Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Traveling Halfway Across the Country with Four Kids

Many people have asked me how we did it? So I'll take a few minutes to explain.

The most important thing is planning. This starts a few weeks ahead of time and includes everything from planning the route and hotel stops to planning what to pack to planning what toys and snacks to have in the car. Now granted Michael's answer would probably be different but I'm a planner by nature so for me this is a must. A trip that takes 3 days to get to the destination definitely adds complexity to the plan. You have to figure out what you need while you are there versus what you need while traveling and have enough room for both. I go as far as making a packing list for each person and for the car. Then I make a list of all the things I have to do before I leave. Then I make a list for the pet sitter. By this point Micheal is rolling his eyes. Then I pack the packing list so I know what I should come home with. Then he really rolls his eyes.

Once everything is packed and in the car it is all about attitude. The trip is an "Adventure" not "the longest time we have ever spent cooped up in the car trying not to kill each other." This means going with the flow. If someone has to go the bathroom 30 minutes after the last stop you laugh about it and take away their water bottle. If someone gets a speeding ticket you ask them to at least not get another one until we reach the next state, instead of reminding them of the hassle and cost. If you realize neither of you printed the directions to the hotel, well then you get a little snippy. If you get to the hotel at 11 pm instead of 8pm and everyone is cranky you give them a bath and read them a story and cross your fingers they all go to sleep. If you get to the hotel at 7:00 and everyone is cranky, you give them a bath, read them a story and turn the lights off at 8:00 even though you aren't tired - a good book light comes in handy.

We make frequent stops, about every three hours. We eat breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop is for lunch. We usually end up at a McDonald's with a indoor playscape. Our next stop is mid-afternoon, again at a fast food place with a playscape. These two stops really help as the kids get to run around and play for a bit. When they get tired of playing I use my stop watch to time them going through the maze. This makes it fun again and gets about 10 more minutes of activity out of them. Most days we have an unexpected "I gotta go potty bad, Bad, BAD" stop that is at the closest gas station or "forest" we can find. Dinner is usually a sit down restaurant so we can have something have way healthy to eat.

The kids watch a bunch of DVD's and eat a bunch of snacks. The little ones take a couple of naps. Charlotte usually gets bored with the TV and asks us to play games with her. She usually picks some kind of pretend game, most often Baby. She's the baby, I'm the Mommy, Michael is the Daddy. Hmmm. Why does that sound so familiar?

When we get to the hotel the big kids help carry in the "hotel" bags and pack-n-plays while Ruby and Eliza Claire enjoy crawling around and being free. Then it is bath time and bedtime. I would love to say that everyone goes right to sleep. In actuality trying to get 6 people to sleep peacefully in the same room is impossible. We quickly found that Rehm and Charlotte can not share a bed. And that at least one baby will end up not sleeping in the pack-n-play. And everyone wakes up early.

I hope all of us will look back on these trips as fun family adventures. And they will turn into stories our children tell their children about "the great vacations we took when we were kids."

So that is how we travel halfway across the country with four kids...


Shelly said...

Wow - impressive. I think it's cool that I can actually hear your voice saying "If someone forgot to print out the directions..." And we haven't spoken very recently.

I think your children will definitely remember the long car trips fondly - complete with laughter and rolling eyes. (I know we do...)

Mom said...

What does Charlotte have on her head?

I think they will have good memories of the trips. The things that you and Sherri talk about and remember fondly were not always the most "fun" things at the time. One of them, of course, was working in tobacco!

Brenna and Molly said...

I grew up doing 18 hr. trips to Nova Scotia riding in the middle seat ("the hump") of a small car between a brother and cousin. I love that I'm passing such fond memories on to my kids too. :) We once drove from DC to Orlando and back, stayed home for 2 days and then drove from DC to Nova Scotia - the entire east coast in one week with a 3 yo and an 11 mo! I'm not sure I'd have the strength to do it with 2 additional kids though - Kudos to you!!

I'm a list maker too but my husband is the type who gets driving and never wants to stop. I swore my kids were going to get curvature of the spine from their carseats on some of our trips!! They learn to be good travellers though and it teaches them good lessons about patience and tolerance if nothing else!

Love reading your posts so keep them coming!!