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Monday, September 21, 2009

Homework: Travel Studies: What's in Your Suitcase?

Homework assignment:
~Get a baggie and go to your make-up drawer. Using extras, pack a make-up kit you can keep in your suitcase. Have a toiletry bag ready to go: Put baby wipes in a baggie (if they dry out, just dampen them) to wash your face, and refill or buy some travel-size toiletries.
~Make a packing list of comfortable, washable travel clothes to keep in your suitcase. (The list, not the clothes.)
~Blog about something you never leave home without. Prompt: "I never go anywhere without double-stick tape. I use it for _________.
Bon Voyage!

For this assignment (from last week) I present another re-post, this one a guide I wrote back in 2006 about taking roadtrips with children.


The following was originally posted on Sunday, July 9th, 2006:

So I take road trips. Long ones. With my children.

I get all sorts of reactions, but the two most popular are:

"Wow, you're brave."

"Wow, you're crazy."

Yes, and yes. I've actually had people ask me for tips on taking long trips with wee ones, so I thought I'd pass along some of my wisdom to you, the reader. These suggestions and other golden nuggets o' truth have not been scientifically proven, EXCEPT BY ME, who has driven quite a bit with the kids. Flat tires, no room at the inns, kiddos peeing through all their clothing, you name it. The result is that I have traveling down to a kind of science. That being said, I don't think I'll be driving any further than to maybe Disneyland next summer or something.

And now,


~Before you leave, plan your trip. Mapquest is a great tool for guesstimating how long it will take to get from Point A to Point B. In general, a six- or seven-hour driving day is most effective, ie, will not drive you OR your children completely out of your/their mind(s). Also, take into account that what mapquest logs as being 6 or 7 hours driving time could very realistically end up, with stops and such, being a 9-hour day. This is okay.

~Decide how much money you're willing to spend. Things can add up, and they're all things that should be considered carefully. (My latest is: Will driving cost more than x number of plane tickets plus a rental car?) Are you going to bring your own food or buy it along the way? Stop at any hotels? Sightseeing? Souveniers? Little things really can add up, but in a lot of cases, the money isn't worth as much as the hassle (I almost always prefer to stop for food rather than deal with re-loading a cooler every day).

~In planning your trip, PLAN TO STOP. Now, if you're someone who considers yourself to be efficient, this will be very difficult for you; you'll think that driving around the clock would be best. Okay, maybe for you. In my own case, I have a daughter who regularly (well, not now was much as in years past) wakes up screaming from the pain of leg cramps. Having her sit in a carseat with her legs dangling in front of her for long stretches didn't bode too well for her cause, and great was the pain thereof. Two types of stops should be considered and planned:

1. Nightly stops. At a hotel or, if you're lucky, at a friend's house along the way. Doing this not only gives your kids a good night's rest, but also gives you one as well. Think about it: even if your kids do amazingly well on the trip and can stay in their carseats for hours on end without complaint so that you can drive straight through, what's going to happen when you reach your destination? You are going to crash and want nothing but sleep, while your kids will want to use up all of their last three days' pent up energy: and when that happens, nobody wins. The idea is to get to a place where you and your kids can spend energy and then rest well. What works very well, I've found, is to stop driving around dinnertime, get a hotel room, go swimming, if it's available, and order a pizza or some other delivery food. (Delivery so that you don't have to, of all horrid things, get back into the car to look for food.) Get a great night's sleep and hit the road in the morning when you've all sufficiently rested.

Things to look for in a hotel:
-reputable name (you don't want to stay in some no-name place with your kids), but also check out photos on their website. We once ended up at a real shack that had recently been acquired by Best Western, but was still in shack-like condition.
-first floor room: so as not to annoy the folks downstairs whilst your kids run circles around the room.
-swimming pool: indoor/outdoor, depending on your preference, etc., if you're in to swimming. Also, call to check that the pool will be open/able to be used during your stay.
-free crib use upon request
-free continental breakfast
-in-room refrigerator (especially if your kids are drinking milk)
-and don't forget to make reservations ahead of time. Because you wouldn't want to drive from Provo to Cheyenne only to find that - oops! - it's Memorial Day weekend and all the hotels are completely booked, now, would you? No, of course you wouldn't.

2. Stops during the day. It's inevitable that you'll have to stop to re-fuel (gasoline & food), and also have bathroom breaks. Here is my advice, the most difficult thing I've had to learn: Make each stop last as long as you can. There is a reason for this, which is that the longer your stops, the less infrequent they are. On one trip, I tried to make the rest area stops really fast, going into the bathroom and back out to the car to make the most of our driving time. Without fail, I ended up pulling over 15 minutes later to change a diaper or feed a kid, and it was very frustrating.

When you stop at a rest area (or wherever), get everyone out, take your time walking around, give snacks, fill juice cups, change diapers, use the bathroom, and run around the grassy areas for at least ten minutes or so. It just works better this way. Your driving times will be much longer and more effective. Also, when you stop for a meal, rather than eat in the car, get out of the car and go in to wherever you're eating - a restaurant (if that's your choice) or stop at a picnic table if you brought your own food. Again, it just works easier if you get everything done at one time - but that takes time.

When it's possible, fill your gasoline tank when you pull over for some other reason, usually to eat. That way you're not wasting time driving on side streets off of too many exits.

Malls can also be a nice break. For instance, if it's raining outside and you can't run around, or if it's really hot and you need some air conditioning. Columbia, Missouri, has a really nice mall for a driving break (Columbia Mall, I think it's called). It's close to the highway, and gas stations (to fill up before or after your mall trip), and they've got a nice kids' play area and a carousel. (I'm sure there are other malls and nice places to visit, this just happens to be one that we visited on this last trip.) We've also made stops just to walk around Wal*Mart. (You must know how desperate I was for a break in order to stop at Wal*Mart.)

~Play games. Really. Your kids may not be old enough for some games, but I kept myself quite occupied this trip by writing down each state's license plate as I saw it (47 States and 3 different Canadian plates - not bad for driving in 9 states; the missing 3 were Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Vermont). I spy was a favorite, but can get boring depending on where you are ("I spy...something...brown." "Um, everything around us?"). Another that I played this trip was Give the State a New Motto. This is based not on the history of the state, but the current state of the state, if you know what I mean. Example: Missouri is called the 'Show-Me State,' but on this trip, based mainly on the billboards I saw, I've dubbed it: "Missouri: Specializing in Antiques and Porn". Make up some games to pass the time.

~Get a DVD player for your kids. Put aside your apprehensions about them watching too much t.v. and trust me that this is a wise investment.
~Take care of your vehicle. This may seem simple, but make sure to pay attention to what your car may need. Get an oil change before you leave (I drove 3 months-worth of driving in two weeks), and another oil change either when you get to your destination, or before you leave to drive home, or when you get home (can you tell I've had to do all three?). Know what your vehicle needs. Check your tire pressure every morning before you start driving (in the morning before the tires expand from the heat).

Off the top, that's all I am coming up with. If you have questions, please submit them and I will do my best to address them. Happy trails.

What is this? Why, it's homework!
You can get in on the fun, too!


Travelin'Oma said...

Fabulous. I'm going to link this for tomorrow. It's great advice!

Sister Pottymouth said...

I wish I had read this before we went to TX. Our trip went pretty well, but I think some of these tips would have been helpful.

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