Remember those days when “road trip” brought up images of spontaneity. Joy. No worries, no cares. Just go wherever the road takes you. Spring breaks. Senior weeks. Nice wasn’t it?
Now wake up. Because now that there are kids in the picture, our road trips these days are nothing like that. Let me break this down into two time frames: Before Kids (BK) and After Kids (AK)
BK: Just open up a suitcase and start throwing clothes in. Who cares what you bring, just as long as you have enough underwear to make it through the week!
AK: Pull all the suitcases out of the attic. Calculate how many days you’ll be gone. Find an outfit for each day. Now find a “back up” outfit for each day. Make sure all clothes can be mixed and matched, “just in case”. Throw in every pair of underwear you can find for your 3 year old. Make sure you have a week’s supply of diapers for the 1 year old. Now double that! Oh, and don’t forget wipes. Now that the kids are done, you can start on your own suitcase!
BK: Hit Wawa or Acme before leaving and get pretty much a sampling of their entire snack aisle. Oh, and plenty of caffeine to keep you driving through the night.
AK: Goldfish. Cheerios. Slice up some fruit or veggies to keep it semi-healthy. Bring along bowls so each kid has their own food and you’re not constantly passing back a handful at a time. Don’t forget non-spill water bottles for each kid. And spares of everything for when they are dropped on the ground just out of reach.
BK: All you really need is a rockin’ playlist. Title it “Road Trip ’11” and you’re good to go.
AK: Make sure you create a separate playlist that includes plenty of Dan Zanes, Laurie Berkner, Backyardigans, and Nick Jr.’s greatest hits. You may want to consider burning some CDs and pulling out one of those antiquated portable CD players! Magna Doodles, books, Leap Pads and Leapsters. Oh, and don’t forget your imagination!
BK: Get off at the next exit. Fill up on gas while you run inside to use the bathroom and grab some more snacks for “lunch”. Should take a total of about 15 minutes, tops.
AK: Get off at the next exit with both a gas station and restaurant. Bonus if it’s a restaurant with a play area (or a truck stop with plenty of room to run around). Fill up with gas. Drive to the restaurant. Order and eat. Let the kids run around for a while, making sure to get them as tired as possible so they will sleep in the car. Consider yourself lucky if you can get all this done in under an hour.
BK: Who needs to sleep? You’re on a ROAD TRIP! Just take turns – one drives while the other sleeps. Besides, it’s not a true road trip unless you can watch the sunrise as you drive.
AK: Pre-book your hotel before you leave. Plot it all out so you know exactly what time you will be arriving. Make sure there are decent restaurants nearby. Swimming pools can help wear a kid out before bed. Oh, and make sure you have separate “overnight bags” packed so you don’t have to unload every single piece of luggage just to find your toothbrush in the morning.
With all that to look forward to, I’m off to finish packing for our road trip to St. Louis. Fun times!
For more travel advice with little kids, see Tips from the Playground.