When my children were little, the days would sometimes feel so slow. You know the ones. The ones where there was no sleep. The ones where I’d pray for sleep and a shower.
Even taking them on trips was not easy, even if I had all the right things – like their own cute child-sized luggage and some toys to keep them busy on the plane.
Now my children are 11 and 13 and I’d love to stop time. It’s flying by. Did you know there are only 940 Saturdays between your child’s birth and them leaving for college? No joke and I’m in a sheer panic over this little fact because my son is entering high school next year. My time is dwindling and I’m determined to squeeze in as much quality time as possible.
This is why my husband and I are trying to plan our vacations for the next four years. We want our children to see as much as possible, with us, while we can. Before college break trips, significant others, and jobs.
This year we took a 10-day road trip and tried to squeeze in as much as possible. Our final destination was Surfside, South Carolina but we made stops in Pittsburgh, Gettysburg and Jamestown. We even took a day trip to Charleston, South Carolina and a different route home to Michigan to see the Smokey Mountains. It was an adventure and well worth the hours of listening to my husband’s classic country tunes.
We could have easily flown but all we would have seen was an airport and the landscape from the sky. This route gave us an opportunity to see the countryside, to annoy each other and laugh with each other. We were able to stop when we wanted and explore. Do not get me wrong, it was a lot of driving but each mile clocked was time spent together as a family and with the clock ticking; I am grateful for the opportunity and thankful my husband did the majority of the driving!
If you are considering a road trip with the kids (pre-teen/teen), here’s are five tips to make it more enjoyable.
- Buy a luggage rack or rent a bigger vehicle. This was my only regret. We were pretty cramped and as the kids get older, they need more space. The more space they have to stretch out, the happier everyone is. Before hitting the road, consider space. If you have a final destination, consider shipping belongings and only taking what you need for the pit stops on your way.
- Do not make hotel reservations. This sounds odd but if you have a final destination don’t lock yourself into stops along the way. We drove from Northern Michigan to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the first day. Our plan was to make it to Gettysburg but we were too tired. Had we kept driving, it would not have been safe. We needed to sleep and it gave us an opportunity to see another city and feel more refreshed the next day to explore Gettysburg. Instead, download Expedia on your phone and make reservations in cities as you go.
- Enforce No Electronics. No silly, not the entire drive but if you know you’ll be driving through the Smoky Mountains and you want the children to see the scenery, shut down the electronics. I use the Disney Circle for pausing the electronics. I also do this when I think they just need to read a good old fashion book or put their head against the pillow and close their eyes. My cue is when they begin bickering. Mama knows best and every time I pause the electronics and they lean their head on the pillow…they are snoozing shortly after.
- Pack Snacks. I did not pack enough and that ended up in expensive, crappy gas station snacks. Which of course is fun for a day or so but after a while; everyone isn’t feeling well and needs substance. A small cooler with turkey sandwich squares, cheese sticks, apples, oranges and even grapes would have been nice after a day of gas station snacks.
- Admit defeat. On our way home we realized the kids just wanted to be kids. They needed to run and be loud. We packed in a lot of learning experiences but they just wanted to do something fun and so we took a side trip to Sandusky, Ohio and just played at the water park. I had a beer, put my feet up and just enjoyed the moment and happiness with my family. Time is flying by!