Taking a 28 day road trip is a stretch for most folks these days, especially in an older vehicle with no heating or air conditioning. Add in two young kids and we are just about crazy.
While we have just passed the half-way point, some critical lessons have already come to the forefront. I’m sure there will be an addendum at the end of the trip, but for now:
Our 4 Rules for Surviving a Road trip with Kids:
1. ADD AN HOUR. To everything.
Think you can get in and out of the public showers in 45 minutes? Add an hour.
Hoping to complete a 1 mile hike in an hour. Throw in an extra 60 minutes.
Driving a long stretch in a single day? Add an hour for every 3 planned hours of travel.
It is incredible how long it takes to do anything with kids. Without the efficiencies, structure, and accessible bathrooms of home, just getting up and out for an adventure in the morning takes an average of 2 hours!
That’s without showers or a bathroom mirror for me to use in delaying the fun.
2. Carry lots of fruity gum.
There is nothing as effective to quell a meltdown or calm a rowdy child as gum. It’s as if their mind can’t fully focus on other activities or thoughts while chewing gum.
This becomes critical during long stretches of driving, especially when trying to follow GPS directions in the middle of rush hour traffic.
While I originally tried to wean my 3-year-old from this expensive and completely pointless activity, I would kiss Mr. Wrigley at this point. My kids would probably be a bit traumatized by now without the jumbo pack of Fruit Stripes.
3. Shift to snacking twice in between meals.
Low blood sugar strikes with a vengeance when your active and it’s ill effects are multiplied when it’s hot or the claustrophobia of living out of a bag in a 50 square foot studio on wheels starts to wear on your rapidly fraying nerves.
To be honest, the snacks are more for you than the kids. A parent who loses it ruins the whole day. A kid meltdown is manageable as long as your patience is intact. Problem is: we all get low blood sugar, heat exhaustion, claustrophobia, and underlying resentment at the VW at the same time.
Preventative measures aren’t just a good idea, they are 100% necessary. Even if you aren’t hungry, force everyone to have a small snack every hour between meals. Fruit leather, beef jerky, or a juice box are all good options (try to make your own beef jerky to avoid unnecessary sodium and look for 100% juice).
On this trip, we made around 3 pounds of beef jerky with our favorite teriyaki sauce (Soy Vay) and another few pounds of ill conceived, but still tasty trail mix (I mixed a Chex Mix recipe that included melted butter with traditional trail mix ingredients, including M&M’s).
4. Think like a kid (aka plan for sacrifices).
If you are anything like us, we have constantly wondered what these incredible travels would be like…without kids.
How nice would it be to sip a beer into the evening at the top of Grouse Mountain? Wouldn’t that winery tour in Seattle be amazing? Or maybe the 5 mile hike to a breathtaking view?
This is no way to think on an epic roadtrip.
Planning a packed itinerary is akin to begging for frustration and disappointment.
Kids, as innocent and open minded as they are, aren’t terribly appreciative of the beauty of nature. They also wear out quickly and need time to recharge before another intensive activity. And don’t fool yourself, pretty much everything is intensive when there are four of you.
Therefore, you must plan to balance your bucket list with theirs, even if theirs is visiting 100 different McDonald’s playlands.
In Vancouver, we were initially frustrated by the complete lack of truck stops or public pay showers, but it turned out for the best. You can also find showers at recreation centers, or for Vancouver, public community centers. Swimming was paradise for the kids, especially after an intense day on Grouse Mountain.
What are your rules of thumb for managing kids in uncomfortable environments?