Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls. – Erin Kenny
West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The kids and I were very much looking forward to exploring the great outdoors. This would be our third road trip together and three new states! “Road trip summer 2022, let’s do this!!”
The kids, now 13 and 12, and I have made our way through over 30 states now, by way of planes, trains, buses, and of course, some very lengthy road trips. We love our road trips! Each and every time, we all learn a little bit more about what works, and what does not work, for our family. This time, the weather really put us to the test.
“Removing the walls” became challenging when lightning and heavy rainstorms (to the point of flooding) were present for the majority of our trip. We made the most of it for sure, but it was not the trip we planned for.
After covering 1,600+ miles in 8 days, over 26 hours of drive time, I couldn’t help but think about all the things I wanted to share with families venturing out on road trips. So here it is. My advice to you.
Get organized! I have each child pack their own school-sized backpack full of things to do. This is their responsibility! Reading, games , journaling, tech, etc. Anything to help the driver stay sane. This also helps keep the vehicle tidy as they are also in charge of keeping their things in their bag. A pillow and a small blanket come in handy as well for each of the kids. They can get all cozy and read and then sleep. Ahhhh….
Download movies, games, and podcasts before leaving the house. My daughter would have been lost without the ability to binge Stanger Things. Mind games, 2 player games, tv series, documentaries, you name it, download it. I had a few podcasts that I was able to enjoy while the kids had their headphones on. This obviously helped the time pass quicker and was part of my enjoyment as I drove.
As the driver, I have a container for myself in the front seat. This is mainly snacky stuff for me, but also the sugary treats I do not want the kids devouring at their own wish as I drive. The point is, keep all things easily accessible that you will want as you drive. Napkins, extra water bottles, etc.
Cooler for the win! Not only does this help while on the road, it helps while in the room. I use a medium size cooler so that it doesn’t take up too much space, but holds plenty of options. Once in the room, set it in the shower, drain the water, and add fresh ice from the ice machine in the hotel. We always have our favorite snacks on hand and always have a place for leftovers. I love having a cooler on these trips!
Extra tip for ya: stock up on silverware, napkins and condiments. This helps with things like pb&j’s in the room, yogurt, leftovers, etc. I have all these to-go items in a large ziplock bag. Again, it really is all about being organized.
Non-tech mind activities. My daughter is not a huge fan of reading. In place of this, I take word find books, crossword puzzles, and other options that keep her mind active. Depending on the age of your children, there are endless options. Coloring, sticker books, and so much more.
Pack games. We always travel with games, regardless of transportation mode. Bananagrams, cards, and Yahtzee (leaving the box at home to save room). We play in the lobby of hotels often just to get out of the room. If you are traveling by plane, these are great if there are delays.
Pick out fun stops along the way. My son is obsessed with sports cards. He was in charge of mapping out stores along the way that were no more than 10 minutes out of the way. This is just one example of how you can get your children involved in the trip and also break up the drive all while making it fun.
Select locations that have things to do when the weather ruins your plans. Thank goodness we were able to find things to do while the storms passed through. If we did not have these options, it would have been a nightmare. Trust me. We found ourselves on edge more than usual due to the weather wrecking our plans. We were able to find arcades, indoor putt putt, and bowling. Other ideas are movie theaters and making sure your hotel has a good pool and hot tub. Strategic destination planning!
Allow for tech time and movies in the room. We do these things at home, allow them on vaca as well. I think as parents we want our vacations to be packed full of new and exciting things, forgetting that we need time to recharge, zone out, and “just be.”
Splurge at the end. YOU deserve it! I was so fortunate to have booked the Gaylord Resort in Nashville at the end of our trip. We didn’t get to use the outdoor waterpark the whole time due to storms, but we sure got to play hard, eat good, and ultimately find some space from one another. There was so much to do! This property had an indoor and outdoor waterpark, regular pools and hot tubs, arcades, shopping, restaurants, live music, and room to run, jump, and be a kid. Phew! Momma was soooo happy to sit my butt in a chair, poolside, while the kids played in the wave pool and endless waterslides. (They even got me to join them a few times ) This was perfect before we hit the road home back to Michigan.
Being together, nonstop for 8 days in a vehicle and hotel rooms can sure create a lot of stress. We need our own space and downtime. This trip was a fluorescent reminder of that. It was our most testing trip yet (due to the storms and close quarters), but we managed. I hope that these tips help you on your next big adventure!
For more travel tips and inspiration follow me on FB and Instagram at Faraway Places Travel and @singlemotheradventures, #wintersfamily50stateadventures