When you have four children, and you want to go places, you don’t always fly. It gets a bit expensive. Since we also lived away from family (1,100 miles to one, 900 to the other) and our favorite vacation spot (Walt Disney World), you learn a trick or two when you drive for two days straight one way, then when it’s all over, the same back!
We made sure everyone old enough to understand what was going to happen knew well in advance. Believe me, excitement helps! They know they’re going someplace they will enjoy. The return trip, well, they’re just tired enough to not care.
They each had something with which to occupy themselves. Each of them could have a small bag with a couple small toys (not too small, because you didn’t want them to get lost). Rather than crayons, pens, pencils, and paper, we would take a toy that you could draw on, like an Etch-a-Sketch or some sort of magnetic doodle pad. The “pen” would be attached with a string, so it wouldn’t get lost. We also had a few books and several audio tapes (eventually CD’s) that had either music to sing along or stories. When the portable DVD players became available, that was worth it’s weight in gold!
If they didn’t sleep well the night before (due to excitement) that was a bonus. They would fall asleep in the car! We never put them to bed early the night before we left. We would allow them to stay up until shortly before we went to bed. We would rise early, and they may be a bit grumpy, but we reminded them of where we were going. That snapped the grumpy right out of them.
To save on travel time, we would eat lunch in the car. This was a real treat for them, too. It was like a picnic on the move. I would have bread and peanut butter to make sandwiches. We would also have pretzels and grapes. It wasn’t fancy, but we didn’t have to stop for lunch, and I believe the children looked forward to being able to eat in the car. They were never allowed to do it any other time.
As a special treat, since we would typically have to drive for two days, we’d choose a favorite place to eat supper. They would look forward to that each time. They always knew it would be a place they really liked. Our first day on the road would be the longest, so we’d stop along the way, then drive a couple more hours to get to the hotel. This was another exciting thing for them. They would run around outside until the penned up wiggles were gone. They would either bathe that evening or in the morning. Then they could watch TV until they fell asleep, or we turned it off so we could get to sleep.
We always tried to drive far enough the first day that we would arrive at our destination at least a couple hours before supper. That would give them time to unwind. A good night’s rest that night and they would be ready for anything the next day!
Be sure to share any of your tips!