July 9, 2015 by Ellen V
This was Major Road Trip #2 for the Vanden Eykels in less than 8 months, and it’s nice to be on the survival end (I can say that officially now!) Last time was easier in a lot of ways, mostly because Sidney slept more or less the minute the wheels started turning. Plus, we only had one destination, so once we go to Southern Minnesota, we planted for about 10 days, and then we returned home.
This time, my kids were 8 months and 3.5 years, so both girls are old enough to have wants and needs and to let them be known. Here’s the breakdown of this recent trip:
Day 1 Southwestern Virginia to a small town near Nashville, TN (7.5 hours)
Day 2 Nashville to a small town near Iowa City, IA (9.5 hours)
Day 3 Iowa to Southern Minnesota (3.5 hours)
Days 4-7 Southern Minnesota
Day 8 Southern Minnesota to Bemidji, MN (6 hours)
Days 9-13 Bemidji, MN area
Day 14 Bemidji to Central Wisconsin with pit stop in Twin Cities (7.5 hours)
Days 15-23 Central Wisconsin
Day 24 Central Wisconsin to Milwaukee (2.5 hours)
Day 25 Milwaukee to Dayton, OH (6 hours)
Day 26 Dayton to HOME (6.5 hours)
Obviously, we put in a lot of road time. Here’s some tips and tricks that got us through (along with what we might do differently next time):
- Clean your house and eat your food before you leave. As much as we would have liked to do other things in the day or two before we left, we busted our butts to clean the house and eat all the food in the fridge, and it made a huge difference. Coming into a clean house means that I can truly ease into SAHM life for the rest of the summer, without a bunch of chores on my to do list.
- Pack two bags: a road bag and a destination bag. Eric did this for just himself, and I did it for me and the girls combined. This enabled us to cut in half what we needed to bring inside at any destination. Don’t take it too far, though: most everything I would need for one night on the road I’d need for the next, so if you break things down too far (like a different, small bag for each night on the road), you’ll end up repacking at every stop along the way.
- Bring a cooler. It helped to have plentiful snacks for the whole family. We didn’t use it much on the way home, but our driving days were also much shorter. On the way out, we saved lots of money by bringing us many snacks with us as we could.
- Stay with friends! We stayed with friends in Tennessee, Iowa, and Wisconsin along the way. We drove a bit out of our way for each of these stops, but they enabled us to reconnected with people who we want in our kids’ lives forever and (needless to stay) we saved a bundle. We tried to bring folks tokens of our appreciation and attempted to not be too burdensome, which is tricky with two kids and a dog. We also avoided eating as many trashy meals out this way.
- But stay in a hotel once. We had an awesome, awesome experience at our hotel during our last night in Dayton, OH. I don’t blast a name too often, but the Drury Inn we stayed at was insanely great for our family. There was a bedroom with a door as well as free drinks, popcorn, and a great breakfast. And Dallas was welcome! Jane is old enough to appreciate the hotel experience. If I had buckets of money and wasn’t totally wiped, I would have lobbied to stay one more night, even after 26 days away. It was that good.
- Make sure you have access to laundry, and let your hosts know you plan to use it. When you have little kids and you’re away for that long, laundry allows you to cloth diaper (we don’t do it on drive days, but do when we’re at our destination), bring a quarter the amount of clothes, and be ready for any weather or activity.
- Go to the grocery store. Because we were staying with family, we didn’t buy our own groceries much. It’s something I’ll do differently next time. A bag or two full of healthy snacks that I knew my family will eat would have gone a long way.
- Underpack. You will wear the same three outfits over and over anyway. The only thing to remember is to bring clothes for a variety of weather conditions, especially if you’re in the midwest in the summer. We definitely wore tank tops and sweatshirts, sometimes in the same day.
- Over budget. Do make a trip budget, and budget more money for your trip components than you think you’ll need. It was great to fall under budget in gas, food, etc, but also to know we had the wiggle room, even at the very end, at a new adventure or a souvenir to our trip.
- Be flexible, within reason. One of the key components for our girls’ happiness was have a basic schedule for our family and then being flexible enough to deviate from it when we needed. Lunch at 11:30, nap at 12:30, supper at 5:30, bed by 8:00 seemed to go a long way toward making life seem normal. If we needed to push things around by a half hour or more, we tried to keep the other activities on track (or have a really solid schedule the next day). Sidney is taking a morning nap, as well, and is still my early riser (usually around 5:30a), but I am convinced that keeping Jane and the rest of our family on a routine helped her come back to Virginia actually on a schedule for the first time in her little life.
- Enjoy these moments. There were times, especially in the build up to this trip, that I wondered if we were doing the best thing for our girls by hauling them across the country. Eric and I miss our family and friends and our Midwest spaces, and we really wanted this time, but did they? Neither of them will remember this trip, at least not really, so we’re not Making Lifelong Memories for them. But now, on the other side, I’m so, so, so glad we did it. Home is where our family is together, and we had a little traveling home for a month. Eric and I made adult memories that were important for us and rejuvenated us for the next few months. My girls are connecting with their relatives, and their relatives are getting to know them. And that’s what it’s all about, friends.