Saturday, December 14, 2013

Long Road Trips With Kids!

In the December issue of San Joaquin Lifestyles Magazine I wrote a column that 1) discussed needing to get a hug from my mom, and 2) provided 5 tips for how to travel long distances with kiddos. Funny thing is I wrote that article BEFORE I took my trip, so now I feel like this is a good follow-up AFTER the actual trip.  The main thing to report? The trip was a SUCCESS! 

Somewhere around mile 182 of the trip I heard my daughter say very clearly, "This is fun!"  That was a HUGE accomplishment. HUGE! HUMONGOUS HUGE!

These words came from the same mouth that for two weeks prior to the trip would make an assortment of complaints about how atrocious it is to have to go ANYWHERE by car if it meant being in the vehicle for more than 30 minutes. Hell, even 15 minutes to Lodi is torture to her!

So how was I able to do 1,181 miles? A whole lotta crazy planning - that's for sure!

FIRST -  I didn't want to hear "Are we there yet?" a gazillion times.  A few hundred times I could manage, but a gazillion and I just may have parked the car at Starbucks and drank myself into an espresso coma.

So, I made 1/2 hour tickets. Cute, colorful tickets that I put into a plastic bag. There were as many tickets as the time I estimated it would take us to get to our destination (excluding stop times).  I told Sarah that for every 30 minutes of travel time I would request a ticket. I also reminded her that she would have the power to know just how much time we would have left driving by counting tickets. 8 tickets - 4 hours - don't even need to ask me!

Did it work? YES! She actually got good about knowing what 30 minutes felt like and would offer up tickets, plus she could see the car clock. Either way, she was patient and never once did she ASK me how much longer. Instead, I heard a lot of counting from the backseat.  Her math teacher would be so proud.

SECOND - I gave her a map. The map showed our route. It showed the cities and towns we would travel through, gave an indication of the terrain. and, well, that's about it. But it was enough! The mp meant she could watch us drive to our destination and would even occasionally give me directions, "Mom, we are almost to Winnemucca."  She is such a good navigator! 

Did it work? YES! She likes to be 'in the know'. I think she also appreciates being able to teach us! It made her feel like she was part of the trip and not just a backseat passenger. The only downfall was that there really isn't a whole lot of towns traveling from Stockton, CA to Kuna, ID. I think Winnemmucca was it! Well, except for the biggest little city in the world. (PS we drove through Reno, I thought it would be fun for her and Elijah to see the lights.... I forgot about the jumbo trons full of half naked women.  Sarah said, "Mom, I think this city is inappropriate for me." YES, YES IT IS!)

THIRD - Activity box! I hit up Target for a perfect little box that was also perfect size for a lap desk. I filled it with all kind of items such as: chapstick, gum, color markers, blank paper, drawing tutorials, word finds, 2 books, notepad, coin purse (with money!), nail stickers, and a few other things she could play with. 

Did it work? YES! She was in and out of that box a lot. Mostly for the gum, but for the other goodies, too. She had everything she could ask for already at her fingertips!

FOURTH - An iPad for movies, music, and apps - and headphones.  HEADPHONES ARE KEY! However, I did limit electronic time. She could not watch movies when we were traveling through cities, etc. She had to see the amazing real life movie that was passing right outside her window. Movies were for night time, music was kept to a minimum.

Did it work? YES!  Again, the headphones are key! Mr. Mom and I were able to work on our Spanish while she and my son watched Madagascar!

FIFTH - This is probably the thing I am most proud of and the item that was probably the TRIP SAVER DELUXE! I made a list of fun to-do's - all of which had points assigned to them. The more things she completed, the more points she would earn! For different point levels there were rewards! THIS WAS HUGE! She was so excited to get going on tasks and began immediately racking up points.

The idea started simple, but the more I got into making up tasks, the more I realized I could really blow this thing up by adding in things that involved the people we were traveling to visit, most of which she didn't remember or hadn't met! SO MUCH FUN! 

Did it work? RESOUNDING YES! It worked fabulously! She was completely into it for the whole trip! And not only was SHE into it, but my family joined in as well. It would be too much to explain, so instead I want to share this activity pack with you so you can see for yourself what I did, and maybe, just maybe it would be something that would work for any other moms and dads with upcoming travel plans!

Check it out HERE, along with other activities I added in for good measure and conversation.

The best parts for me were 1) I got my much needed hug and love from my mom (sister, brother, and aunts), and 2) Sarah said on the way home somewhere around Nevada "This was an awesome road trip!" My heart was full. 

Little did I know we were 1 hour and 20 minutes from our car breaking down. Despite a two hour tow adventure from hell that had both kids in full on screaming tears... Sarah STILL said it was an awesome trip. And she was right. 

If you have some traveling tips that work well for your family, please share in the comments! I know I appreciate fresh ideas and so may others! :)  Who knows, maybe your shared words will make someone's trip "over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house" a little less bumpy!



Thomas (& Laura) Hodge said...

Thank you for NOT posting pictures of the backward pants. :) Seriously - 'twas GRAND to see all, and your trip ideas were great! Glad we could be involved too. xoxoxoxoxo

Thomas (& Laura) Hodge said...

Heather -- you are a genius. What a bright set of ideas. You are also an excellent photographer and a very good writer. Too bad you were standing behind the door during your high school English class. Here's a standing offer from your picky brother-in-law: When you write something you want to be "perfect" have me fix it for you. No charge, 24-hour turnaround. Lifetime guarantee.