So we are back from our big first roadtrip with the kids. Handyman Tim's family gathers for the reunion at Leech Lake, Minnesota. The lake also happens to be a 9.5 hour drive (11 hours with stops) from our home. I will admit that I woke up in the middle of the night before our departure with a full blown panic attack directly resulting from my nerves about the impending doom we were sure to face on our drive.
The biggest surprise was that the travel was far easier than I imagined it would be. What a relief! Far from being expert family travelers or seasoned pros, I thought I'd share the little tricks we used for traveling with a potty-training munchkin and a newborn.
1. Leave EARLY. If you are facing a drive as long as ours was, the best piece of advice we got was to leave as early in the morning as possible. We set our alarm for 3:30 a.m. with the understanding that if Little Pea woke up earlier than that for a bottle, we'd just get up and go. Our car was packed the night before so we just had to roll out of bed, toss on traveling clothes and get in the car.
It worked like a charm! We were on the road by 4 a.m. and both girls were still so sleepy they remained quiet and content in their seats until we were ready to stop for a breakfast break around 8 a.m. It essentially cut our trip from an 11 hour drive down to a 7 hour one in their minds. Much more manageable.
2. Pack entertainment. We don't own one of those fancy schmancy DVD players for our car. Instead, I planned ahead and downloaded as many free tv episodes for the peanut as I could from iTunes and loaded them on my iPod. I also rented 2 kiddie movies–1 for the trip up, 1 for the trip back. I loaded the iPod with free Nodcasts (podcasts featuring awesome kid music from The Land of Nod) and an audiobook of Curious George–all available in iTunes. It is crazy what is available when you start to poke around in their store.
The peanut was also allowed to bring 2 stuffed animal friends and 2 books of her choice. I kept them packed and gave her one at a time over the course of the trip.
3. Pack fantastic snacks. Roadtrips used to mean spending a fortune at gas stations on treats to keep us going. Besides being horribly junky, this was far too expensive of a way to feed ourselves during the trip. I knew we'd be staying in a cabin with a refrigerator so I stocked our cooler with food to eat on the way as well as while we on our vacation. I'll be sharing the specific recipes later this week, but our cooler and snack bags were stocked with:
– homemade Chex Mix
– PW's Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies (I was right earlier this month, they are fantastic!)
– all the fixin's needed to make Annie's BLT roll-ups packaged separately and then assembled as we drove
– cheese sticks
– apple slices coated in a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning
– Snyder's Honey Mustard pretzels (a personal favorite of mine!)
– apple juice boxes
– Diet Coke cans (Crucial!)
– canned coffee beverages for Tim
– frozen water bottles that served as the ice packs and became beverages as they melted
4. Keep your sense of humor. Everything was going just fine until the last hour of our trip. The last 40 minutes in particular meant a car filled with a chorus of crying from the backseat and found either Handyman Tim or myself curved over the back of our passenger seat, bottle in hand, attempting to quiet at least one of the ladies. The situation was almost too horrible not to laugh at it.
I'm sure everything will change when we can hear two sets of voices asking, "Are we there yet?" but for now, these tips were super helpful. What's your favorite traveling tip for families? I'd love to know!