Monday, July 28, 2014

9 Lessons Learned On Our Road Trip

On the way from Texas to Iowa, we had it all planned out. We had tons of brand new games and ideas to keep us busy. (See our Road Trip Game Plan.) We stopped three quarters of the way, woke up and played at a water park inside a hotel. We just had a short cruise the second day and were at Grandma's in time for dinner. It was actually easy, laid back, fun and seemed to go by pretty fast.

They thought the duct tape binoculars were a load of fun!

They didn't totally get the whole I Spy Bingo thing,
but they thoroughly enjoyed coloring with the dry erase markers then
erasing everything.

The magnet boards and toys were a HUGE hit.
They played with these, trading toys, for about an hour and a half.

We found a hotel online right along our route with a fun indoor water park.
That was a great morning activity following a full day in the car.

 They are toddlers, so yes, there were toddler moments,
but for the most part, they were like this and enjoying themselves.
They both told us they had fun on the trip. I call that a win.

The way home was a very different experience. We had three sick kids and were up at 4:30am soothing the baby the morning of departure. After several nights of little to no sleep, we were already running on fumes but committed to getting all the way home in one day just to be back in a controlled environment and on a routine as soon as possible for the kids... and us big kids, too. So this is how the trip home looked (notice there are no pictures):

1,100 miles
22 hours awake
17 hours of driving
8 pit stops
6 dollars in tolls
5 states crossed
3 tanks of gas
2 near poop debacles
1 navigation mishap 
Made. It. Home.

Since we experienced the full gamut, I think I can safely say we learned a few things along the way.

  1. Plan Ahead

    It was SO much easier on the way to Iowa because we had a game plan and an itinerary. We budgeted in time for pit stops to run around, stretch our legs, use the restroom and feed the baby. It was a pretty clear cut itinerary, but there was plenty of room for flexibility if we needed to veer off course for any reason. On the way home, we were just fighting to make it while our brains were still currently functioning. We were trying to hustle and move along the pit stops, but as every parent knows, that will give you the complete opposite result with small children. So bottom line, plan an itinerary for your trip, BOTH ways.
  2. Pack Healthy Food

    We brought a cooler stocked with water, tons of fruit and two meals. Plus we had a bag of dried fruit and other snacks. Both ways we ate breakfast on the road and either lunch or dinner, stopping for the other. This cut down on cost, saves trip time, and gives the kids another activity to keep them busy in the car. We all tried to load up on water throughout the drive (and a little caffeine for the drivers), which helps you feel better when you arrive. You don't want to load up with fun surprises of super sugary snacks and juices. You are just setting yourself up for failure to sugar load your kid who is trapped in a 1x1 square foot seat with no walls to bounce off of. Meltdowns will most certainly ensue.
  3. Surprises

    A few fun surprises will go a long way to keep kids from getting bored and realize they are locked into their seat and cannot escape for long periods of time. I prepared quite a few that I showed you in our road trip game plan. But several of them we didn't even get to on the way there, so we had some left for the trip home. Plus, at our first pit stop on the return trip, we let them pick out a new book and they were SO excited. We read for most of the first part of the day.
  4. Boredom

    I am here to take away any guilt of thinking you have to entertain your kids the entire trip. Let them be bored for a while. We left early in the morning, waking the kids up to go. They ate breakfast and proceeded to zone out for nearly two hours. They weren't complaining and seemed to enjoy just resting to the hum of the car, so we let them just be. A few times they would stop what they were doing and just stare out the window. Then suddenly excited dialogue would break out over something they saw or something they were thinking about. It's fun to see where their minds go.
  5. Technology

    It seems like technology is our best friend and worst enemy these days. It offers education, entertainment, distraction, busyness and sometimes a longed for silence. Like most things though, technology is great only in moderation. The days we have a little extra tv or screen time at home, I notice my kids are whinier, begging for more and harder to satisfy with other things. On days we have less, they are much more content, creative, and generally get along better. We did watch some movies in the car, but we had a limit to two a day. Actually, Zoe slept through nearly all of them. The girls seemed to have the most fun singing, reading new books, coloring and playing with little toys. At the end of the trip, both girls said they had a lot of fun, so I know we made great memories. In fact, Zoe keeps asking if we can "all go bye-bye in car" again.
  6. Potty Breaks

    It is good to plan in potty breaks, however, be warned: DO NOT ignore a potty break request because you are making good time, even if they "just went." This WILL backfire and possibly require an immediate cleaning of one or more children, clothes and car seats. We had thrown a little potty in the car for emergencies, in case we were in the middle of nowhere and a #2 struck. Thankfully, we did not need to use it. But we had two close calls on the way home- one from our potty trained toddler who amazingly held it to an exit like a pro and another from the baby who became randomly fussy after a fresh change and feed. Fortunately my mommy sniffer came to the rescue and a blowout was very narrowly avoided.
  7. Fill Er Up

    Every time you stop, fill up with gas, even if you're at a half tank. There are stretches of road in this great country that don't have gas stations for hundreds of miles. And kids are distracting. You may not notice until it's too late. And then on a hot summer's day, with a car full of kids, no gas station in sight, no cell signal... well, I'm so glad we didn't have to live that nightmare.
  8. Expectations

    Set realistic expectations. Kids are not perfect and cooperative all the time on a good day, at home, in their environment. So they are almost guaranteed not to be in the confines of a seat for 17 hours. Roll with it, be flexible, prepare yourself with extra mercy.
  9. Grace

    When you are weary, exhausted and emotionally compromised, remember your kids will be even more so. Take a deep breath, exhale, offer grace. You got this.

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