Thursday, October 22, 2009

Road Trip Tips

One of my all time favorite travel quotes is by St. Augustine. It goes, "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." There is so much out there to see and experience. As parents, one of the best educational advantages we can give our children is to expose them to as many different places as possible.

Many people think they can't travel because it's too expensive. While traveling to exotic places can break the bank, there are alternatives. One of my favorite types of travel is - The Road Trip. How many of us remember long drives in the car with our families growing up? It seems that as airfare has decreased in price and gasoline has gone up, the road trips from our childhood are a thing of the past. Road trips allow children to actually see the world around them. It is such a different experience to drive through a state then it is to simply fly over. Spending hours in the car together can tighten those family bonds.

When our family was living in Australia and our children were very young, we took a long road trip from Alice Springs to Kangaroo Island (below Adelaide). I know all of you will go find those two places on your trusty atlases. It was a long drive. We broke it up by overnighting in Coober Pedy - a crazy "underground" town. (Trivia: Coober Pedy was featured on an episode of The Amazing Race and is where the movie Mad Max was filmed.) I'm not sure that my husband enjoyed the driving part of our trip as much as I did, but it was definitely an experience that we will never forget. We drove for hours and hours through the Outback, saw a wild dingo, emus, kangaroos, wedge-tailed eagles, and camels.

At that time in our lives, I much preferred to drive places. Our youngest son was a difficult baby and plane rides were not enjoyable for us or anyone else on the plane. When you take a road trip, no one is giving you dirty looks because your children are crying or kicking their seat. You can stop whenever you want or need to. The trip goes at your own pace.

Coober Pedy, Northern Territory

Adelaide, Southern Australia

My idea of an inexpensive way to travel with kids is to pick a destination you have never been before. Maybe it's located in your own state, or maybe you want to travel a couple of states away. Do some research and find a great campground. Pack up the car, start your road trip, and enjoy exploring.
In the weeks leading up to your travels, read Road Trip by Roger Eschbacher to your kids to help build anticipation. You want them to be excited about the upcoming trip and to view it as an adventure. Show them a map and the route you plan to take. Encourage them to keep a journal and to write or draw pictures of what they encounter along the way.

Here are a few of my Road Trip Tips:

1) Leave early

I know some people like to drive through the night while their children sleep. We tried that once when Sully was little. It did not go well. I don't know about you, but I can't get comfortable enough in a car to sleep for very long. We find it is a much better option to get up and on the road early. By leaving our house by 4:00 a.m., we are able to avoid rush hour traffic. It also allows us to arrive at our destination earlier in the day.

If you choose to follow this plan, I strongly suggest putting your children to bed in comfy clothes that aren't pajamas. Have them sleep in sweat pants and a t-shirt. This makes it much easier the next morning when you wake them up early. They can head to the vehicle without having to change clothes.

2) Bring along lots of fun activities

Our van has a DVD player built in and that in itself has made for fairly quiet road trips. The older two boys also have Gameboys that they bring along. Those items along with a CD player or iPod and some books to read are all our family needs to have a successful road trip.

Let's say you do not own a DVD player or gaming system, or just choose to take a road trip without those items. There are many other (probably better) ways to pass the time!

On one trip, I prepared special activity boxes to be handed out every hour or two. I used some plastic containers and filled them with various items. Each one had a snack and a "new" item to play with. The new items can be purchased at yard sales, thrift stores, or dollar stores. You don't need to spend lots of money. Something as simple as a matchbox car, a special new pen to draw with, or some stickers can keep a child occupied for some time.

Another inexpensive idea is to print out activities to bring along.

• You can get lots of great free printables at Mom's Minivan.

• Get a free downloadable fall themed travel activity book at Rad Road Trips.

• Free Travel Activity Book

There are also numerous travel related activities to purchase. Here are just a few:

Coast-to-Coast Games

Everything Kids' Travel Activity Book

Kids Travel: A Backseat Survival Kit

Miles of Smiles: 101 Great Car Games and Activities

Rubberneckers: Everyone's Favorite Travel Game

Ultimate Sticker Puzzles: License Plates Across the States

Borrowing books on CD from library is another great way to pass the time. Our family just finished listening to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Now that we've finished, we'll watch the movie to help tie everything together.

3) Take breaks every two hours

Remembering to stop for breaks is never a problem in our family as I always need to use the restroom! It's important to let the kids get out, stretch their legs, and maybe even run off some energy. Packing a picnic lunch for the drive and stopping at a rest area can be a wonderful way to take a break from the car.

4) Pack a separate overnight bag

If we are traveling somewhere and need to stay in a hotel overnight along the way, I pack a separate overnight bag. I put a change of clothes for everyone and toiletries in a small duffel bag. This way we don't have to carry the entire suitcase into the hotel with us.

To save on space, I rarely pack pajamas for the kids when we travel. Every night they get a bath/shower and put on clean underwear and a t-shirt. The next morning they just put on their pants and away we go.

5) Remember it's the voyage, not the destination

I know it can be difficult to just let go and take time to stop and enjoy the surroundings. Depending on where we're heading, my focus can sometimes be on just arriving at our destination. But, it's important to remember that much of the fun comes from the journey.

Take time before you leave to research some fun things to see along your route. Look up some boxes ahead of time and do some letterboxing. Maybe you'll see a sign for something interesting and decide to take a detour. Some of the best memories can be made by allowing yourselves to get lost in the trip.

One of my dreams is to take six to eight weeks and travel around the United States with my little family and see all of the amazing sights that I have missed out on. I hope this post encourages your family to take a road trip. I'd love to hear about your adventures and any tips you have to share.

This post is linked to Thirsty Thursdays at Five J's and Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom.

1 comment:

  1. Found you on BlogFrog. We also have three boys that we homeschool and we travel a lot. I really like your idea about the activity boxes. I'm going to try that idea on our next trip. We have at least one major trip coming up this spring - about 12 hours and two shorter trips of 3 or 4 hours each. Thanks for the tips.


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