Can it be done? Can one person drive straight through from Minnesota to Bowling Green, Kentucky in one day? It’s nearly a 12-hour drive without any hiccups. That’s a long drive. But I did it! That’s exactly what I did when I took Peyton to Bowling Green, Kentucky over MEA break. We drove the whole way in one day.
There were several stops along the way but we managed to do it in about 14 hours. And I even missed a turn in Illinois! That added about an hour onto our trip.
Today, I’m going to share a few tips on how I was able to do this trip with a 7-year-old. Yes, a 7-year-old, with sensory issues, managed a 14-hour car ride and we didn’t have any meltdowns! The key is preparation. I had prepped the car for our trip and it saved us.
To make the trip more enjoyable for Peyton I made sure the backseat had everything she needed. I brought along a few pillows from home, blankets, about a dozen of her favorite movies and made sure that we had a working portable DVD player and headphones. Then I made sure the front seat was filled with snacks and water that she likes to munch on.
Having the backseat be her sanctuary is really what made the trip doable. She had her stuffed animals and all her favorite things with her. Plus I woke her up at 5 am to hit the road.
I will admit, I did not have Peyton change into clothes when we left. It was so early that I let her stay in her PJs. I feel like that choice really made the first leg of the trip more bearable. She was in comfortable clothes and because I didn’t make her wake up fully she was able to settle back down and go back to sleep in the car. So she slept the first few hours of the trip.
One of our favorite things to do when traveling is having donuts for breakfast. So when Peyton finally did wake up I pulled off at a gas station. Peyton changed into traveling clothes and picked out her favorite donut and a strawberry milk, then we were back on the road!
Traveling clothes are a big part of any child that has sensory issues. Peyton likes to work soft, buttery leggings, an equally soft shirt, and no shoes. So that is what I packed, but I brought Crocs for her footware. There is no way she is getting out of the car without something on her feet!
Having a wide selection of movies was what got Peyton through the trip. She had so many choices from TV shows to children’s movies to her favorite superheroes that she could have cared less what we were doing. I don’t normally let her watch a ton of television so this was a treat for her to relax and watch hours and hours of her favorite shows.
Every few hours we did stop at rest stops and use the bathrooms. This helped break up the long trip too. And at each stop, I let Peyton pick out a few travel magazines so she could start looking at other places she would like to travel to.
Lunch and dinner were both in the car this day, but Peyton rolled with it because she got to have fast food and we rarely ever have fast food. Making the day full of things we don’t normally do helped to keep Peyton on track and cooperating.
And when we finally reached our destination in Bowling Green, Kentucky I let her run around and take the city in for a few minutes. It was late and dark so we pretty much explored our hotel, which happened to be in downtown Bowling Green across from a park. And our room was huge so Peyton was content with hanging out in there for the night.
All in all, our 14-hour drive to Bowling Green went smooth. It went really smooth. Besides missing that one turn in Illinois everything else went off perfectly. But I attribute our successful day to being prepared. When you’re traveling with a child you always need to be prepared. But when you are traveling with a child that has special needs there’s a little more that goes into it. You need to anticipate your child’s needs and consider the triggers and try to eliminate them. From the clothes she is wearing to the environment she was in, to the snacks, stops, lunches and dinner I had them all planned out. Bathroom stops are a big issue for us when it comes to Peyton’s disorder. But I knew that and I had a plan.
Today was a successful trip!