There are times when it necessary to travel by vehicle, long distances with children. Horse shows are one such occasion. That\’s when we don\’t mind the hundreds of \”pit stops\” and excess time it takes to get to a destination – because a horse show is at the end of it <grin>.
wearing, tiresome, exhausting… we all struggle with the long hours in a vehicle and road trips are considerably harder on young children. But honestly, road trippin\’ is not that dissimilar from real life. The only real difference is, you get in a vehicle, the kids eat snacks, play little games, fuss, cry, need their diapers changed, take naps, watch movies – and several hours later you emerge somewhere far from home.
My viewpoint on it? It\’s exciting to take your family on an adventure!
But before I continue – Mother\’s Day is right around the corner. Therefore, My Stable Life is offering a grand giveaway of 2 tickets to see Odysseo in Calgary! For your chance to win, be sure to check it out at: Mother\’s Day Giveaway
Okay, so now back to today\’s blog – With several horse shows now under my belt with the kidlets in tow, here are my favorite tips for hitting the highway:
1. Travel with Other Parents with Kids
I cannot tell you how exciting is for my kids to travel with other horse show-goers with children! Each day, they look forward to getting out at the road stop to see their little friends. They completely understand why your kids are full of energy and wanting to run around the restaurant when you stop. Your fellow traveling parents likely also don\’t mind waiting the extra few minutes it takes to get your kids all rounded up and back into the vehicle again. And the other added bonus is that few more sets of watchful eyes is extremely helpful when you\’re trying to offload horses from the trailer and keep your kidlets safe.
Plus, you can laugh and cry together when you do finally make it to the horse show.
2. Plan to Overnight Somewhere Each Day
I know many people who prefer to continue driving until they reach the horse show destination. Depending on how far away your show is, will determine if you should find places to overnight along the way. My recommendation? Try to spend only 8 hours – 10 at the very most – in the vehicle each day. This will most certainly make for added costs along the way and add days (not hours) to the entire duration of your trip. However, it\’s essential to have time for diaper changes, clothing changes, meals, exercise, and the occasional temper tantrum along the way. And with your horses waiting patiently for all this to happen on the trailer, it\’s nice for them to be able to overnight in a stall of a previously arranged Bed, Bale & Breakfast. This takes planning so be sure to divide your trip up the best you can before you head out and make your reservation phone calls ahead of your departure.
3. What to Bring
There are several things I never leave home without when attending horse shows. These include:
• Carhartt Overalls – Absolute necessities, in my opinion. You can just throw them on over your kids\’ outfits and when they decide to lay in the warm-up ring dirt to create play roads or train tracks, etc., the dirt damage will be minimal. Plus, they may also save you from incredibly soiled laundry, which is sometimes difficult to tough to take care of in a hotel. (Unless, you have the luxury of a washer and dryer in your living quarters, of course!) I myself, prefer the overalls.
• Snack Mix – How many times do you get the munchies on a road trip…? Plus, there\’s also the chance you will be passing through a city or town during off hours, and there is no open restaurant to be found. Or the parking lot is not conducive to horse trailers. You name it, there are many reasons why you need to pack snacks to feed your family in the vehicle.
• Children\’s Advil – In the event of an ear infection, a finger slammed in a hotel shower door, a fever… (all of which have affected our family at one time or another on the road). Children\’s Advil is a must-have, highway essential. I am not a doctor so please see my inserted disclaimer here —> Read all labels and directions carefully for your individual child and circumstances.
• Water in Childproof containers – Preventing spills and dehydration! Kid-approved cups are essential on the road.
• Kids Banz sunglasses – These sunglasses won\’t get lost when the kids are out running and playing. Check out: banzworld.com
• Table & Chairs – A pint-sized fold-up table and chairs come in really handily at your show stalls.
• John Deer tractor toys – Outdoor play tractors with buckets and shovels are ideal toys to keep kids occupied in the warm-up ring.
• Fruit Squeeze Pouches – The perfect traveling food. They don\’t need to be refrigerated (although I wouldn\’t leave them in extreme heat either), and they offer an \”almost\” mess-free, healthy snack when your kidlets are in between meals.
• EZ Bed Air Mattresses – These air mattresses are like the typical models, but where they differ is in the insulated sleeping bags that are included and equipped with a fitted, elastic slip cover. Hence, the sleeping bad and air mattress become one! Little tykes stay pretty securely on top while they sleep. You never know when you might end up in a hotel room with only one bed – for those times, these EZ beds are perfect!
