Every summer, I take the kids and drive two days to visit my parents for a week. We do this without my husband since vacation time is at a premium in the summertime for his job. Every year, I have people who shudder and ask how I do it. I've been blessed with two very good travelers but I do have a few tips and hints that I will share.
Before the trip:
~Get your car ready. I always take it into the dealer for a tire rotation and an oil change. While I am there, I tell the mechanic that I am leaving on a twelve hundred mile road trip without my husband and to please let me know if there is anything I need to be aware of. The wonderful mechanics at our dealership always take a little longer to go over my car and make sure things are working well.
~Pack several bags. I have our big bag with all of our clothes that I take on the trip. I also have a smaller duffel bag that I pack for the hotel during the trip. I don't want to have to unload the car at the hotel and reload it the next morning, all for a change of clothes. When we get to the hotel, I pull out my duffel bag and we're set for the night.
~I give each of the kids their own bag to pack. This bag sits at their feet and is filled with their things they want for the trip. They pack books, games, headphones and iPods themselves. They are responsible for it. I also make them pack their own charger and they are responsible for charging their devices at night.
~Toss a case of bottled water into the car. This saves us a TON of money. The kids drink it during the trip and we don't end up buying drinks at gas stations. We also do a lot of hiking and outdoorsey things while we are gone and having a disposable water bottle saves me a lot of heartache. It's not as cost effective as it could be if we used washable water bottles but it's definitely not as big of a deal if/when one is lost.
~ Make hotel reservations. Join a point club, if you aren't already a member. We are Hilton Honors members for when we travel without the dog and Comfort Inn members for when we do.
Packing for the trip:
~As stated, I pack a duffel for the hotel and a big bag for our trip.
~Pack enough. Idaho has the ability to experience all four seasons in one day so I have to bring a variety of clothing! I make sure to have at least one sweatshirt and pair of jeans per person so I don't end up buying something if they're too cold.
~Load your car the night before. I have a small tote bag with my "everyday" stuff. I use it the morning of my trip to get ready so I just toss everything in there and throw it in the back of the car the morning of. Everything else is packed. The Everyday Stuff Bag also goes into the hotel room. It has my contacts, curling iron, make up, shampoo, conditioner, hair brushes, deodorant and a few other odds and ends. I also put everyone's toothbrushes in there.
~Pack a place for dirty clothes. I bring a hamper that folds flat because it grosses me out to put dirty clothes with clean ones. A bag would work, too. . .
~Pack shoes in a separate duffel.
During the trip:
~Fill up with gas the night before you leave. It sucks to stop before you start!
~Make a plan for fuel and food. Since it's just me and the kids, I will pull into a gas station and I will fill up. We then hit a drive thru for lunch and stop at the next rest area down the road to pee. I don't like having the kids wandering around a gas station waiting for the bathroom. I don't travel at night and, where we travel, the rest stations are well used so I feel safe enough.
~Pack for your drive. Are you a good driver? Do you get tired? I have a little box that I have sunglasses, wipes, water, tea, my cell phone, my iPod, sunflower seeds, empty cups and kleenex and it travels right next to me. I chew on sunflower seeds and straws when I am bored (I know. . . ) and I sing along to my iPod (which is why the kids have headphones). It keeps me awake and alert. I also walk when we stop at the rest areas.
~Check In. Make sure someone is expecting a phone call from you when you stop for the night and when you get there. It's a safety thing.
You are there! You've had a fantastic vacation. . . . now what?
The return trip:
~Wash laundry or not? I pack for five days and plan on washing mid-stay. Dirty clothes are tossed into the hamper I've brought with us. Mid trip, I wash clothes and put them back into the suitcase. At that time, I also set out two outfits. . . one to pack into the Hotel Duffel and one to have for the first day on the road. We wear the rest of the clothes during the rest of our vacation. The night before we leave, I toss everything (dirty or not) into the suitcase and load it into the car. The Hotel Duffel is already packed and the outfit for the next day is laid out.
~Restock your box. I always make sure to have enough tea and sunflower seeds.
~Make your reservations!
~Gas up the night before you leave.
A few tips:
1. Pack a power strip. The hotels usually have only one or two accessible outlets. The kids fight over the remaining ones after I plug in my iPod and my phone. We fixed this by bringing a power strip with us.
2. Pack a pillow and a small blanket for everyone. This means I can blast the AC and no one cares. . . they're cuddled up in the backseat!
3. Pack a few washcloths and hand towels. Also pack baby wipes and Clorox wipes. Things will spill. If you give the kids the means to take care of their mess, they will. You won't have to pull over.
4. Stop when you are tired. Walk a bit. Wake up. Stop for the night if you have to.
5. Stay at hotels with indoor pools. You are exhausted. Your kids are wired. Toss them in the pool and lounge in a chair by the edge. I will usually dangle my legs in the hot pool while the kids are playing in the regular pool.
6. At the hotel, insist that everyone bring their headphones into the room. I turn off my light and go to sleep early when I've been traveling but the kids aren't tired. I let them lay in bed and play their iPods with their headphones. It's a special treat and it doesn't keep me awake. They are tired in the morning but they're not driving!
I'm sure there are a ton more tips and tricks people use when traveling. I'd love to hear them!