We just did it: my twenty-year-old daughter drove me and six of her younger siblings from Montana to Vermont. That’s about 2598 miles and she drove every single inch (I was recently diagnosed with epilepsy, which means no driving and some time to recoup). It may sound wild to you, or maybe there’s a part of you that daydreams about being wildly adventurous. Have you thought about taking a long trip to explore our countryside? This most recent one was my 10th trip cross-country and my 7th with kids. It’s not as challenging as people imagine.
My parents used to pack us into our station wagon to visit our grandparents and cousins; although only about 4 to 5 hours away, I always loved the change of scenery, the car treats (tootsie pops, licorice, and Necco Wafers) sitting close to my sisters and the anticipation of grand welcomings. I remember one time our red station wagon got a flat tire and the repair shop let us kids stay in the car as it was jacked up! We would often stop for a picnic lunch and get to run and explore, my parents often giving historical lessons on the area, like Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, Saranac Lake, and the Green Mountains. They would encourage bird sightings and lots of looking out the window.
I hope that these practical tips and tidbits of advice will encourage you to conquer your hesitation over road tripping with kids and motivate you to get out a map, split up your days into reasonable chunks, check out destination spots and make a budget.
- Have a destination and a time frame. Be flexible and not on a tight schedule, over scheduling makes for stressful trips. You will miss out on some of your stops, either because of timing, weather, or hungry kids. Know which direction you are traveling in, this may sound silly but really you can’t get lost (only detoured) if you know you are traveling East and not South.
- The week before you leave, clean your house from top to bottom. You will pat yourself on the back when you return. Go into every room, dust, sweep, mop. Wash all the laundry in the house, put it all away and put fresh sheets on the beds. Put away every toy and book. Have your kids help, but make sure you double check and do the finishing touches. No need to worry about, “did I leave the iron on, stove on?” when you have prepared a week in advance.
- Go to Costco for easy snacks but not messy ones. I pack a cooler, a dry box, and a bag for the car. We have a hitch basket that holds our cooler and a storage tote. Only water in the car, unless you’re mom or driver; then you can have coffee if you like!
- Breakfast ideas: granola bars, applesauce squeeze, go-gurt or similar easy yogurt. This is for the super-early mornings; otherwise, if sleeping in hotels, make sure breakfast is included.
- Lunch Picnics: juice boxes, carrots/crackers and hummus, chicken salad and/or guacamole (individual packs from Costco) sandwich making supplies (tortillas or hot dog buns are more travel-friendly than a loaf of bread), meat, cheese, romaine, mustard and mayo packets, apples or clementines.
- If you have to eat in the car (this is budget-friendly and no sick kids from gnarly fast food) make lunches for each child in your front seat and pass out in smaller portions. No one wants an uneaten 1/2 sandwich shoved in the backseat. If you don’t have napkins, have your children lay a t-shirt or something washable on their lap to save their clothes and your car seats. Baby wipes are essential!
- Road bag of snacks; lollipops (great bribery for reading quietly, listening to stories, or a reward after a nap), fruit snacks (although fruit leather is healthier, it’s also quite sticky), granola bars and/or applesauce squeeze. Always ask kids to pass the garbage up to the front.
- A few days before your, trip clean your car. I mean empty it out, vacuum it, scrub it, and give it a bath. It gives your children a good base of keeping it clean as you travel.
- Check your oil, battery and tires. The night before you leave, fill your tank. Do you have AAA or roadside assistance? Get it.
- The day before, have an easy dinner planned like pizza or Caesar salad. Start packing in your clean house with all the clean clothes put away and ready.
- Pack what your children like and what they usually wear. It is easier to wash clothes than manage heavy and overflowing bags. Bring 2 pairs of comfortable shoes, weather can cause one to get wet or muddy. Rather than big coats ( if traveling in fall, winter or spring) pack sweatshirt and wind/rain-breaker and layer up for warmth.
- Give all your children a backpack to carry a few car friendly toys, superhero figures, a doll, pad of paper, colored pencil ( markers cause problems if you have little ones). Go through the pack and make sure it is light and doesn’t include too many tiny things that will be annoying to pick up, like legos. Make sure they all have a book to read. Pack a few books that you would like to read aloud; like Paddle to the Sea or James Herriot’s Treasury for Children. Have the oldest child be in charge of ipods, headphones, headphone jack splitters, etc. Make sure everyone has a full water bottle. Have one “car blanket” per row of seats; they can share, but a small pillow is nice for everyone.
- Do not have too many options. I am not a fan of tech games, apps, gadgets and noise. We downloaded two movies for 47 hours or travel, The Aristocats and An American Tail. We brought 3 DVD options, The Waltons, The 13th Day, and The Story of Juan Diego. Too many options equals too much fussing. We downloaded three audio books and listened to one, Little House in the Big Woods. We have listened to all The Classical Kids Collection over the years, many of them numerous times. I think Mr. Bach Comes To Call and Beethoven Lives Upstairs are our favorites. Listen to music and ask the kids to play tic-tac-toe, hangman, counting cows, horses, reading signs and Yahtzee. But, please encourage naps and staring out the window; everyone needs quiet time in the car. Pray the rosary.
- Remember that anything you may forget is available on the road: food, water, treats, phone chargers, contact solution, and Dramamine! Start the car with great confidence and a joyful attitude. Double check that everyone is seat belted and pray to St. Raphael and St. Michael that they guide and protect the car and all of you. Pray the Hail Mary. Paint a picture with your words the image of the Archangels surrounding your car and flying you safely to your destination. Have fun!
PRAYER TO ST. RAPHAEL THE ARCHANGEL
Glorious Archangel St. Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, you are illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace. You are a guide of those who journey by land or sea or air, consoler of the afflicted, and refuge of sinners. I beg you, assist me in all my needs and in all the sufferings of this life, as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels. Because you are the “medicine of God” I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities of my soul and the ills that afflict my body. I especially ask of you the favor (here mention your special intention), and the great grace of purity to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Copyright 2017 Maggie Eisenbarth