Things have been quiet around the Little Kids Big City blog. Here's why: the Husband and I decided to drive to Texas this year for a family reunion.
Although I do have several family members still living in Texas, the rest are spread out in different states. As a result, we don't all get together very often. We try to get together every few years. I want my girls to know their Whitley relatives as more than just a source of presents in the mail at Christmas and birthdays.
In the past, we've always flown to Texas for these semi-annual family get-togethers but this year, I thought, it might be fun to drive it. I have fond memories of long car trips with my family as a child. I know that's mostly nostalgia, since I also remember HATING being stuck in the car with my family for weeks on end. My brothers and I love to tell the story about how my parents crammed all six of us (blended family) into a 1972 Volkswagen Bus with no A/C. The parents smoked like chimneys all the way to Texas and there was no such thing as portable DVD players. We slept in tents, did not eat in restaurants and were not allowed to stop until my father decided it was time to stop. Fun times, yo.
Our car trip provided no such tales of woe for the children.
Here's what we did to stay sane and even enjoy ourselves a bit (your mileage may vary):
1) We rented a minvan. Our car is great for getting me and the kids around town, but it's 15 years old and does not have a third row of seats. Actually, it does have a third row but they face the back window. If you pop up the third row then you eliminate your storage space. And did I mention we took Grammy with us on this trip? We needed a third row so there would be space for everyone, our luggage, and the numerous bags of snacks I brought. The real reason for the minivan? Keeping the two children out of striking distance from each other is essential! One bonus to the minivan was the Sirius Satellite radio. I really enjoyed that! Also, the minivan had A/C and no smoking parents so it was quite a comfortable ride.
2) Numerous bags of snacks. I went to Trader Joe's and bought a ridiculous amount of snacks. Most of it was healthy but I did throw in some cookies and chocolate-covered granola bars. I tried to stop and buy fresh fruit and snack-sized vegetables like baby carrots and sugar snap peas as often as possible. But mostly the kids ate snacks. It is really hard to eat healthy on a road trip so I tired to minimize the junk consumption. Also -- I knew we would mostly be eating at restaurants. I don't know about your kids but my kids hardly eat when we're at a restaurant. They're too excited, especially after being cooped up in a car for several hours. I hate ordering them a full meal and then hearing "I'm full" after one or two bites.
3) Bag of Tricks. A few days before we left, my mom and I went to Target and spent about $50 on small prizes like crayons, coloring books, lip gloss, little toys, sunglasses (see above), small-sized whiteboards, Mad-libs, markers, drawing paper, and MORE SNACKS. I even wrapped up a few toys from around the house that they hadn't played with in a while. We wrapped each of them in wrapping paper and kept them in the car in a paper bag. Every so often, I would pull out a present and let them unwrap it. Of course after only a few hours of this, I had to hear I WANT ANOTHER PRESENT but I managed to stretch them out all the way to Texas.
4) Stop early and often. When traveling with two small children and a Grammy you just have to stop frequently. We stopped at rest stops to use the bathroom or to just get out and run around. A few of them even had playgrounds! Although the equipment was burning hot, so the girls couldn't really play on it :( I was not above scoping out McDonald's Play Place either. Sometimes two juice boxes was all we bought. The important thing was giving the girls a chance to play and burn off some energy.
5) Did you notice that I didn't mention any electronic devices? Yup. That's right. We made it there and back with no electronic devices! Aislin (my 7-year-old) has a Leapster but we lost the stylus. I ordered a replacement and then that one got lost too! I refused to order another stylus so now it's basically useless. We didn't even bring the Leapster. We don't own a portable DVD player and I'm too cheap to buy one just for the trip. They did watch a few shows on the iPad and Kindle in the hotel room in the evenings (free wireless!) but other than that we just didn't have them.
6) Have a high tolerance for mess. The 7-year-old spent her time cutting things out of American Girl Magazine. The 3-year-old spent her time spreading lip gloss on herself, her car seat, her clothes, etc. Yes it was an unbelievable mess. Every night when we stopped, I scooped out the tiny paper bits and threw them away. I wiped down the car seat and everyone got a bath. The next day: lather, rinse, repeat.
7) Take the little blue roads. We could have driven the Interstate all the way to Texas. It would have been a lot faster if we had. But we decided to enjoy the journey as part of the whole experience and we had to stop a lot anyway. So we followed some little blue roads and saw some things we never would have seen otherwise. For example, our first stop was in Pontiac, Illinois -- a place I had never heard of much less been. There was some kind of vintage Pontiac Automobile rally going on so we got to see a whole line up of old-timey cars! We ate outside in a restaurant with a patio and the girls got to run around a little bit on the courthouse lawn.
8) Choose a hotel with free breakfast. The breakfast-included deal saved us a ton on food costs. The downside was that Holiday Inn Express serves Fruit Loops every morning! My girls were in sugar heaven! I indulged them two or three times, then insisted they eat something else.
9) Sigg Water Bottles. Instead of buying bottled water we brought our hand dandy Sigg water bottles and re-filled them. People at gas station convenience stores were surprisingly nice about letting us fill them up from the soda dispenser.
10) I don't have a Number Ten although it does make a nice rounded list, doesn't it?
When it's all said and done, I'm glad we took this trip. I don't think I'll sign up for it again until the three-year-old can read, though.
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