Last week I took a solo road trip with five of the kids to Hershey, Pennsylvania, and I’m getting ready to embark on another one to North Carolina.
The trip to Hershey was only 235 miles.
The trip to North Carolina is three times as long. Just under 700 miles .
If we didn’t ever have to stop and we hit no traffic, we’d get there in just under eleven hours.
And I’m doing it all in one shot. No sleeping over at a hotel.
NC or bust.
I’m hoping we can get there in less than thirteen hours with pee stops and a couple breaks to stretch our legs.
So we are leaving at 3 am.
That way, I’ll still get about five hours of sleep but the kids will (hopefully) fall back asleep for at least a couple hours right off the bat.
We should also miss most traffic through the George Washington Bridge, the Jersey Turnpike, and Washington DC.
So leaving way before the sun rises is one way I’m going to survive this trip.
And here are the other things I’ll do to make this trip surviveable:
1. First, the obvious. Movies.
We have a DVD player in our car, and the kids are finally old enough where there are movies they can all watch at the same time. I usually have them wait at least an hour before popping one of those in, When we drove to Hershey, I told them they could watch a movie when we had gone 50 miles.
2. Amazon Prime/Netflix
We don’t have wifi in our car, so we can’t stream videos on the iPad or Kindle, but we do have Amazon Prime and Netflix. Thank God.
I download lots of free movies and TV shows, so I’ve got a whole bunch of them added to my watchlist, the kids can watch them on their devices, and it doesn’t cost a thing.
3. Plastic shoe holders
This one and the next one came from doing a little research on Pinterest.
I got two plastic shoe holders and I cut them in half. I rigged them up to the back of the seats so that four of the kids have them directly in front of them. (Two kids had to share one).
As you can see in the picture, it is not fancy. All I could find to tie the shoe racks to the seat was twine. But it works. Function over form.
I’m lucky enough that all the kids are fairly self sufficient now. By organizing crayons, drinks, snacks, wipes, whatever in the pockets in front of them, their stuff stays fairly organized and they can find it easily.
4. Cookie sheets.
I got five of these at the dollar store. They worked out great.
The kids used them to play with Play-Doh.
They also use them as clipboards, and the lip is just enough to hold crayons/markers/pencils.
When we were in Hershey, we also used them as trays for muffins so we didn’t get (as many) crumbs on the bed.
5. Plastic binders.
There are tons of sites out there that have free printable scavenger hunt sheets.
I used this one to print out a whole bunch of stuff.
Last year Number 4 really loved this license plate one, and it kept her occupied for a big part of the trip.
I took some old binders and some sheet protectors I already had, and I made an activity binder for each kid, and they can use them whenever they want!
6. Frozen water bottles
I freeze water bottles for two reasons. 1) I use them as ice packs, and 2) I give each kid a frozen bottle at the start of the drive. It takes a while to melt, so they can only drink a little bit at a time, they don’t chug the whole bottle in like five minutes, and we don’t have to stop and pee before we’ve even gotten on the highway.
7. Wear flip flops in the car
Getting in and out of the car is a big enough pain in the ass. I am not waiting for kids to tie sneakers or put shoes on. So we wear flip flops, and if they want to take them off they put them in those plastic shoe holders on the back of the seats so we don’t have to spend ten minutes searching for them when we are getting out of the car.
8. Pack a lunch box
Instead of having a big communal snack bag that I’m constantly pulling snacks out of, each kid packs their own lunch box. That way everything is in one place, their frozen water bottle can keep stuff cool, and they can grab whatever they feel like eating.
9. Chest of 3 plastic drawers
We have two of those big, black roof bags to put on top of the car, and all the stuff we won’t need immediately goes up there.
Putting drawers in the back of the car makes it much easier to access things, because even if you put stuff on top of it, you can still get to the stuff inside easily. That’s where I put a change of clothes for the kids, extra snacks to restock lunch boxes, paper towels and wipes, and whatever else I want easy access to.
(dont’ worry — there will be more crap shoved in there by the time we leave.
10. First Aid/Medicine Box
I have all our first aid and medicine in this tool box (read the post about that here), and it goes from my closet right to the back of the car when we go on a trip. I can also take it to the beach or wherever super easily, and if I have an emergency on the road, I’m ready to go.
Of course none of this guarantees that we’re going to have an uneventful ride.
There will be plenty of crying and fighting and arguing and pushing and shoving and whining.
But not as much as there could be!