Huge thanks to Scott for doing all the driving. Knitting and blogging is tough, but he is a rock star. Here is our map for the trip.
This is what I looked at all day ... (which by the way is lovely to me; knitting and the open road)
|Monster Pants and Montana|
So I'll use this post to share some Driving the Dream Road Trip Tips:
- Make a list. I'm a list girl. I love lists. I have lists that refer to lists, which refer to ... yes, lists. Start a list of things you will need and use that for every trip. Bring along a copy, and update it as you learn what you didn't pack, and more importantly what you didn't use.
- Have your kids pack. Encouraged your kids to pack their own bags. Even at a young age they can get involved. This helps them learn what is needed for a trip, and removes the "Did you pack xx for me?" Ah ... "No I didn't. Did you?" I print them a packing list every trip (which I store on my computer) and update it based on the location (e.g., something dressy, warm clothes, cool clothes). We are all responsible for our own entertainment, chargers (which can be a battle) and cosmetics. Obviously an infant can't pack their own bag (although I'm pretty sure Paradis' did), adjust as the child grows. Preparing for a trip is half the fun.
- Share in the responsibility. Each person should have their own bag (adjusted by age), and carry that into the hotel every day. They should have their own 'vehicle bag' as well, where they store their own items (e.g., entertainment). The words 'sharing' and 'road trip' do not belong in the same sentence. You have the rest of the year to teach them to share, a road trip is not the time. When we are all responsible for our own things, we are more connected. I think Plato said that.
- Eat right. Our family visits the Minnesota State Fair every summer, and never eats there (and if you know the Minnesota Great Get Together you know it is all about the food). The reason: When you eat crappy, you feel crappy. Well ... that, and I'm cheap. Don't fill your vehicle with crappy foods that will make you feel crappy. Focus on high fiber foods (I don't need to spell out the reason, we all know traveling wreaks havoc on our colons), plenty of snack items (because we all eat when bored) but at the same time make it enjoyable. We buy Oreos once a year; when we road trip. If you don't have good tasting options you will simply pull over and eat something crappy. Although a road trip is not the time to start eating healthy. A few things on our list: deli meat, cheese slices, hummus (packed in small disposable containers), veggies (packed in individual baggies), pickles, olives, melon (cut up in small bite-size pieces), Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, and chips. Bring lots of water, and remind your kids to drink. You will save time by stopping every couple hours instead of having a miserable kid with an unhappy colon (fluid gets things moving), or worse one that is dehydrated.
- Don't panic. The last thing I ask everyone is, "Did you pack everything we can't buy?" In reality, a Walmart or Target isn't more than a couple hundred miles down the road where you can buy anything you forgot. Focus on the things that are difficult to obtain (e.g., prescription glasses, medications, contacts).
- Plan Ahead. I love, love, love Google's My Maps to highlight all our stops. It has grown over the years, which I have lived through, but it is good now. If you don't have a Google account, for goodness sakes my friends ... get one today! Map out your trip. Create packing lists. And create a list of thins you want to do (if you don't write it down, you'll forget). I also keep a spreadsheet to track expenses, because spreadsheets make my heart go pitter-patter. But I'm weird like that.
- Be flexible. And I'm not talking yoga. Go with the flow while traveling. There isn't anything worse than 'killing a beautiful moment' while in the middle of something everyone loves by saying "We need to move on to the next thing." We pack more into road trips than the average family, because I'm psycho, but we rarely rush. We try our best to enjoy every moment. The trick is balance.
- Don't over-do it. Plan one busy thing a day. If you will be doing a lot of driving, plan stops if your kids need a stretch. Most importantly: Do what you want to do. If something isn't fun, move on (don't stay just because you forked out too much money). If something is freakin' awesome, hang out. When Google Maps tells you it will take you five hours, assume it will be five. Plan for stops.
- Understand rules and policies. Do as much research as possible before you head out. Know the hours. Arriving somewhere at 5:04pm, to learn it closed at 5:00, is just depressing. I don't book many hotels in advance, because I use my smart phone to find a hotel while driving, which allows us the flexibility to do as we feel. All major highways have cell phone coverage throughout nearly 100% of the United States. If you book a hotel, know the cancellation policy.
- Talk to the locals. I say it a million times, but I just love this country. I love the landscape, but I also love the people. Rarely do we deal with assholes. Don't be afraid to ask for help, or better yet a suggestion on what the locals love. Tourist traps can be fun, but doing things the locals do is often not only cheap but also enjoyable. Going to a water park while at Yellowstone is crazy. Get out and do what you can only do at Yellowstone. Save the water park for a long weekend while at home.
- Communicate. Before we leave on a trip my travel companions rarely know the plan. But every morning, or the evening before, I walk through our day. I point out what will suck (e.g., long lines) and what will rock (e.g., bonding with their mother).
- Have fun. We are no Norman Rockwell family, but we love traveling together. We learn to give each other the space each requires, but also suck it up for when others want to do something we may not necessarily love. And we laugh. A lot. Most of the time it is at one another, but sometimes at others as well. :-)