In the time that C and I have had children Logan has flown nearly twenty times – Eli only twice. We have done road trips together – from six to twenty-three hours. We have traveled through fourteen states – and more than half have been without my husband at some point in time.
Traveling with small children (currently three and one) is beyond stressful just to think about. Or at least it used to be. We’ve got it done now. We’re in the zone. And, unlike my husband, I would now much rather drive than fly. Yes, even between Colorado and Louisiana. I still vote for the drive. It’s cheaper, it’s easier to transport all the kid gear that must go wherever we go. And it allows us to easily travel the three hours between C’s family in Mississippi and mine in New Orleans.
That car ride (from CO to LA) is twenty-three hours, only partly interstate (depending on which way you go), through Texas (I hate Texas), has a couple hours at a time with no real place to stop, and is through the most common areas for tornados.
And still I would rather drive.
And I’m terrified of Tornadoes. I’m a gulf coast girl. I do hurricanes. You can get out the way of a hurricane.
Anyhow, I will travel by myself with the kiddos if the drive is ten hours or less. That’s the longest I’ve done. From Kentucky to New Orleans is my longest solo. Anything over that is when I have to swallow my pride, think about the safest and least stressful way to travel with my precious cargo and have a friend or family member to help with the drive. I’ll tell you how I do it – and I do it the same either way – and I hope you will share your own experience in the comments at the end!
As a military spouse at some point you are going to travel without your spouse – and doing so with kiddos can be scary to think about. But I for one am a big believer in seeking the support you need most during a deployment and sometimes you need to travel to find the ones that make you laugh most, or need support too and you aren’t stationed together anymore. Our friends leave for other duty stations, we leave for other duty stations. Traveling is part of our life. So get prepared, put your big girl … well, you know. Deal with it!
It takes about a week to prepare for a significant road trip with my kiddos. The prep may be the most important part for a successful trip (isn’t it in everything?) so I need to give myself ample time to reduce stress. No matter what – I save the last day for the last minute things I forget and for sleep. Going on the road with any amount of kids requires me to be well-rested.
FIRST – because they aren’t what you often think about for a road trip (but we are military wives’ after all!) Copies of orders – to a duty station and for a deployment – POA’s (a must, must, must, must, must!), copy of your children’s birth certificates, proof of DEERS/Tricare, etc. Whatever you need in case of an emergency at home, you still need while traveling. I keep all of this in one binder that I pretty much consider my life binder. I also put a note in my glove box stating that My husband is deployed, his unit and rear-d contact, my current address, where I am travelling to/from, and phone numbers of who to contact in case of an accident or situation where I am unable to communicate. I know that may be crazy to think about but because of how often we move what is on our license may not be accurate and you want emergency personnel to get in touch with whoever can help as quickly as possible. For instance: for a lot of my travelling I had a TN license, a CO license plate, and was living in LA. NO ONE would know who to get in contact with! Put it all in one place, together, in the very front of your glove box, in a sealed Ziploc bag, with “Emergency Contact Info” very clearly written on it (largely, maybe in red).
Okay, moving on…SNACKS! I buy car-friendly (nothing that can MELT!) snacks that are in boxes. Here’s why: I use a basket (or this awesome rectangular tote I have) that I place on the passenger seat. I put the boxes standing up in this so I can easily grab and pass back to the kiddos. I also keep a similar basket in between the two that has toys, books, etc. in it so they too can grab and go. In my snack basket I also keep packages of cheese/peanut butter and crackers that can be a little more filling for the kiddos. I also have dried fruit, nuts, and fresh fruit that I keep (mostly) for me so that I am eating healthy while on the road. Junking out on the road will make you feel disgusting when you are sitting in the car for a long time!
Water! I get two sippy cups for each kid, pack a bunch of full bottles in the car, and just use WATER on the road. If there is a spill in the car you don’t need to stress about it. Water won’t stain, doesn’t need to be cold, and won’t get gross in a cup after an hour. ‘Enough said. : )
I use one – ONE – bag for the hotel (if we have to do a hotel). In it has everything that we need for the ten to twelve hours we will be there – diapers, wipes, minimum makeup, toiletries, cups, blankets, PJ’s, set of clothes, bedtime story. I no longer bring in a phone charger. I charge my phone in the car. I have left too many chargers in hotels. I also bring in my life binder. I bring it wherever I go. Each boy also has a lunch box size “toy bag” that I drape over the backs of the driver and passenger seats so they sit right in front of them. They each get to bring in their bag if they ask (well, Eli can’t ask).
Rest stops – try to stop at rest areas! Have food ready or grab food in a drive-thru and go to the nearest rest area. LET THEM RUN! Let them play. Let them use up all that energy. I hate to stop. I really, really hate to stop. I try to plan stops around the times they usually take naps so that they stick as close to routine as possible for the trip. By letting them get that outside time when you stop (and planning your stops around it) they will last SO much longer in the car (and so will you!).
DVD player…..A bazillion movies. That’s all I have to say with that one.
I always try to leave early in the morning. I mean like 4 am. I know that may seem nuts BUT your kids will sleep. Traffic will be non-existent. When they are awake and want to eat you have already taken a chunk out of the drive. Know when you are going to hit cities and if it will be rush hour. Plan your stop times and travel times around it. Nothing is worse than moving slow in big-city traffic. Your kids will hate it and you will too.
Don’t push yourself further than you can go. If you need to stop, STOP! Your safety and the safety of your children are far more important than the price of a hotel room. And if it’s going to be a drive that takes longer than a day, have someone travel with you. Know your limits and do not push them!
Good Luck and remember to ask about military discounts! ; )
(I could talk about this FOREVER so if you have questions, pah-lease ask! I would LOVE to answer them!)