Over the River and Through the Woods
The only true vacation I've been on since getting married was my honeymoon. We went to Disney World, in Florida, for four days and three nights. Since then all of our trips have been working or visiting trips and we drive to get wherever we're going. I still like to call them vacations, though!
As we add children to our family, the trips become a bit more challenging. How will we keep the baby from getting bored? Where will each child sit to minimize the outbreak of squabbles? What if we forget something?
One year we took two trips in four months. Although the first trip was a working trip (to Ohio where my husband’s employer sent him) our second trip (to Kansas to see my grandparents) was a visiting one. If you find yourself preparing for a road trip in the coming months, here are a few things to keep in mind:
TRANSPORTATION / ACCOMMODATIONS. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order. If you plan to rent a vehicle, call in advance to be sure they have one that will fit your needs. Reserve your sleeping accommodations in advance as well. Although you probably won’t receive a discount for advance reservations, you will be assured a room if a convention shows up while you are there.
PETS. If you have pets, you’ll need to make arrangements for their care if they are not accompanying you. If you plan to use a kennel, find one you like. Make unannounced visits to see how they handle the animals in their care. If you plan to have your pet stay with a friend, make sure your pet is comfortable with that person. Invite them to stop over two or three times a week during the month before your trip, if possible.
2-3 Days Before
KEY. Find a trusted friend or family member to leave a house key with. Ask them to check on the house about once every three days, to make sure everything is in order. Leave your cell phone number, or the phone number(s) where you can be reached, in case they need to get hold of you. If your neighborhood is like ours, you can leave a key with one neighbor and let the others know who has it. Then they’ll know whom to contact if anything seems out of place.
MAIL. Make arrangements with the post office to have your mail held. Or, if you have a trusted neighbor, ask them to pick it up for you, as well as any papers you may get.
LIST. Make a list of the clothing you want to pack, toiletries, toys, books, etc. Because of the size of our family, we now pack for three days and plan to wash clothes while traveling. Besides the regular toiletries of toothbrushes, deodorants and shampoo, I also pack all the necessary items for taking temperatures, as well as children’s pain relieving medicine. (It’s not easy finding an open store late at night in a strange town.)
Portable Electronic Devices
1-2 Days Before
LAUNDRY. As I do the laundry before a trip, I immediately pack whatever I want to take. That way I know that my boys aren’t out getting their clothes muddy or torn. As I pack things, I check them off my list: three shirts, two pair shorts, one pair jeans, one pair pajamas, three pair socks, four pair underwear (always pack a spare pair – trust me on this!)
MAPS. Take a moment to show your children the route you’ll be taking. They’ll have fun during the trip following your progress on the map. If you’ll be crossing multiple states, consider printing out a blank map for them to keep track of license plates spotted, color each state as they go through it, or note interesting sights they see in each state.
ENTERTAINMENT. Invest in one new toy/game for each child that can be played while traveling. I like the various travel games available at most discount stores. Some are magnetic, some are electronic, and some are just miniaturized board games. I usually put these games away in our closet between trips, to prevent the children from getting bored with them. There are also numerous websites that offer printable versions of pencil games. Print out a bunch of these and place them in a binder along with pencils. You can find a selection of printable games at Funorama, Puzzlemaker, and Sunnykids Playground, to name just a few places.
REFRESHMENTS. Purchase travel-size cereal for snacking in the car, and for breakfast in a hotel room. Juice boxes will help to wash down the dry cereal, and there won’t be any dishes to wash! Granola-type bars, homemade cookies, and crackers are also good snack items to pack that don’t need to be refrigerated. If you plan to pack a cooler to keep the juice boxes cold, consider taking vegetable sticks, string cheese, and sandwiches, as well.
Day of Trip
It’s time to go, so stuff your children into your vehicle! Don’t forget to pack blankets and pillows – they come in handy if you need to stop for a few hours to nap at a wayside. Let your enthusiasm for the trip show, and your children will soon catch it as well. By being prepared and organized, your road trip can be a truly exciting adventure!