March 1, 2011

Vacation Round Up: The Drive

When I told people we were driving to Florida, many of them looked at me like I was crazy. To them, the notion of driving that far with a preschooler and an infant was, shall we say, a bit daunting. I would make the same choice every time. For one thing, even on the freeway, you see more of our country driving than flying. For another thing, the cost of gas for the trip just about equalled airfare for one of us. And finally, why would anyone think that dealing with an airport while traveling with a preschooler and infant (and all the extra accessories an infant requires) would be less tiring or aggravating than driving? Yes, we would've gotten there a bit faster, but I don't believe for a second I would've been less tired.

So, what are my tips for a long drive with kids? Here is a, by no means comprehensive, list.
1) Don't count on a schedule. You know when the infant wanted to eat? Approximately 20 minutes after every stop we made. He wouldn't eat a thing on the planned stops. I am convinced he was laughing at us every time he made us stop a second time in the course of half an hour.
2) Bring at least twice as many things for the older kids to do than you think you'll need. I'm not a big fan of DVDs in the car. Kids watch more than enough TV anyway. We brought his Leapster, a cool digital book device called a Playaway and a seemingly never ending supply of coloring books, sticker books, dot to dot books, and just about every other variety of activity books you can think of. I also took some age appropriate BrainQuest cards and old school travel bingo cards.
3) Bring snacks. Lots of snacks. It goes back to the "not counting on a schedule" tip.
4) Drive overnight if you can. My husband and I traded driving shifts and the 5pm to 6am portion of the drive was the most efficient part of the drive since the kids were sleeping.

With stops it took us just about 24 hours each way. On they way down we did it straight through. On the way home we took a different route and stayed overnight in Virginia. Both times we arrived tired and sick of being in the car, but I actually preferred the overnight driving. In addition to the kids being asleep there was no traffic to deal with and there are so many 24 hour truck stops and gas stations that we were never in a pinch for anything. Plus, I noticed that the rest stops along our route had employees on duty all night, so they were clean and stocked no matter when we stopped.

On your next trip, consider driving. You'll save money; you'll see a bit of our great country and you just might discover a great little gem of a restaurant or scenic area.


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