Friday, November 13, 2009

Traveling in a Small Car

Our car is a 1989 Toyota Corolla. On top of that, it's a very basic model—no A/C, no tape deck, no automatic windows or locks. But we're grateful to have it. My step-mom gave it to me when they replaced her car. She'd had it since she bought it new, and at the time we had a 1984 Honda Civic, so it was a step up.

But when you're traveling 750 miles, it can be a little tricky fitting everything you need for 3 people and still allowing room to stretch out while you're driving. So here are some tips I learned (the hard way) about traveling in a small car.
  1. Don't bring ANYTHING you don't absolutely need. As mothers, we tend to plan for worst case scenario. We could be going to Minnesota in December and still feel the need to pack shorts and a bathing suit "just in case". But when you have a small car (or even a larger vehicle for a large family), you need to be realistic about what you're likely to use.

    For example, I could have brought a swimming suit to Washington. It turned out that was a pool at the hotel Aunt Kelly was staying at, but what are the chances that not only will there be the possibility to use the item but also the need to use it. There was no way we'd have time to go swimming despite there being a pool. After all, we were only Washington all of 32 hours, and 14 of those were spent sleeping.

    So before you pack it, really think about whether you need it. You may think, "Oh, well it doesn't take up much room," but those items add up and before you know it, you're dragging a second suitcase out of the closet.
  2. When you pack the car up, put as much as possible in the trunk. If you aren't going to need it while you're driving, trying and fit it in the trunk. On the way home, I really understood this after having to shuffle things around constantly as we were driving. It was so frustrating and made things feel claustrophobic. On the way home, I even put my purse in the car. After all, if we needed money, it would mean we were stopping anyway and I could get it out of the trunk. I also put toys that hadn't interested Alex in a suitcase in the trunk so they wouldn't take up so much room.

    Items you will need in the car with you include:

    • food
    • entertainment
    • blankets
    • pillows
    • diaper bag
    • coat/jacket (unless it's summer)

    Put everything else in the trunk, if it'll fit. It really saves your sanity when you can get to what you need quickly without having to dig through ten bags.

  3. Get some sort of pads for the chairs, preferably with lower lumbar support. We didn't. Our backs were killing when we arrived, and even more so when we got back home. I really wish we had gotten something to make those seats more comfortable. It's fine day to day, but it's killer when you're sitting there for 12+ hours. I tried use my pillow, but it was too bulky and long. I couldn't fit it comfortably behind me. I ache just thinking about it.
  4. Put as much behind the driver's seat as possible. This is helped if you're child is young enough that he or she doesn't have legs that reach the floor. We were able to pile quite a lot on the floor in front of Alex's car seat, which really helped.

    We also moved Alex's car seat behind the driver's seat. We typically put it in the middle of the back seat because it's been found to be safer since there is more cushion in case of an impact, but because our car is so small, there was no way we'd be able to recline the passenger side seat if we kept the car seat in the middle. Of course, once you have two kids, putting the car seat in the middle is impossible anyway, and so we decided to put the car seat behind the driver's seat.

    We took what was left and put some on the floor and some, that wasn't too tall, on the seat, so we'd be able tor recline the seat. This helped make the trip more comfortable, so when we weren't driving we could lie back and rest a little. 
It's not fun to travel is a compact car, especially an old one that is not as comfortable as some of the newer models, but if it's got to be done, hopefully these tips will help your trip to be more comfortable.

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