Wednesday, June 22, 2011

how to do a road trip

I don't even know how many road trips we have done. 
Lots.  And most of them have been four days in length.
And here we are - on the road again!  
It has been two and a half years since we have done this California to Manitoba trip and two years since we have done any real road trip (the last one was our missionary training in 2009 - California to Illinois).  But we are back in the saddle again.
We all enjoy these trips for the most part.  The kids are pretty used to them and they like all the stuff we do (mostly in the car.... we don’t stop too much) and see.  We try to stop at hotels with pools and a good breakfast.   Those things are pretty important!
I feel like I have close to perfected the road trip.  This particular one I didn’t do nearly as much for as I normally would have, but I didn’t want to buy tons of stuff that we would never use again (not bring back to Ecuador).  We’ll see if it still goes as smoothly.  If not, we’ll just have to stop at a store along the way.
A friend asked me a church for some information about what I usually do, as they were thinking of doing a trip with their 8, 6 and 4 year olds.  I was going to just email her and then I thought why not stick it on here.  Good for posterity sake and I will pretty much blog about anything that will bore at least one person.  Why not bore the majority of you?
So, here is the lowdown on what we generally bring and do.

This is the most critical category.  The kids want to eat constantly.  
Con    stant     ly.  
And it is a good way to keep them happy.  The real sugary treaty type things are usually saved at prized, rewards or just pleasant surprised divvied out at my discretion.  The rest they just have to ask about and we usually are pretty lenient unless it is close to a lunch stop.
Now that the kids are all older, I equally divided all the individually packaged things into a bag for each of them.  That way they all get exactly the same things and they can’t argue about one person getting more of something.  If they don’t like one thing, they can trade with a sibling.  But now they still have to ask when they want something - just so they don’t eat it all in one day!  I debated packaging the bulk stuff, but I didn’t - it just seemed a little too crazy.  So they can ask for the other stuff.
When they were younger, I had one container with all the “treat” (sugary) snacks and one with “healthy”.  They would ask for something and then Maddy (the oldest child) would usually get it for them.  Maddy had a lot of responsibility when traveling: snack hander-outer; movie-putter-inner, etc.  In fact, I used to pack a large plastic three drawer thingy and Eric would strap it in the car with a bungee cord.  One drawer treats, one drawer healthy and one drawer with craft and coloring things.
(a picture of the carnage)

Here’s stuff we usually bring:
*granola bars
*Z bars (Cliff brand power bar type for kids)
*fruit roll ups
*fruit snacks
*peanut butter crackers, cheese crackers
*gold fish crackers
*pudding cups 
*fruit cups
*fruit - apples, strawberries, blueberries (don’t recommend bananas - they squish too easily and get brown)
*individual drink powder packs - saves on the begging for soda, gaterade and all those expensive drinks at each gas station.
*individual nut or trail mix packs (Trader Joes)
*raisins; dried apricots; dried mangos
*sunflower seeds
*bags of M&M - usually peanut so there is at least some protein (although this trip we are having the kinds we can’t get - peanut butter and pretzel.... plain and peanut we can buy in Ecuador..... if you are willing to pay the price, that is!)

Meals on the road.
I like stopping at rest stoops and walking around.  Some of them have trails or cool things to see.  We all get exercise, fresh air, vitamin D and all that good stuff.  That is my preference.  For this we bring:
*peanut butter 
*squeezable jelly 
*cheese (if we have a cooler/ice chest) 
*hard boiled eggs
Sometimes we just stop at a grocery store and grab lunch stuff there.  For a treat we let the kids get “lunchables” sometimes or we just get buns, turkey, cheese, and all that kid of stuff for sandwiches.  
The kids (and Eric ) like the dreaded (by me, at least) trips to fast food places.  Not too bad if they have a play area, but I still usually eat something else - blah!
For evening meals, It all depends on how late it is and how everyone is feeling.
We will order pizza to the room at the hotel, go to a restaurant (Denny’s or Perkins type), or have stuff that we brought.  If we do that, we have bring:
*cans of baked beans (yup, the kids like them straight out of the can
*can opener
*cup a soup, instant lunch, noodle type stuff
*more sandwich stuff, etc).  

