Friday, September 1, 2017

Road Trip Travel Tips

Every summer my boys and I road trip it from Maryland to Minnesota. This summer we were making two road trips. First we were heading to Minnesota and second to Florida. We've done road trips short and long for years. The past couple of years we've taken two days to drive from Maryland to Minnesota. In the past we've driven:

MN --> VA
MN --> FL
MN --> IL
WA --> MN
WA --> CA
WA --> VA

I think I got the road trip travel bug from my step dad. We were always driving around Colorado after my mom married him and took a couple of trips as a family to different states when I was a kid. I continued that as I married and had my own children.

As the family grew and our road trips lengthened I had to come up with ways to make it smoother and less expensive that what we were currently doing.

First was the food. We were stopping at fast food a couple times a day and that was beginning to add up. Feeding 6 people even when it's fast food gets expensive pretty darn fast. I began packing a full size cooler if we were going to be driving for at least two days. I would either make sandwiches or have fixing for sandwiches. It's easy to cut up lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, put them in a baggie, and let everyone grab what they want. If your kids are little, I'd suggest easy things like Go-gurt, cheese string, cut up fruit, and crackers. A frozen bottle of water has dual purpose. It can keep your food cold and once it's defrosted you can drink it. I also bring along my own creamer because I'm not a fan of hazelnut or vanilla that hotels typically offer. I also typically pack a grocery bag full of dry goods as well!

Second is the entertainment. Believe it or not, back in the day we used to have a tv/vcr combo that we'd bungee cord between the front seats, plugged in external speakers, and grabbed a stack of videos on tape. Ah, the good ol' days. Then came the advent of Redbox, and I loved that! I would take my shiny 17" laptop on the road with us and rent videos during the day. Depending how long our road trip would be, I'd some times borrow them from the library. Now my boys either get movies & tv shows from Netflix, Amazon, or use their digital downloads from movies they've gotten. I just have to remind them the night before and day of to download them. I still bring DVDs along in case they want to watch a movie on the laptop.

Third, I pack an overnight bag. At some point, I got sick and tired of dragging in 5-6 suitcases late at night when we would finally pull into a hotel. Now I have everyone give me one set of clothing for each night we're at a hotel as we drive to our destination. Typically it's only 1 night so that makes a small bag easy to pack. We grab the basic toiletries that we'll need and we're good to go. All of the stuff I've meticulously packed into the car gets to stay in it's spot until we get to our final destination.

The fourth thing I used to do was find a playground. I know people typically stop to eat somewhere that their kids can play too, but I happened across a park right off the freeway one time that had an awesome playground for the kids to play at. Another time we found a school that wasn't in session and let the kids play there. They have a great time, wear themselves out, and get fresh air. Trust me, a 15-20 min playground break can make a huge difference. Plus, there are typically restrooms at parks and it's probably better than a rest stop.

And fifth, I made sure to have lots of activities for them to do while they sat hour after hour after hour. We'd get those books with the magic ink for each of the kids, sticker books, travel size games (Connect Four, checkers, tic tac toe, etc), and magna doodles. Now my boys just download games on their phones to play. Little kids will love having a good selection to keep them distracted during the drive. I tried to stay away from loud, obnoxious games that might drive the adults crazy.

5 tips before you hit the road

I know there are a ton of things families do differently, but these basics will help get you on the road and keep the insanity down at least a wee little bit! If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them. We've got more road trips coming up in the future.


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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.