Traveling with Littles

I have heard some people say that we might be out of our minds for choosing to live a mobile lifestyle for a while.  That they couldn't do it.  I'm not sure why they believe that, but I thought I might write out a few reasons we are a good family for this trip and a few secrets we have to make our trips run as smoothly as possible.

I am not currently a professional traveler, but Allan and I have certainly taken our fair share of trips in our 10 years together.  Since I despise flying with a fiery passion and Allan actually enjoys driving, most of those trips have been by car.  In our first 9 months together, before GraceAnne was born, we were in 28 states.  The first year of GraceAnne's life was primarily spent in a car and she was in 19 states before her first birthday.  We would stick close to home for a while and about every 6 months we felt a call to be on the road again.

We settled down a bit more while we lived in Texas between '06 and '12, but our form of entertainment was still going for drives.  We got to see a lot of that big state.

We are lucky in one area, though...all of our kids are road warriors.  Well, all but the biggest one.  Since she's not here often, we get off the hook.  Each one of our children has always enjoyed being in the car.  That's not to say they've always been angels or that they don't get antsy and screamy from time to time, but overall, they enjoy a good road trip.

They also think hotels are the bees knees.  Throw in a continental breakfast and a little cable TV and we may as well be the richest people on planet earth.

I'd like to give some tips for how we get through long trips in this post.  I can't promise these things will work for our big trip, and I will update as we go, but some of them should help if you decide to take a small adventure finding roadtrip.

Backpacks.  Now that the girls are a bit older (9 & 5) I have them pack their own backpacks.  I think backpacks are absolutely essential for people who travel.  #1. the kids feel special and get to bring a bit of home with them.  #2.  they can carry their own crap when we stop in the middle of the night and I have a sleeping pre-schooler in my arms.  #3. all those pockets and zippers are so cool!  Let's me stress: I think backpacks are so important that I spend a little extra on the ones that will last.  Typically I buy our kids EastPaks since they have a lifetime warranty, but you can see in the picture that Violet is currently toting a SkipHop.  

I tell them *what* to pack, but they pack it.  I don't care if it's folded or crammed in (though I make it a point to explain to them if they fold they will have more room for fun stuff) if what they wear on the trip is wrinkled to crap or has iron plaits.  As long as they have as many clean outfits as we are gone days (if we won't have access to laundry facilities) plus 2 extra pairs of undies and socks, I'm good.  With the extra space they are allowed to pack some special little toys.  BTW-this is quality homeschooling, folks.  They are learning serious life skills here.  If you stop to think about it, it takes a lot of forethought and planning to pack for a trip.  They are learning to think critically and plan ahead, to count and match outfits, separate the truly important from the less important and to plan for the unexpected.  Sometimes we take knowledge like that for granted, but fail to realize we learned these skills somewhere too.  (or maybe we didn't and we're terrible at packing)

Totes.  Totes, coolers, bins, bags, boxes, jars, etc. are a love of mine.  They hold things neatly together, but the things inside don't have to be so neat.  I have a creative mind, so organization is not something that comes easily to me.  If I can throw all the coloring accoutrement into one tote, put a lid on it and have it look great, I am a happy camper.  I like to find totes I can stick in obscure places in the car to keep things that make kids happy on long trips like coloring books, crayons, books to read, small games to help with motor skills, stickers, etc. 
There are some obvious benefits here, as in the items don't slide up to the front seat and get between the brake pedal and the floor, but the more obscure benefits are that you can clean up the car in a flash during potty breaks and you can pack a few new things in each tote, rotating them out as the kids get bored.  If you find the right tote, they fit great under seats or in trunks. 

I am the queen of buying new coloring books and crayons for our trips.  Sometimes my husband fusses about this, but the fact is, for a few bucks, the kids are entertained for hours.  The peace is well worth it to me.  My latest obsession and "need" are the new color sticks by Crayola.  They color like colored pencils, so they don't melt in the car or color on the upholstery, but there's no wood casing, so they don't need me to sharpen them every 5 minutes.  Genius.  I don't actually own any right now *sad* we used them at the Crayola store in KC before we left and I've been obsessed with getting some since.  Soon.

Snacks.  I like to pack as many easy snacks as we can, knowing that we will stop for big meals.  We try to avoid sugary drinks and snacks, as all that extra energy in children strapped to chairs is just bad ju-ju.  We opt for things like nuts, apples, pasture-raised beef jerky, bottles of water, granola bars and the like. I try to stick to high protein snacks-to keep our blood sugar at an even keel between stops.  If anyone feels the need for something sweet, Hail Merry's macaroons do a great job and are healthy too.  When we do stop, I pick a place where the kids can either run like crazy or it won't matter if they are maniacs.  Think: Chick-fil-A with a playland or a buffet, where everyone is pretty classy anyway, so we totally fit in after 3 days on the road. (disclaimer: this is NOT easy to do with dietary restrictions, but we make the best of it.  I have an iphone app called "find me GF" and we look for places with whole food GF choices first.) 

But I think the biggest tip of all is to run the trip around the kids.  Consider into the trip the time it will take to get there with the ages of children you have.  Mapquest makes it so tidy, doesn't it?  It gives you 3 different options, within a few minutes of each other.  They tell you the trip will take 12h16m if you take the scenic route and never need to pee or eat or get gas.  What they also don't account for is the 5 different bodies in the car (or 6 or 7 or or or) who have needs independent of the driver's.  It can be difficult, but put yourself in the position of the little people.  It's hard enough, as adults, to road-trip, but to be a tiny person, staring out the window for hours while strapped tightly into a chair can get old really fast.  Plan for 20 minute stops when you fuel up so everyone can *try* to go potty and stretch their legs a bit.  Plan for a few extra dollars to buy something silly once in a while.  It's amazing what a new trinket can do.  (note: we do not bust our budget on dumb souveniers.  Typically they are expensive,we have limited space and the kids are usually bored with this stuff quickly.  A good example of a new trinket could be those magic marker boards they sell at most truck stops or a new toy car.  They are cheap, don't take up much space, fun and if they get destroyed it's no big deal)  Plan for extended lunch breaks and at least try to spend them in a play land or a park so the kids can get some exercize and air. 

So those are some of my biggest road trip helps.  What are yours?  Do your kids like being in the car or are they miserable just thinking about it.  What are your biggest pet-peeves about long trips?

No comments: