When Ken and I sat down and imagined what 4,000 miles of the majesty of Canada via the Trans Canada Highway would be like, rose-colored glasses played a significant role.
We made up road songs and games in our head that kept us all laughing and bonding from sea to sea. Planned stops made for magnificent memories. Never in our heads was there room for no bathrooms for 250K or a town where every hotel was booked.
And, honestly, that was OK. We pretty much winged it the whole way – learning as we went, occasionally lamenting something deemed unnecessary early on, discovering lots of amazing things about us and the kids and Canada through it all.
We did, though, undergo a rather profound schooling in the land of traveling with kids. Don’t do what we did, even on a short road trip to Kelowna. You’ll find it all much more peaceful that way:) Here are ten things I learned locked in the car with two kids and a husband for two weeks:
10. Never underestimate the value of electronics. I had a massive aversion to even the mere thought of Mhari’s face staring at a DS for 10 days and refused to give in. Ken, in all of his wisdom, traded the video games for TV shows that he downloaded to the IPad. Think your kids won’t watch the same 10 episodes of Dora or Martha Speaks over and over again? Think again. Those 20 episodes saved all of our lives, stopped small children from busting everyone’s eardrums, served as an excellent detour in the middle of the endless nothingness that marked several days of driving and allowed for at least an hour or two of silence. Bring movies or tv or something. Your sanity will appreciate your magical gift.
9. Best tip of the trip: Every time you stop, throw something away. Our truck is still piled high with stickers, food wrappers, used (and unused) napkins, things torn out of books. I even found half a sandwich in there this morning…and we actually followed the throw it away rule. Imagine what it would have been like had I not cleaned out everything I could see at every fill-up. I also tried to clean the truck out every morning before we hit the road. Obviously, a few sandwiches were hiding out.
8. Stickers and drawing pads. I can’t explain it. Everything else failed the keep-their-attention test. Stickers in particular were the freaking bomb. Of course, they left the back of the truck a big sticker bomb. But, by Day 4 in the car I could have cared less what the back looked like as long as no one was screaming.
7. Biggest don’t: Noise-making books. Kill them. Kill them now. You will end up hiding them deep in the depths of the laundry in order to ensure they never reveal themselves again pretty much after the first day.
6. Serious reality check: Road food=crappy food, which you will at some point need to concede to at least a little. We tried like heck to get lots of good food into the kids. Lunch always meant a stop at a grocery store for fresh fruit, deli meats, good cheese, veggies. But, the kids also needed something fun to eat or look forward to eating along the way. We went for the occasional box of Timbits and these really disgusting Dora and Scooby Doo fruit snacks that the kids loved and I knew we’d have to detox from after the trip. SO worth it.
5. On that note, snack prep is key. Every morning I filled up the water bottles, got the fishy crackers, cut grapes and other goodies ready to go for the next few hours. It meant lots of peace and happiness…and no one asked for the crap until mid-afternoon, which is witching hour in our house anyway.
4. If you think you are going to do laundry on the road, think again. Make excellent use of the laundry bag each hotel provides in your room every night, and make sure you have room in the back of your vehicle for them. A healthy supply of underwear and socks are key to have BEFORE the trip begins.
3. However many hours you plan to drive every day, add four more. Dinner – an hour. Bathroom breaks – 20 minutes. Coffee stops – 15 minutes. Kids screaming faces off so you drop them at the park – 45 minutes. It all adds up, and makes a massive dent in travel plans. Taking a casual attitude toward making time makes for a much happier trip. Stickler for the schedule? You are, well, sooooo not going to be a nice person by Day 2.
2. Think Familiarity. Ken and I personally really aren’t huge fans of Boston Pizza. The kids, on the other hand, love it – particularly Quinn. We had hoped to have a more eclectic trip in terms of food. Instead, it was BP bugs and cheese almost every night because our kid who needs structure and routine refused to eat anything other than that. Finding the BP when it came down to chow time also meant the kids knew what they were getting and could ease down a bit. In the midst of massive change, something familiar proved very, very good. Thanks Boston Pizza.
1. Have a trip chronicler. You may think you’ll remember everything. But, the exhaustion and craziness of massive road trip leaves the memory a bit glitchy. Assign someone to be the photographer, the storyteller, the collector of memory-making items. Blog, Facebook, do it the old-fashioned way and write it down on paper. It’s so worth it. We’re all pretty darn giddy about the blog entries, nearly 500 photos and more that told the story of our epic journey. We wouldn’t have remembered a stinking thing otherwise.:)