By the time you read this, I will be gone. On a roadtrip, that is. In lieu of the giant we typically throw for our son, we decided as a family to take a road trip instead. We are heading out to Great Wolf Lodge down in Grand Mound, WA. Granted, Great Wolf is only a mere 2 hours away from Seattle, but whether you are going 2 or 20 hours away, it's still the same amount of pre-planning, packing and stress.
Below are my top tips for traveling with kids.
Car supplies. It is positively shocking to see just how filthy and sticky kids can get simply sitting in their carseats. They also produce an amazing amount of litter. To prevent your car from looking like an episode of Hoarders: Car Edition, pack plenty of baby wipes and zip-top bags. Also pack extra towels. Even if you plan on not swimming, a towel can be used to sit on the ground, the protect your rears from sketchy sofas at the hotel or even act as an extra blanket or pillow for chilly nights.
Pack Healthy. Go beyond beef jerky and Mountain Dew for road trip grub. Let's face it, chances are you will be eating out most nights at restaurants full of sugar, salt and fat. One thing that parents can control is car food and breakfast. Freeze some water bottles. They make great additions to the backseat cooler so you can pack healthier options and make your own sandwiches. Let them eat breakfast or lunch in the car to give them an added activity while you speed down the roadway. And for the love of all that you cherish, please don't pack loose cereal. Unless you want to spend hours vacuuming them out upon your return home.
Make a music mix. I'm going to be trying my best to not hear "Call Me Maybe" 18 times in a row. To combat the music fight (and let me be clear I'll be placing this restriction on my husband's 70's Funk Mix as well) we create a me-you-you music rotation. It's a fun activity to mitigate the pre-trip jitters, too. Of course, you won't see one eyebrow raised from me if you hand them an iPad and some headphones so you can listen to NPR with your spouse in peace.
"Are we there yet?!?" Ugh. Last year, we did the 5+ hour drive to Whistler. About every 1/2 hour, we heard that dreaded phrase. Honestly, I thought it was a cliche. No kid really whines, "Are we thhhherrrreee yet?" from the back seat, right? Wrong. This time, we're packing another GPS unit so he can figure it all out on his own. We are also packing "The Bowl Game", which is basically a bunch of slips of paper in a zip-top bag. Write down movie titles, characters, sports, people you know, animals, tools...pretty much anything your child could guess, and take turns grabbing 10 slips at a time per person to describe to the others in the car. The correct guesser gets the slip (even the driver can play) and whomever has the most slips gets to pick the dinner option/dessert choice/gets a small prize, etc.
Forget pre-packing. I just use a pack list and pack the day we are leaving. I refuse to drive myself to distraction overthinking the whole trip, so if something comes to mind, I just jot it on my phone and add it to my pack list when I have downtime. Pack lists are very helpful when leaving your destination to make certain you didn't forget anything!
And remember, the beauty of the return trip is you can toss all your dirty clothes in the bag, toss the 1/2 eaten bags of chips in the trash and high-tail it back to the comforts of home.