When the boys are older (and can actually remember things), my dream would be to spend a year in an RV traveling from state to state giving them a hands-on education about the country we live in.
So, when my husband called to say they were flying him to Houston for training (yipee!!!), I immediately started planning a road trip! Getting car seats through the airport is a nightmare for me, I'd much rather drive. And since we've traveled nonstop since they were babies, my boys are great travelers. Of course, this is my first roadtrip with them alone, so I'm sure things will be different, but I think we'll manage just fine.
Since we just started school again from our holiday break, I thought it would be fun to study up on the states we will be passing through. I purchased a digital copy of Road Trip USA and am making booklets for the two oldest boys to work on as we drive. We will be collecting postcards from each state (if only we'd thought about doing that on our drive from KY to UT) and marking our route on a map. I have a map I've kept for each of the boys since they were babies and every time we travel I color in the states so they can keep track. I've also created these Road Trip Journal Pages to add to our road trip booklet, which includes a map to highlight the route taken and record favorite memories. It will be fun to keep one for each year and see all the places we've gone.
Here are a few Road Trip Survival Tips to make the journey easier:
2. Busy Activities: For weeks before a trip I gather things together I know will keep them occupied. New coloring books, printable travel games, magnetic games (or wooden Doug & Melissa games where pieces are attached), toy computer, mini train track, drawing books, and we always take a trip to the library for a few new books to bring along. Ethan's only got three books left in the A to Z Mystery series, so we'll pick them up before we hit the road. I also let them play games on my iPhone if they start to have a meltdown, but I save that as an absolute last resort.
3. Music & DVDs: I try to find some fun music for them to listen to as we begin the trip. They love Steve Songs and Kindermusik. I play cd's as long as they'll let me. I try to hold off on a movie as long as possible, because I don't want them to have mental junk food the entire trip, and once you start movies you can't turn them off without a fight, or until they fall asleep. I get a few netflix movies they haven't seen before and that will keep their attention. I also check the bargain bin for DVDs, the key is to finding something they're not already bored of. I also download a few audio books on my iPhone for me to listen to while I drive. I'm currently reading anything Amish- (Beverly Lewis & Cindy Woodsmall)...
4. Food: If possible, I like to begin our trip early in the morning while they boys are still sleeping. We load them into the car with their jammies on and they usually will sleep for several hours. I pack them each a sack breakfast- banana, raisins, yogurt, and juice. So when they wake up they already have their food ready and I don't have to climb in the back to help anyone.
We get real tired of fast food so the first day I always try to pack our own lunch, pb&j or chicken salad sandwiches. For snacks, a veggie tray, assorted fruit, goldfish, pretzels, animal crackers, and a special snack they don't normally get like chips, fruit snacks or licorice. I used to travel with lots of juice boxes but they usually end up spilled all over and dumped on the floor, so I try to limit to one juice a day and water for the rest.
If it's a multi-day trip we'll often stop at a grocery store along the way to purchase fruit and veggie trays to replenish our supplies. If we're stopping for dinner we'll often try to find a grocery store with a deli and get a rotisserie chicken, french bread and tater babies. So much tastier than fast food.
5. Packing: I get the car completely packed the night before. If it's a multi-day trip, I pack separate backpacks for each boy of clothes and things they will need at the hotel. So when we arrive we simply grab our backpacks and head in. The other clothes and things are packed in a suitcase or tote bag. I have an insulated picnic sized lunch box that sits behind my seat with all the snacks. I always keep food in arms reach because traveling makes you hungry.
I have some boxes I use to put books and things in for each boy and place it by their seat (or in the seat pocket) so they can easily access it while we're driving. Their breakfast bag/snack bag is also placed by their seat. They each have a fabric trash bag attached to the seat in front (if only they could learn to use them!)
Fire up the GPS and get it programmed to your route (also have printed mapquest directions handy because you never know when it's going to say "updating firmware" and be completely unusable). Fill up water bottles, have a stack of diapers and wipes handy, and don't forget special blankets or stuffed animals.
The last thing we put in the car is the kids. Never make them wait in the car for you more than a few minutes or the trip will start off on a bad note.