Happy summer! Is it really August- the time when back to school shopping hits full marketing swing and fall fashion look books come to be? I am in full fall denial and am going to soak up every remaining minute of summer- I hope you are too.
We just survived a pretty epic road trip to Florida with our 5 kids ages 6 and under. We drove. All the way. In a mini van. Yes we are crazy!
But good crazy I think. I have always valued travel but had loads of apprehension taking so many kids such a long distance (Toronto Canada to close to Naples Florida is a LONG trek) but every sacrifice was well worth the many memories we created as a family.
We stayed in a gorgeous vacation rental in Ave Maria, Florida, about 45-minute drive from Naples. Look at that pool! Look at that tiny baby in that massive bed!
The family friendly college town is built around a church and university (fun fact: built by the original creator of Domino's pizza!) and it was pretty awesome to experience such a serene small town where we walked to everything, where bikes are unlocked everywhere and people drive golf carts to do their grocery shopping!
The conveniences of Naples, and multiple gorgeous beaches, was a 45-minute drive away. I am convinced EVERYONE needs to live near a beach for a period. Watching my young kids experience the beach for the first time was kind of amazing.
It was a stretching experience to cross multiple states with 5 small kids in a regular 'ol minivan. But I am so glad we did it. I am such a believer in the value that travel brings. Incredible family memories get made in such a unique way when you are experiencing a new culture, new routines and new friends.
But like everything there is totally strategy involved to road trip well! Here are a couple of things I have gleaned to help make road trips more manageable with kids from our recent multi-state pilgrimage.
1. BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF AND WITH OTHERS
Being in a car for several hours is taxing- I found it easier to just accept it when it was grueling and tiring, and give everyone a bit of grace (myself included). That's really it- no crazy explanation here- simply just have the best attitude possible and accept there will be sections that will be difficult- but worth it in the end.
2. ZIPLOCK BAG EVERYTHING
One huge pain point I found was I could never find anything in the car when I needed it. For example, kids wanted snacks and despite putting the snack bag at the front of the car, it inevitably got buried under piles of other things. What I found helpful was to put essentials into clear ziplock bags. In a gallon size freezer bag I placed one pair of pajamas per child, one book, and one snack, and one diaper for the ones who need them. In a snack size bag I did their toothbrushes and in a separate quart size bag small activity books and crayons. I found it way easier to pass this back while driving, or just to have handy when time to change- way better than digging through multiple tote bags in the car. I also found ziplock bags helpful for storing soiled clothing or other smelly items so they wouldn't make the car smell.
3. DRIVE THROUGH THE NIGHT FOR A QUIET PORTION OF THE RIDE
I was really skeptical of this one, as I just couldn't figure out how we would drive through the night and then wake up AND take care of kids the next day. It was tiring, but the benefit was that we enjoyed relative quiet (a reduction on "are we there yet" type questions) and we got to our destination much faster by driving straight through the night (we made it home from Florida in 30 hours factoring in our stops for meals and nursing the baby etc). We essentially took turns sleeping and driving. What helped me stay awake and motivated driving through the night was listening to one of my many podcasts I subscribe to (Pat Flynn, you got me through the state of West Virginia!) and then while sleeping, an eye mask and white noise app in headphones were pretty helpful. We were all pretty tired the next morning but made sure we had a good stretch at breakfast and let the kids run around. I personally found it easier than getting a hotel and unloading all our stuff each time.
4. WHEN YOU STOP ENJOY THE STRETCH
Rest areas and truck stops have come a LONG way since my childhood! While some still look like they never left the 1950's, there are ample that have almost too many amenities, like an arcade, full service restaurant, spacious clean bathrooms, showers, and large retail stores. Favourite places for us to stop included Cracker Barrel that has an amazing shop of curiosities that the kids adored. We also picked up the book Along Interstate 75 that had a ton of fun suggestions for off the beaten path attractions and fun tid bits of history of the states as we drove through.
5. BRING STUFF THAT SMELLS NICE
A road trip is grueling, so bring items that will give you a quick mood elevation. I was SO THANKFUL for my essential oils as I was traveling for the little lift it would give my energy. I love lavender for getting ready to sleep, lemon, peppermint and eucalyptus for energy.
How do you survive a road trip? Love to know in the comments below- and feel free to share this with a friend who might be embarking on a big car adventure : ) May summer never end!