Friday, July 31, 2015

On Making the Journey Easier--Drops of Traveling Wisdom

I did a few things differently on this trip and I learned a lot in the process. Thought I'd share a little of my newly acquired traveling wisdom with you.

This may be the single-most life-changing thing I did on our trip.

No matter how big your car or how small your family, there is always a TON of stuff that you need access to while driving. I bought this drawer tower at Target (cost less than $12), and I used it of the trip.
Some days it lived in the front seat next to me, and on other days, it lived in the middle space of the middle bench seat. As you can see, it held emergency snacks for kiddos, but it did so much more! It corralled the earbuds and charging cords and portable DVD players. It held my iPad and my legal pad and extra pens and pencils. At the last minute, I threw in a couple of dishrags, and I can't believe how handy they were (twice for throw up, and a more than a few liquid spills). I also kept the kids' ball caps in here so that we knew exactly where they were when we got out. It belted into the car and stayed put. The drawers never flew open when I stopped (I wondered if they would), and it eliminated the annoyance of digging through a bag or lidded tote to find what you need--which is inevitably on the very bottom. With the cooler on the floor in front and my purse and camera tucked between the drawers and the armrest, it was the best command center ever. I would recommend this to everyone I know who is traveling alone with kids. It was THE BEST!

This may not look like we had simplified our packing practices, but we did, and it made life so much easier. We spent no more than two nights at any one place, but we were gone for 21 nights. That's a lot of clean/dirty/clean/dirty laundry. This is what worked best for me.
I only used five suitcases for the entire trip--plus one laundry bag. 

First, one suitcase was reserved for Sunday clothes, shoes, socks, and accessories. I only took it out of the car on Saturday nights, and everything got put straight back in as soon as the kids changed their clothes. That way, I always knew where their ties and belts were, and their Sunday clothes weren't taking up valuable space in their weekly suitcases. Three different Sundays. Three different states. Not a single lost sock, tie, shoe or shirt. That was a miracle.

Second, I only used two suitcases of clothes for all four of us. The kids all shared one, and I had one that also held the dirty laundry bag. I also had a small bag with a jillion pockets for all of our toiletries. Every time we went somewhere, there were only three suitcases to maneuver, and that made it easy for the littler ones to help me. It also took up much less space in small hotel rooms where space is tight already. As the laundry bag would get fuller and the suitcases emptier, I would rotate clean clothes from the fourth (giant) suitcase that always stayed in the trunk. When the huge suitcase was filled with dirty clothes, then it was time for me to wash and reorganize. This system worked well for three weeks of travel. Only thing I would change? I'd bring some Tide pods and dryer sheets with me. That stuff's expensive at the hotel! And a few rolls of quarters for the machines.

The only other bag that came into every room with us was the size of a camp chair. And it was this:
A camp cot. This thing was awesome. Every hotel room I got had two queen beds, but it was nice to have a bed to myself every night. The kids rotated who slept on the cot and who slept together in the other bed.
I also used crazy pillowcases so that it was easy to see if we were leaving pillows in the hotel room as we packed.

I bought a few new movies for the kids to watch while we drove, but I think that they watched less than five over the course of 22 days. Why? Because Harry Potter on audio was much more entertaining and made the time pass much faster than movies did. Eve wasn't too excited to listen to the books, but she used her headphones to watch Barbie movies over and over or entertained herself combing her ponies' tails. Micah and Hyrum would beg to listen no matter how short our drive was going to be. Headed to a restaurant? Can we listen to Harry Potter? Time for bed. Can we listen to Harry Potter? We got halfway through the fifth book--over 85 hours of listening--and I was as enamored as they were.You can purchase the audio files here.

The most valuable drop of wisdom from this trip was this: Be flexible. They're kids. They don't want to see the same stuff as adults or do some of the same things as adults.
No one else was around at Mount Rushmore, and all three of them wanted to slide this banister like Riley from Inside Out.  So . . . I let them.
Over and over over and over.

I thought we would eat at McDonald's until we had every Minion collectible in triplicate. But one day, they all three agreed that no more McD's would be the best. I was never happier, and they were the ones that made the decision.

I also bought them each a refillable water bottle before the trip and didn't allow any other drinks in the car. Didn't lose a single bottle, and it saved me the argument at every stop to buy them a drink.

And finally--we found a park in almost every city we visited. They would play for over an hour every night, and it was good for them to get out of the confining hotel rooms and for me to get a breather as well.

The best park we found was in Rapid City--so cool.

Next time we travel, I will be sure to incorporate these ideas. They were all winners. Anything that didn't work? I wouldn't allow them to bring their full-size pillows again. Their small blankets were fine, but their pillows were really a pain. By the end, the boys weren't even bringing them into the hotel, and they ended up on the ground almost every time the doors opened. Maybe a small decorative pillow, or a neck travel pillow next time would be better.

But I'm still bringing mine. There are some luxuries afforded to the mom. Just sayin.

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