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Vacations with kids are not vacations. They are adventures and so long as you treat them as such? You will have the time of your live(s).
We drove 1374 miles over the course of two weeks. Here are eight tips we picked up along the way.
1. Any accommodation that includes the word "suites" is your new best friend.
OK, so maybe this is common knowledge for large families (and small families) but when the word "suite" appears in the name of a hotel/motel/Holiday Inn, it means "sleep six comfortably," as in "two full beds and a couch that folds out." (Ex: Embassy Suites and Comfort Suites are our jam, we now know.)
We didn't know this until this past week when we put two and two together that, OH THIS IS WHY THEY ARE CALLED SUITES! Game-changer for a family of six, for sure. (Every other night, we slept three to a full-sized bed, which was ... cozy.)
2. Backpacks are the new purses.
I brought a purse with me that I used zero times on this trip. Instead, I carried large backpacks full of changes of clothes, snacks, 7,897,987 water bottles, crayons and paper, figurines/dolls/toys to play with while waiting for food, sunscreen, a first-aid kit, bug repellent, etc., etc., infinity.
If you're in the market for a backpack, I have become a bit of a backpack collector this past year. Here are a few of my favorite backpack brands:
1. Krochet Kids: The Brooklyn — I have this backpack in black and white and wear it almost every day and get 7,897,987 compliments on it.
3. Sprayground — Hal and I both carry Sprayground backpacks as our laptop bags. I have this one and Hal has this one. Both out of stock. They are THE BEST laptop bags and have 78,789 padded pockets. If you're in Los Angeles, they sell the best prints at Sportie LA, which is where I bought our packs.
4. Brixton MFG Co. — I recently picked up the biggest baddest backpack EVER on super summer blowout sale for $20 at Univ in Encinitas. I don't know why it has two stars on Amazon because IT IS PERFECT. I wore it daily on our trip, filled it to the brim with stuff and never had a backache. Sure, it's huge, but when you're traveling with four kids, YOU NEED HUGE.
3. If you're going to drive more than 4 hours at a time, make sure "run around a park in circles for two hours" is part of your itinerary.
We drove almost 1500 miles during our two-week trip and many of our miles were driven on long stretches. Two of our days included 5-6 hour drives. Toyota hooked us up with a Sienna for the trip and that Sienna played DVDs so we brought a few DVDs for the long drives. (I am usually very anti screens in cars but this was HUGELY helpful for the long stretches of driving ... and so I am no longer very anti-screens in cars. Not on road trips, anyway.) With four small bladders in the car, we did a LOT of gas station bathroom stops and a handful of park pit stops. Cooping four kids up in a car all day is cruel and unusual punishment for kids AND parents so be sure to plan for LOTS of pit stops for pee and play.
4. Do not pack anything you are not willing to lose.
We had several casualties on this trip, including my beloved face wash, 78,978 hair barrettes, a pair of shoes and Archer's (brand-new) hat. This is pretty good, considering how many of us there are and how many places we went. We actually did SIX states in two weeks. And stayed in NINE different motels/houses/B&Bs along the way. That is A LOT of losing-and-leaving-things potential. We all lost our minds a little, too. And that's OK.
5. Bring more underwear and socks than you think you need.
The only thing you don't want to run out of, while on the road? Clean underwear. I put my kids in dirty dresses and shorts several times on this trip, after running out of clean clothes. But underwear? I draw the line at underwear. And socks. We had many spills that resulted in pant/underwear changes. I packed enough underwear so that every child had two pairs per day. A stroke of genius, that was. A stroke of pure genius.
I gained a great many pounds on this trip and I have more pimples on my face than I did in high school. I also ate lobster. Like, a lot of lobster. And also a lot of french fries. We all ate TONS of french fries. And lobster. And the kids ate ice cream almost every day. The kids also ate Fruit Loops for the first time, thanks to a motel breakfast buffet and me giving in because, "Please! I've always wanted to try them! PLEASE MOM PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!" NEVER AGAIN. Bo's poop was green for THREE days and she had a physical reaction unlike anything I have ever seen. Is it possible to OD on dye? Because in Archer's words, "I feel like Bo is drunk."
She was. Slurring her words, unable to walk without falling and bursting into fits of laughter—the whole nine. Fruit Loops are the fucking DEVIL. (Note: She was the only one with green poop and a reaction to the dye. I am still putting Fruit Loops on the OH HELL NO list.)
Ice cream, on the other hand ... I couldn't deprive one child without depriving all of my children and I didn't want to do that. We were on vacation, so I chose to let it go. We had ice cream almost every night and while it made for more challenging evenings, that was that.
7. You will get zero work done even though you are certain you will find the time. (You will not find the time.)
I had big plans to post new content throughout the trip, assuming there would be plenty of time at night when the kids were sleeping to squeeze some work time in. HA! Ha ha ha ha, oh you, ha. We all six shared a room, so bedtime for one was bedtime for all. We usually hit the hay between 11 pm and midnight. Not because we wanted to but because that's just how it worked out. We stayed out until 9. Got back to the room around 9:30. Bathed, showered and said, "SHHHH! Bedtime, you guys!" for an hour until everyone finally fell asleep. We basically stayed on PST time our entire trip. Sleeping in until 9 am almost every morning.
I brought my computer along but only opened it once while in Warwick, to get one last post up and then schedule reposts for the next week and a half. Other than that it sat unused for two entire weeks, which was a record for me, I think. This whole trip was full of records, really. This was the longest trip we had ever taken as a family ever. Two weeks, door to door.
8. Take it sloooooowwwwwwww.
Traveling with kids can be excruciating if you don't chill the fuck out and let it ride, so do yourself (and your kids) a favor and take it slow. If you have plans to get from New York to Maine in one day, for example, change that plan. Be open to disasters and pitfalls and flat tires. Think of every meltdown and accident as something you will laugh at later. You will be late. You will have to pull over every other exit. You will have pee on your shoes from roadside bush-peeing sessions. It's all good. The art of family travel is SLOWING DOWN. I had to remind myself of this often because I tend to be a little too gung-ho when traveling and I want to SEE ALL THE THINGS WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU'RE NOT LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW AT THIS BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF A BRIDGE!
Life is long. So is the open road. Give in, let go, take it easy. Life is a highway, etc.
What about you guys? Anything you'd like to add to the Family Road Trip Manual?