weekends) but also to reduce the waking hours of the kids in the car.

What we did was we carried the kids (in their pajamas) from our home all the way to the car and let them continue their sleep inside. For the boy, we were rather successful, he stirred, woke up but returned back to sleep. For the girl, she is a light sleeper, so she took a while before she falls back to sleep again. But at least I only need to handle her, instead of both of them at the same time. With that, the kids didn’t wake up until around 8am. This means we are already half-way through the ride including the jam at the checkpoints. So half the battle over without having to worry much. The only poor people are the drivers, who can’t really rest in the car.

Tip 4: Pack milk, fruits and snacks.
Kids get hungry when they are bored. So its important to pack their milk powder, especially when you travel early (see Tip 3). Fruits is an obvious healthier choice and keeps the kids hydrated when they are in the car. The only challenge is in keeping it “fresh” before the kids eats it a few hours after its prepared (dragon fruit is a good choice, just make sure they don’t drop it). Snacks is good for making the kids behave when they start to get bored. They can spend sometime eating before they are bored again. Just make sure the snacks are bite size and doesn’t leave crumbs behind. Else, the cockroaches will find their way to the car!

Tip 5: Have an extra pair of hands to help (if possible).
For the past few trips, we brought along our helper. It definitely make my ride much easier. My helper usually takes the co-driver seat, while I am seated behind with the two kids. Her main job is to provide support “fire”. She helps prepare the milk in front (which is not an easy task on road), while I struggle with the kids behind. Without the kids disturbance, she can help organize the things better too. So when I need wet tissues or snacks, I don’t have to rummage the bag while trying to deal with the kids. I just ask for help and she will be able to find it quite quickly. And during the stops, she can help with the diaper changing too.

Of course, this person doesn’t have to be a helper, it could be anyone who is familiar with the care giving of the kids.

Tip 6: Running through the itinerary.
I feel that it helps to run through the itinerary with the kids. It helps them understand what is all the travelling for and get them excited about what is going to come. With an objective in mind, the kids will (hopefully) be more well behaved.

Tip 7: Prepare Activity Bag.
I got the idea from this website. The idea is to pack some “activities” into a bag for the kids. I brought along a small sketch book and some pens for Loi since she loves to doodle. I also pack some stickers for them in the previous trip. The boy enjoys pasting, while the girl enjoys peeling the stickers off.

If you are daring enough, you can consider putting some “chops” inside. Stamping on the go, is not that difficult, its just the mess that it might create with young kids. So washable inks are a must and standby lots of wet tissues!

I also placed some of their favourite books in the bag. Reading on the go is not ideal, but we don’t have to stare at the book for a long time. We can spin off to talk about something else, especially when Zai is at a “talkative” stage now.

As for the bag itself, I brought mine from Daiso. Under the stationary section, you can find many A4 size bags (Oh, how I love these bags, I think I shall share a post on these bags when I have the time). Of course, it is not necessary that the bags are of this size and shape, you can use anything. But the bags are really handy in that it keep things in place and is easy to find the items if you have different bags for kinds of items.

Tip 8: Smart Gadgets is a fall back plan.
Who am I kidding, Smart Gadgets are a must! Actually that is also not true. One of my girlfriend manage to wean her kids off such e-pacifier. For me, I’m still a long way. But I do try to reduce their time on it, which is why I prepare the activities bag mention in Tip 7. So when all else fails, the smart devices (yes, one is not enough as there are two kids you see) will keep them entertained for quite a while. Just practice control when required.

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So, this are the 8 tips that I have. Do you have any tips to share with me for road trips like this?

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