4. Prepare at Home Beforehand
• Fresh Veggies & Fruits – Your best shot at getting healthy foods into your family is to prepare snacks the night before you head out and pack them into a cooler. I know it\’s not entirely environmentally-friendly, but I like to take plastic cups and put veggie dip in the bottom, then pack each one with a variety of fresh veggies on top. Add a layer of Saran-wrap above and pack them in a travel cooler. Then once the veggies are eaten, the cups are disposable and you don\’t have to worry about a plastic container to wash later on at the hotel. The challenge will be to find fresh fruits and veggies as your road trip progresses.
• Kid-Friendly Lozenge Lollipops – If you have young children like me, you\’ll know that finding a cure for sore throats is impossible. Hard candy throat lozenges are out of the question for kids who may swallow them accidentally. And no company seems to want to make a medicinal sore throat product for any children under the age of 6. However, I have found an option that has worked for us (both at home and on the road). Now a little bit of a disclaimer here – a lollipop can still present a choking danger for young kids. Should you choose this idea with your kids, do so with caution and continually monitor your kids as they eat one.
You will need a pack of Strepsils children\’s lozenges, several lollipop sticks, wax paper, and a frying pan. Place 4-6 Strepsils into your frying pan, spaced far apart. Using the heat from a stove burner, melt each lozenge down to a liquid. Once they are each in a liquid-form, use a plastic spoon to scoop them out of the frying pan and overtop of the ends your lollipop sticks (which you have space widely apart from each other on the wax paper.) Allow them to cool by carefully placing the entire wax paper into your fridge on a flat surface. Once the lollipops have all cooled, they will have hardened and you can pack them up in baggies to along in your travel cooler. Should your children become ill along the way, you\’ll have a nice stash of sore throat lozenges on sticks to use.
• Teri Clearwater\’s Homemade Granola Bars – The cure for the highway junkfood habit! Check the recipe out at: Teri Clearwater\’s Homemade Granola Bars. These delicious treats are healthy and full of energy.
5. Be Flexible
When traveling with horses and kids, somethings almost always comes up. It\’s possible to pick up a nail in a tire, go the wrong direction, hit bad weather or sleep in one morning following a late check-in the night before. Go with the flow and try not to get too upset if your plans become slightly derailed. My husband and I made a trip to Texas (direct from Canada) earlier this year – a journey that in best case scenario should require 30 hours of driving time in a vehicle. We thought we could do it 3 days. With 2 little kids and 3 horses, it took us 4. Luckily, we had set out on our journey early enough that we had the fourth day available to us (meaning, we weren\’t in danger of missing any of our show classes). Conversely, if you plan on arriving at your destination the day before you\’re set to show, you may be in danger of missing your class if things don\’t go well on the road.
The other thing we learned was, sometimes a trip plotted out on paper doesn\’t actually work in real life. As we got into our third day of travel to Texas, the place we had planned to overnight at became too much distance to cover as day turned to night and we all got restless. In my line of work, I always have a computer nearby with access to the internet. Even on the highway. Of course iPhones have the ability to \”Hotspot\” an internet connection to a computer as well. A phone with an internet package works well for Googling things on the go too.
In the event you won\’t make it to a previously arranged overnight spot, Horse Trip is a great web resource for finding Bed, Bale & Breakfasts on the road.
Horse Motels is another brilliant website.
Just know however, that if you can\’t make it to a previously arranged overnight horse motel, common courtesy goes a long ways. \”No shows\” are one the industry\’s biggest complaints. Most horse motels don\’t require a deposit but if you make a reservation and don\’t show up and don\’t call to cancel, you jeopardize the horse motel system in general. Generally, horse motels are people\’s private property and they are offering a service to let travelers keep their horses at their home. Please be considerate enough to cancel a reservation if your plans change. And if you have paid a non-refundable deposit, know that it will be helping a horse motel stay in business in the event you don\’t make it there.
6. Plan for a Day Away From the Show
When you do finally make it to the horse show, plan to take a day away from the arenas to take in a local attraction or two. My kids love horse shows but they get tired of the dust and hanging out in the barns too. A day away from the horse show to take in a zoo, or Lego Land, or some other kid-approved venue is part of the fun of being on a trip. And it allows your family to feel a little bit like you\’re on vacation 🙂