Years ago I read an article called “Taking the High Road with Three under 3.” I remember thinking those parents had to be crazy! Our first 3 were 5 and under, but still, Hubby and I were just never that adventurous; traveling with my kids always made me think of some complex military operation….without the benefit of a logistic command post.
With just one child at home now, we decided that it was time to undertake that time honored tradition of a family vacation by car.
Having completed a whirl wind tour of 4 states – 3 national parks, one state park and a cave in 6 days, I feel somewhat qualified to share my advice on some of those must haves for a smooth trip.
If you are going to undertake a vacation by car, then I would first suggest a stop at AAA. The membership fee is well worth it. We have been members for over 25 years. I have never encountered anything but polite, informative representatives. They had me on my way with Tour books, maps and my personal favorite…the Trip-Tik in a matter of 30 minutes. On my way to my car, I began to wax nostalgic thinking back to the days when my family drove cross country and I was the navigator. The difference for Sam will be that we actually pull over and stop at the points of interest.
A little advice on renting a car:
Two weeks ago we went to reserve a small to mid size SUV to take National Park hopping. When you reserve your car, make sure that your rep is on the SAME page as you are.
When we returned to pick up our rental car, she had us down to be picking up the vehicle on Thursday evening, not Wednesday evening, and had nothing suitable for us. Hubby was reserved enough not to choke the living daylights out of her. We drove to a competitor in the rental car business and when we mentioned where we had just been, the young man said, “Oh, the B word. We get a lot of business from them.”
We personally will never speak the “B word” again, because the customer service rep at the “E word” found us a KIA Rondo and we were on our way home to load up in a matter of 20 minutes. What a great car with wonderful gas mileage. 70 MPH, through the desert at 110 degrees with the air conditioning on full blast and neither the temperature nor the gas gauge even wiggled.
PACKING YOUR VEHICLE
Once we were home with the car we started packing. The Rondo has this great luggage area in back where you can store water underneath, and did we ever. By the end of the trip we had gone through a case from Costco.
We have a list of things that we think no one should do without on a road trip. I’ve made up a blank of it and we keep a copy to check off as we go along.
Car equipment emergency stuff – that is more of a “boy” thing and luckily it came with the car.
Blankets – Those lightweight acyclic throws are great.
Windex/Paper Towels – our rental car arrived with a ‘delightful aroma’ of cigarette smoke. After cleaning all the windows, the smell all but vanished.
Tissues & daily medications
Travel coffee mugs – Yeah, it’s nice to get one from the National Park, but at $18.00 a mug, it adds up.
Grocery sacks, Green shopping bags – are great for souvenirs, to hold snacks and are great to use to bring in the last load of stuff you don’t want to leave in your car overnight at a hotel.
Pillows – this goes without saying. We are all creatures of habit at my house.
Water – Did I mention water? Pack several bottles in the ice chest along with ICE & maybe some orange juice, yogurt, fruit and snack cheeses. Our Rubbermaid cooler has a neat plastic mesh tray to hold small things like these. (FYI – Small packages of M & M’s are sealed in paper wrappers. When introduced to the melted water in the ice chest, they liquefy. This produces hostile travelers.) Be sure to tuck a pillow next to the cooler to keep the sun at bay. You’ll be surprised at how long the ice will last.
Snacks– peanut butter, crackers, cereals. Whatever are the things you can’t do without, we even had tea bags and coffee. The insulated bags that Costco sells worked great for all the snacks. Be sure to bring paper napkins and a few pieces of plastic ware., or just use those a fore mentioned paper towels.
(FYI – It is possible to spread peanut butter with a spoon going 70 MPH through the desert, just watch those curves.)
Diaper wipes– Get a travel size package of Huggies wipes ($2.59) to keep in the glove compartment. You can use them to wipe the sunscreen off your hands after having to re-apply for the third time….the Rondo did not have tinted windows. Wipes will also get the melted M & M’s off the upholstery of the back seat of the rental car when you stop for the night in Utah…can’t imagine how that happened.
Speaking of sunscreen – I will have a post devoted to our favorite brands of sun protection.
Reflective dashboard shade – okay, you cannot take a trip without one of these. While you’re at it, bring along a few of those binder paper clips. This kept me from frying in the desert sun. Mental note…get a car with tinted windows for next time.
Entertainment for the back seat– Sam was set with a portable DVD player, movies, his Nintendo DS, CD’s, travel games & math puzzles.
We listened to every Harry Potter movie that has been released on DVD. Speaking of the back seat, if your kids are prone to motion sickness bring the Dramamine. Sam was so excited that he woke us up at 2:45 am when it was time to leave. Tiredness combined with the medicine produced a very quiet backseat.
Technology– Don’t forget the digital cameras, memory cards, music CD’s, cell phones, car chargers, camera chargers, video camera….
Did Ansel Adams travel like this?