We have officially been on the road with our two kiddos-in-tow for 5 weeks.
We have traveled over 7000 miles.
We have visited 19 states.
We have become road warriors of the parental variety.
Perhaps we have lost our minds—but we have also learned SO much.
In order of least importance, here are my TOP 5:
ONE: Pack to Pitch
With all the consignment sales, Facebook selling groups and charities—there is no shortage of place to donate or sell your used clothing, but perhaps before you go on a long trip with the kiddos, the best thing to do is stock pile old duds to "pack and pitch"!
In our house, we call them "last time wears". For your little ones—think jammies on the verge of too small, onesies with a stain or seasonal dresses/outfits that definitely won't fit the next time around. For yourself—think tired sleepwear (you know what I mean), all panties older than 2 years (no way the elastic has survived!) and any t-shirts or sweaters that aren't in good enough shape to consign. This is a great time to wear and toss. It frees up space in your luggage and keeps laundry to a minimum.
If the items are still in decent condition, I suggest laying them neatly on the bed in your hotel room with a note to the cleaning staff. Perhaps someone else will find them useful.
TWO: Plan a Start-to-Finish Activity
As mamas, we are all very aware of the attention spans of our minis. It's often as tiny as they are. While there were not many items I could bring along to entertain our 4-month old, Schafer, other than my boobs, planning ahead for our 4-year old, Olive proved to be very helpful. Specifically speaking, packing activities for her to "work" on for the entire duration of the trip made for one content little girl.
For starters, we gave her a Fuji Film Instax Mini to document every stop of the trip. Not only did it allow her to curate a collection of memories from her perspective, but it kept her involved and engaged en route to each stop. Rather than hearing, "Are we there yet?" over and over, we were able to chat with her about what we will see and what she should plan to photograph. Limiting her to 1-2 pics per stop also kept it special and exciting. Beyond the time of taking them, the images themselves kept her entertained in the hotel rooms as sorting them over and over was half the fun!
Additionally, I packed several car bingo style games to keep track of license plates seen, states visited and other chartable events.
Though flash in the pan crafts and activities are also important for a road trip, a bit of preparation can go a long way. The basic idea is to bring along things to entertain them that double as rewards and last the entire trip.
THREE: Choose Your Hotel Rooms Wisely
In the past 5 weeks, we have stayed in 17 different hotels—from inns to well-known chains to hot-spot boutiques. The thing that consistently matters most is space.
Space is paramount.
Even when you pack like a pro, kiddos (in particular babies) still require a bunch of STUFF!
For every ounce of cuteness that a boutique hotel can bring, it's trumped by a clear path to walk between the luggage and the "junk". A lack of square footage often equates to extreme frustration while trying to find ANYTHING. When you've got a blowout on your hands, the last thing you need is a 10 minute search for a fresh onesie.
Perhaps the Marriott Residence Inn doesn't seem as cool as the newly renovated 11 Howard Hotel in downtown Manhattan, but having 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and a full kitchen feels pretty rad to me.
My tip: save the boutique hotels for a getaway sans kids. In other words, Go Big or Stay Home!
FOUR: If You're Flexible, They're Flexible
Transition can be tough for little ones. And in the privacy of our own homes, I think it's often easier to cave into their "demands" than to force the transition.
Since we've been on the road, I have realized that we don't always have the "5 more minutes" that I dole out to Olive to avoid tears before bath time and then again when it's time to get out.
(What is with that BTW? Hard to get in. Harder to get out!)
It's goes beyond a simple lack of time or routine though. We are not traveling with the plethora of toys to which she has become accustomed or the specific food/snacks that she prefers. She has been plucked from her playroom where everything is just as she likes it.
And guess what? She makes do. She's more creative. She's more willing to try different foods. She's more interested in her surroundings. She's more go with the flow. And...it's fantastic!
While it's harder to tell for sure with our 4-month old son, his smiley demeanor and ability to readily go to "strangers" (at least to him) is nothing short of a miracle to us. He is one of the happiest babies I have ever been around. It could be luck of course, but I have to wonder if the lack of a rigid schedule has helped contribute to his laid back "babytude".
FIVE: Do It While You Still Can
In just a little over a year, Olive will start Kindergarten. When she does, we will be slaves to the schedule—owned by the school system. Right now, we have the freedom and the flexibility to live the life we want to live. We are owning that freedom. We may be tired (okay...exhausted is more like it) but I know that we will never regret this time we've had together as a family.
In the not so distant future, mommy will become mom—daddy will become dad. Diapers, Pull-ups, Bumbos and Pack & Plays will be a thing of the past and we will long for the days when they needed us for everything.
If you have the ability to take off on the open road with your entire family, I say GO FOR IT! We have had so much fun. In fact, we are already planning another trip for the summer!
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