The summer road trip may look a little different this year and it may be on roads less traveled but near or far, I have compiled my tips on making the most of it. Since my family missed the ride into space with those lucky astronauts, we will be parting on a road trip in the next few months as well.
Set realistic goals:
Knowing that I am the worst night time co-pilot, and that I hate arriving places after it gets dark, we set a goal of 500 miles a day, usually no more than nine hours in the car. This works for our family and it helps plan the map accordingly. We have pushed it before, on our last trip we had an eleven hour day and it was pure torture the last hour and a half with me trying to keep two kids calm while I was crunched in the middle seat of the van.
Plan ahead and be open to change:
If traveling over a holiday week, make sure to make lodging reservations before embarking on your adventure. Find hotels that have lenient cancellation policies just in case. Last summer I calculated towns that had decent hotels around every five hundred miles, which were large enough to have a few restaurant options and parks to let the kids run out their car legs. We were less than a hundred miles from one of our landing points and I Googled the area (bonus for cell service) and saw that there was a teepee hotel on the outskirts of a smaller town just a few miles beyond our chain hotel. Once in a lifetime opportunity, right? We cancelled the hotel and called the teepee lodge, and it was one of the things our kids still talk about today.
Share suitcases and pack lightly:
Its summer, shorts and t-shirts, swimsuits and clean underwear are all that’s required, especially until your final destination. I pack a backpack with a few changes of clothes per person and toiletries; it is accessible for easy unloading at each overnight stop. The suitcases do not come out until we are done driving.
Pack a few days of lunches in an ice chest:
Stopping to eat takes a lot of time and money if eating at a restaurant for lunch. We do not really let the kids eat in the car (yet) because they are both in car seats and it is a choking risk, so by lunchtime, they are hungry and ready to stretch their legs. We find parks or even rest areas that are set back from the highway to enjoy pre-made sandwiches. This gets harder on longer trips, especially if relying on the ice chest to keep them fresh but we also find that going through a drive-thru and finding a local park works well too.
Everyone goes potty:
If one person has to go, we all go. If you have young children, take your potty seat, TRUST ME. Two years ago while the boys enjoyed their easier ways, my daughter and I both used that dang potty seat on the side of a deserted road in Colorado. I squatted on that thing to avoid the dangers of what lied in the grass beyond the gravel, I am not about to test the rattlesnake. Always keep a pack of baby wipes and a roll of toilet paper handy.
Go slow and stay awhile:
The best part about traveling by car is that you do not have to keep a rigid schedule. Take it slow and stop at the interesting (relatively speaking) landmarks and sites along the route. If an exit promises the largest ball of yarn in fifteen miles, DO IT! My favorite, if there is a sign boasting of the world’s best pie, my kids’ better hold on to their seatbelts, mama is getting there fast. Leave more time to do these excursions on the way, when the tired whines from the backseat are not quite as loud.
Keep the backseat busy:
Yes, as a kid, my brother and I did not get to watch movies on long rides, we didn’t even have phones to keep us entertained, but the notion was the same. Keep them all entertained. Pack activity books, coloring pages, scavenger hunts, and card games. Then when all else fails, do not feel discouraged or disappointed in today’s technology. We pack DVDs for DAYS. Try the DVDs before you head out, not all work with the newer car systems. We were forced to watch the same Barbie movie for three days because all of the other movies we packed were apparently ancient. Remember to not forget the headphones. Our favorite thing last year was an atlas for each kid, to track the trip individually. I highly suggest buying a few that can be reused for a few years.
One of my kids tends to get motion sickness once a road isn’t straight (even in town) so I know that I have to give her a dose of kids Dramamine before we take off and keep ginger lollipops in the seat back pocket. For this reason, always keep a plastic bag handy as well. Keep one extra outfit per kid within reach when stopping at the next safe spot to change them into in case of life emergencies. I have already mentioned baby wipes, but they are worth mentioning again, I will probably keep them in my car long after my kids are grown. Blankets, even in the summer are crucial to a happy marriage of all parties in the car, because no one is ever the right temperature.
Next year, erase your memory:
If I had a dollar for every time I screamed we were never doing it again… Being cooped up in the car is not easy and the long drive just to get out of Texas is the worst but after we get home and settled, I find myself planning the next trip.
Stop for the pie. Mama deserves it.
Where will your adventure take your family this year?