You would think that as your kids get older, it requires less prep to go away with them.
Everyone says that to me. “You’re going away? 15 hour trip? How old are your kids?”
“8, 10, 12, 12, 15.”
“Oh, well that’s good. They pretty much fend for themselves then. They can pack their stuff and entertain themselves.”
Totally. You got it. I can pretty much sit back the night before we leave and do nothing.
My kids must be really behind in life skills, because I know half of them would pack lots of stuffies and no underwear. One would have lots of underwear, and cutie tops (but limited “regular” clothes), and one would have one outfit for the 12 days. Luckily one would have absolutely everything and remind everyone else to bring everything too. So maybe it would be ok.
Just in case it wouldn’t, here are my pre-trip tips:
Make a list of what to take for each child.
Then, hand them the list and ask them to bring the items on the list to a common area. (For the younger guys, I do this with them). I then put everything in the suitcase as they check off everything on the list.
Make other lists of “common things” to take and have them bring the items to you as well so they can be packed and checked off.
Basically, make lists.
Load up on lots of snacks to feed the hungry crew every hour or so. Best to not let them get hungry at all, because hungry kids mean grumpy kids. Hungry Mama, means grumpy Mama too. And Hungry Daddy means falling asleep, driving off the road Daddy.
Let me just say you are also best to find yourself a stellar car packer and driver too. Someone who calmly packs all the suitcases in the truck, without complaining you have too much. Someone who seems to be able to squeeze everything in, despite you adding more to the pile at the last minute. Someone who does not freak out when the roof rack key breaks in the lock, which means he has to stop packing to find some ingenious solution. Then, someone who happily does all the driving as he understands that you spend way too many hours driving for work, so lets you nod off and sleep as much as possible. Hard to find, but if you do, don’t let him go.
Tips when on the Road:
1. Leave really early so that the kids sleep for the first couple of hours while the sun comes up.
2. Bring breakfast and lunch. Pick things that are a little bit out of the ordinary (not their typical breakfast): breakfast burritos (easy to make ahead and freeze), cereal bars, bagels with cheese. For lunch we had Spanekopita (greek phyllo pastry filled with spinach and cheese or ones just with cheese).
3. Pack water bottles for all. Are you seeing the theme? Bring it all with you to avoid stopping.
4. Pack a ton of snacks: granola bars, chips, roasted seaweed (seriously, my kids love the stuff), dried fruit, cookies. A variety of sweet and salty. Try to throw some healthy in there – but not too healthy, part of the fun of a road trip is the snacks!
5. Play a trivia game. This was the biggest hit – and we passed several hours doing it. Super fun. I made a bunch of categories: FAMILY (questions about our family and extended family), MOVIES/SHOWS (only ones we have watched together), TRAVEL (all about our past vacations, and our future plans), CHURCH (all about things they have learned at church, things we have talked about during our family nights, things about friends at church), EVERYDAY LIFE (things about our meals, recipes, schedules, sports we play, activities we do, neighbourhood, schooling), GENERAL KNOWLEDGE (I cheated and had a book for this one: flags, geography, human body, animals, math, history etc).
Every kid gets to pick a category, and then answer a question. If they get it right, they get one of these:
If it’s wrong, then it is open for others to say the answer.
6. Word train: Start with one word and the next person has to say a related word. Amazing how our minds think – especially with a bunch of boys!
7. Bring lots of funny movies for them to watch. (Be careful though because the funny could turn to sad and then one kid will claim they hate the movie and stop watching it at the sad part. Especially if this movie was “Marley and Me” and this particular kid is missing our new little puppy tremendously.)
8. Bring the first season of some of their favourite shows. This year, I brought Modern Family. We watch it often, but have never seen the first season.
9. Bring seasons of old shows. Be careful, they may make fun of you for having liked these shows! We have been through some Happy Days, Brady Bunch, Get Smart, and Gilligan’s Island. This time, I brought Magnum PI, and Friends. The kids got a kick out of the what the characters of Friends looked like and asked “Were you the same age as the characters when the show came out?” Sadly, I pretty much was. “Figured”, was the response. Not sure what that means, but I left it at that. I also brought Friday Night Lights – which was not a big show at home so it’s really new for us.
10. Make a playlist that your kids hate and play it over and over again. They will either join in and sing to the crazy songs they hate, or put their own earphones on and leave you alone.
Of course, you need to stop for a few minutes here or there – but seriously, hold your pee. You can do it. Train yourself. We are only stopping a couple of times.