We recently completed a twelve hour road trip. Well, according to the Google maps it should’ve taken twelve hours; it took closer to 16. A blown tire, a six year old with night terrors, multiple potty stops…you get the idea 🙂
We had a wonderful vacation, however, and I cannot recommend enough Gulf Shores, AL. Camping is the way to go, too, if you have access to a pop-up or an RV, even though that necessitates a road trip.
I love road trips. My family never flew anywhere when I was growing up. I think maybe we flew to Disney when I was really little, but I don’t remember. In order to afford vacations now, Keith and I agree to choose places where we can drag our pop-up camper. I really do love having the three of us tucked in together, away from the rest of the world.
Not everyone loves this idea, though, so I though I’d share some ideas that make our road trips much more enjoyable.
The first thing you should do is adjust your expectations. Look at the map for directions, but ignore the time assignment. There will be traffic, detours, emergency potty stops, giant rockets at rest stops, or restaurants that you don’t have at home where you really want to eat.
(and those restaurants will inevitably have a wait)
Lower your expectations. You’ve heard the phrases “getting there is half the fun” and “it’s the journey, not the destination”? Make the road trip part of your vacation. Our vacations begin the moment Keith wakes up after getting off work, so even packing the truck for the trip becomes part of the fun.
Even though you set realistic (lower) expectations, you can still plan. I’m a huge fan of planning. For example, I plan a new activity for the Boy every fifteen minutes (more on those in a bit). Plan what you need in you car: snacks, activities, blankets, lights for reading, books on CD or MP3.
Plan ahead for meals: do you want to stop at a restaurant for every meal, and if so, what kind of restaurant? Do you want fast food or a sit down meal? Do you want to pack a cooler and hit a rest stop so your kids can run around for a bit?
Plan by having conversations with your husband or traveling partner (I travel with my mom quite a bit): how often do you want to stop? Do you want to stop if you see something interesting? Or is this a pee-in-a-jug kind of trip? (I’m married to a truck driver…)
Road food is an interesting thing. Some people feel like all bets are off when traveling. My pre-Whole30 favorite road trip snack was a king size peanut butter Twix! But this latest trip involved lots of carrot sticks and guacamole. For the boys, I packed some of their favorite snacks they don’t always get at home, cups for dishing out snacks, paper towels, baby wipes, and assorted “mini meals” in the cooler in case our son got “hangry.”
We agreed to eat lunches as fast food joints, but dinner needed to be some place I could get a “real” salad, and we ate breakfast at home. The kid is currently in a growth spurt, so I think he ate every time we stopped 🙂 . But I always make sure to pack plenty of food!
This is an area in which I feel like I really excel. We don’t have a portable CD player in our vehicle, nor do we own one. Our son has always been sensitive to screens, and he rarely sits through an entire show at home. Now, this is not a judgment on people who choose electronics in their vehicles for long travel! I have often wished I could pop in a DVD and have that eat up a few hours of our travel 🙂
Instead, I plan a new activity approximately every fifteen minutes for our son. Included in these activities are snacks, an educational video game system, and Keith’s old school GameBoy. Some of the others I wrap in wrapping paper and let him open a “gift” every hour, and some of these are just standby things that have proven themselves over and over again: pipe cleaners, aluminum foil roll, painters tape, stickers, paper, pencils (don’t forget a pencil sharpener, colored pencils (crayons melt!), fun erasers, snap-together models (often found on clearance at Walmart), Legos, paperclips, sticky notes, Usborne sticker books, a blanket (forts in the backseat – or “the man cave” as it was called this trip!), Chick Fil A kids meals books and games, binoculars, windmill, bubbles, dry-erase markers (for the windows…if you’re okay with that) & baby wipes, monster trucks, glow sticks at night, coloring books, letter and number tracing charts, and car games like BINGO, twenty questions, etc.
Finally, before every road trip, after we are all buckled into the truck, but before we pull out onto the road, one of us prays. This has been a great new thing that my husband introduced into our family, and now our son insists we pray.
Do we argue? Yes. Do we sing along to silly songs on the radio? Yes. Do we bicker over where to stop for lunch? Sometimes. Do we get out of the car not speaking to one another? Never.
Vacations – road trips – are stressful. But with some adjustment to our expectations, some planning, some snacks, some activities, and a lot of prayer, they can be a ton of fun and a fantastic family bonding experience!