This past week, I took the kids on a road trip to visit my grandmother down in Merced, CA. I'll write more about our adventure later. What I wanted to write down right now was a list of things I learned during this trip that may help you have a successful road trip with your own children.
1. When planning your final destination, and the time you expect to reach said destination, add about five hours.
This happened to us on our last day, the home stretch. I told my husband we should be home for dinner. When we were at our last stop before home (which was dinner time), I called him to let him know we wouldn't make it. We stopped at a Subway to get dinner for the car, which added another 30 minutes. Then we hit construction, another 30 minutes. Once we were out of the construction, and five miles from the highway that would lead home and away from the coast, both kids had to poop. That added another 45 minutes to our trip, and we didn't get home until after 10pm.
2. When you see a rest stop sign, don't ask your children if they need to go potty, just pull in to the rest stop.
As Murphy's Law would have it, every time I saw a sign for a rest stop coming up, I would ask the kids if they had to go. Naturally, they would say no. As soon as we passed the rest area off-ramp, one of them would begin crying that they needed to pee.
3. If you are the solo adult for the trip, keep the cooler with food in the passenger seat. When the children start complaining of hunger, reach in and toss back some food like they're caged lions.
Because, on a road trip, that really is what they are. My favorite go-tos are Lara Bars, trail mix, salami and fruit.
4. Always anticipate where you may need to pull over to the side of the road for an emergency bathroom break.
Because even if you heed #2, you will still need to do this.
5. While you may plan 10 activities to do before your final destination, be OK with the fact that you may only get to do about 3.
Everything takes longer with children involved. Pick your three "must-see" activities, and all the others will be bonus.
6. The television in the motel room will keep your children occupied long enough to get the luggage out of the car.
This is especially helpful if you are the solo parent on the road trip. We don't have a TV at home, so the novelty of it, even though it was CNN, was enough to keep my kids from running out onto the balcony, climbing over the rail and dropping three stories below.
7. Sometimes the kids sleep better in their sleeping bags from home than on unfamiliar hotel room beds.
My son had a hard time getting settled in one of the hotel rooms. He asked for his sleeping bag. He tried to sleep in it on the bed, but eventually climbed out, pulled his bag to the floor, and slept a good 10 hours.
8. A dinner of sandwiches at a local park sometimes makes a hard day easy again.
Rather than going to a diner or grabbing burgers for the car, we found a park, made some PBJ's and played for a while. It made the last three hours of driving bearable because the children were happy again.
9. An old digital camera will keep a child happy and noticing the amazing scenery you're driving through.
I gave E my old digital camera last fall. She loves it, and she spent quite a lot of time taking pictures from the car. I'd point out things, like Mt. Shasta, and she'd say, "Oooh, that's beautiful. I'm going to take a picture."
10. Even in Spanish, the Frozen soundtrack gets old. Make sure you have a variety of music that everyone can agree on.
Since they go to Spanish Immersion school, I bought them the Frozen soundtrack in Spanish. I didn't think it could get to me like the English version, since I wouldn't know the words. It was worse, because I don't know the words. Now I have "Libre Soy, Libre Soy, la la la la la la la....." stuck in my head.
I will be keeping all of these tips in mind when we take our second trip of the summer in August. We're heading to Glacier National Park. This time, we'll be taking Daddy.