Good stuff to have on hand.
*paper towels
*wet wipes/antibacterial wipes
*antibacterial gel/hand sanitizer
*ziploc bags (gallon sized are best)
*plastic cutlery
*band aids
*chap stick
*water bottle for each person
*car adapters for plugging in computers and stuff
*extra grocery bags (for garbage bags - works great to have a bag in each row of seats)
*cold and pain medicine; I’ve tried dramamine/gravol if the kids get sick and benadryl to drug them so they’ll sleep but none of these medical wonders work on our kids.  In fact, one year when traveling with my mom, the kids were so exhausted and cranky that I lied to them and said that I thought the next stretch of the drive could be curvy so I didn’t want them to get sick.  I gave them all Dramamine and none of them slept.  None.  And worse, it made Lucy hyper.  Lucy also got hyper off of benadryl once when  we drugged her (under a medical professional’s supervision - her doctor suggested it) on a flight once.  She was close to a year old and Eric ended up staying up half the night with her even after we arrived.  The hyperness lasted a very long time!  So anyway - medicate your kids at your own risk!
*a tide-to-go pen and or a little bit of laundry detergent is helpful too, but not essential.  I remembered this after I dropped some ketchup ladened tomato on myself while handing out In-N-Out burgers about half an hour ago.

We have done all of these things at one time or another, and we do most of them most of the time.
*movies (play ones that are really funny and you have seen before so when the kids are watching and you can only hear it, you can picture the scene and laugh too.... this is also a good time to hear lots of lines that you can later incorporate into your everyday conversations.  Its super fun.  Life high school, but funner!  Legally Blonde)
*coloring books, activity books, sticker books, printed coloring or activity pages off the internet
*stickers (with strict guidelines not to put them on the windows or other parts of the car)
*journals (This year I am trying to enourage them to journal their trip and we’ll put pictures in them after if they want.  I looked into getting one of those little Polaroid type cameras that print out sticker pictures but they are outrageously priced.... I thought it would be fun for them to take the pictures and then they could stick them in their journals right away..... oh well.  I guess it is only for the wealthy or poor-and-if-they-buy-one-we-know-why-they-are-poor..... aka: poor and dumb)
*glue sticks
*pens, pencils, markers (in past I have bought each child their own set of markers - either different types for each one or labeled each persons individually.... that way if they  loose one in the car, we know whose it is and there is no arguing)
*construction paper
*pipe cleaner, pony beads, feathers, craft foam.... the kids can make lovely things and you can even have contests, if you want (have as many categories as there are kids.... each “wins” in a certain category and the prizes are lollipops, ring pops, candy necklaces or some other treat that takes a while and is fun to eat, they love and rots their teeth and gives them a sugar buzz)
*stories on tape (Adventures in Odessy are good, or if you aren’t gone too long, take some out of the library)
*aluminum foil - good for another contest.  Make figures or structures out of the foil.
*reading lights - especially if traveling in the winter when it may get dark while you are still driving.  They are also good for older kids or parents who may want to read in the hotel room when the kids are already sleeping.
*also good for night driving - glow sticks.  Kids never get tired of them.
*travel games - license plate game, travel tic-tac-toe, hang man, etc. games 
*electronic 21 questions.... that has provided much entertainment in past trips
*maps printed off the internet.  I’ve often done two for each kid.  On one (this is only my suggestion to them) they trace our route and the other one they color the state in if they see that license plate.
*window markers.  These are really fun for the kids but a pain in the bottom-side to clean up - so realize what you might be getting into before you make the purchase!
*one time I bought a little clear plastic cup that had a suction cup holder (in the bathroom section of a target or walmart type place) and we planted some beans in there and stuck it to one of the windows in the car.  The kids watered it and watched it grow throughout the trip.
*frisbee, ball, bubbles, jump rope and other stuff like that to play with at rest stops
*rubber bands or small pieces of crumpled up paper (if you are not easily annoyed)  Kids can have target practice on the parents heads.  I’m sure there are many safety reasons not to do this, but the kids sure like it.  I wouldn’t recommend balls or anything too large or hard.  We do have some standards.  
*for the adult passenger, I recommend taking up knitting.  It is something I forgot on this trip and I am already regretting it after day one.  It does seem odd to knit something warm and cozy in the heat of summer, but it is a great way to accomplish something and still be able to enjoy the scenery and conversation.  Right now, for example, I am typing this all out as a document that I am going to paste onto my blog.  However, I’m getting nauseated and am really not saying anything to my darling husband who is happily crunching ice while driving.

I always give the kids a packing list - although I sometimes still pack for Cade and pretty  much always for Lucy.  It makes me nervous thinking of her packing for herself!
For road trips, we pack one duffle bag with everyone’s things that they need just for the driving part and pack there rest in other bags that we don’t have to bother taking into the hotel.  Sometimes the kids prefer to just pack their overnight travel stuff into their own personal backpacks which is great too.  If we do one duffle, I will pack each person’s stuff in individual bags first so that we don’t go riffling through all kinds of stuff to find each person’s belongings.  And then, of course, the ever-important bag(s) for laundry.

We usually arrive to our final destination looking rather dirty, messy and scraggly.  
But that’s part of the charm.

And that, my friends, is how it is done.

With lots and lots of shopping, packing, sweat, tears and straight up work!

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