Vacationing with kids is awesome. Getting to that vacation with everyone’s sanity and goodwill intact can be the really tricky part. The planning and packing and loading is enough to stop most people from venturing onto the open road with their children. And then there is the horror of hours upon hours of are we there yet variations in whine minor.
Getting from point A to point B as a family is never an easy endeavor, but we do believe it is worth the effort. That’s why we have been doing it for the last four years. We kicked off the 5th season of adventures with our Lively Little Campers this week, and I’ve been thinking about what it takes to get out of the house and onto the road with as little drama as possible.
Don’t get too hung up on the whole packing thing. Look, I’m a pretty type-A person. My boys’ napping schedule is typed out and hung up on a family bulletin board. I meal plan and I pay my bills using a spreadsheet. But when it comes to prepping for a trip, I keep it low key. Basically I pack a lot of stuff. I mentally walk through an average day and account for all the things we really use. Then I add in the fun stuff like scooters and bikes. A friend once told me that she packed outfits by the day in ziplock bags. If I tried to do this each time we traveled, you might find me rocking in a corner. I do laundry, fold it, and put it in a duffel. Done. I know I should make checklists, but I love my Moleskins and my scribbles. It has worked so far and lets face it—if you forget something, there is probably a store.
Make every trip as exciting as Disney World. No matter where we are going, our boys are out of their minds excited when we leave for a camping trip. We talk it up for weeks in advance, showing them pictures on the internet. By the time we leave, they feel like the luckiest ducks in the world. Today, when we pulled into our campground sweaty and tired, Max kissed me and thanked me for bringing them to the best place on earth. Yes, that is a quote.
Train your kids for long car rides. I know that they drive you nuts when you drive to Auntie’s house 2 hours away. But if you do long car rides often enough, they really will pull through for you. Our boys have gotten carsick one too many times, so we have stopped using the DVD player. That means we travel up to eight hours a day with nothing but our goodwill and creativity to guide us. Here it is, people: food, music, game, nap. Repeat. God love my older boys for finally learning the alphabet. A whole new world of car games is at our fingertips.
Understand the value of the picnic lunch. Do not, under any circumstances, force your children to sit in a restaurant and eat after sitting in a car for hours. We have worked on this for years, sometimes packing sandwiches for lunch and then stopping for dinner. I am proud to report that we just completed a two-day road trip from Jersey to South Carolina without purchasing a single item of food along the way. We could very literally feel the difference.
Avoid the rest stops. Embrace the visitor centers. Do a bit of research ahead of time to find the visitor centers on your route. Get your gas somewhere else, then stop and let the kids run or kick a ball while you take a bathroom break (in the RV, thank you very much!) and eat your homemade sandwiches. I will say that Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee have centers that pretty much kick butt. I’m talking rocking chairs and sprawling lawns. But it’s not just a southern thing…you can find them all over.
Make sure there is a payoff. At the end of the day, magic. That’s our rule. We try hard not to break it.