I've taken three separate 10+ hour road trips in the last three months. These trips were really stellar and a ton of fun. I would definitely take them again. But they were also learning experiences, and so I just thought I would share some tips for the crazy parents like me
who think it's a good idea to load up some wee ones and hit the road.
First, and most importantly, reconsider. No, seriously. Take it from me. Can you break up the trip at all? Stay overnight at the halfway point? Just find a distant cousin on facebook and invite yourself over. Perhaps if you show up with a nice host gift, they'll forgive you for exploding into their house for a night.
Second, pack snacks. And I don't just mean throw some pretzels in your car. I'm talking pretzels, saltines, goldfish crackers, pancakes, raisins, dried apricots, dried prunes, dried bananas, fruit leather, milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, juice boxes, grilled cheese sandwiches, ham sandwiches, PB and J sandwiches, nutella sandwiches ... get the picture? I usually divide up snacks into individual baggies or containers before leaving the house and put everything in one giant bag that I keep within arm's reach (mine, not the kids'). And I don't put a ton in a baggie ... a few pretzels can be enough to distract a cranky three year old for a good 5 minutes, until you can find the gas station or restaurant at the next exit. Which leads me to my next point ...
Third, try to combine stops. By this I mean, don't assume that you'll just have a quick go-in-and-potty stop. Quick things don't happen with young kids. If you can mentally prepare yourself for doing a lot of things at one stop, you might actually be able to save some time. For example, if you can get gas, have a bathroom break, walk the dog (who's been stuck in between your screaming kids), and grab a bite to eat all in the same general area, you may actually be able to do all of those things more efficiently than if you tried to do each of them individually.
Fourth, prepare yourself for reality. I probably should insert a "haha!" here, but I can't. Kids will throw up. Babies will cry. Traffic will stop. Gas lights will come on. Weather will happen. A 6 hour drive will be 9 hours with kids (or a 9 hour drive will be 15). Whatever it is, just try to think through the worst case scenario (stuck on the interstate for hours?) and plan accordingly (bring a thermos of something warm and a sleeping bag). If all else fails, buy some good ear plugs.
Fifth and finally, try to think through your departure and arrival. What time of day will you be leaving? Will your kids be awake or asleep when you're loading up the car? Will they need a meal right away, or can they wait? And what's on the other end of your trip - a hotel or a home? Will food be ready? Is there a space that the kids can be released from their bonds and allowed to run amok? Will there be people to help you unload? Pick up a pizza on the way in if you have to, or take the kids straight to a playground (or fast food playscape, if it's wintertime). Departures and arrivals won't be like they used to be when it was just you and your sweetheart. Prepare yourself.
Here's the moral of the story: we do big things with our kids, not because it is easy to do them, but because it's important.
What about you? Any tips? Experiences to share? Warnings for the road?