Homeschool, Travel

Road Trip USA

We love to travel. I think it’s probably my most favorite thing to do. If I don’t have a vacation scheduled for the near future I start to feel trapped. By the time my oldest was three he’d been to five countries and 24 states. Most of my friends think I’m crazy, but we really enjoy sharing traveling adventures with our kids. In fact they’re starting to get the travel bug too. If we go more than a few months without a trip they start saying “I want to go somewhere! I want to stay at a hotel!”

When the boys are older (and can actually remember things), my dream would be to spend a year in an RV traveling from state to state giving them a hands-on education about the country we live in.

So, when my husband called to say they were flying him to Houston for training (yipee!!!), I immediately started planning a road trip! Getting car seats through the airport is a nightmare for me, I’d much rather drive. And since we’ve traveled nonstop since they were babies, my boys are great travelers. Of course, this is my first roadtrip with them alone, so I’m sure things will be different, but I think we’ll manage just fine.

Since we just started school again from our holiday break, I thought it would be fun to study up on the states we will be passing through. I purchased a digital copy of Road Trip USA and am making booklets for the two oldest boys to work on as we drive. We will be collecting postcards from each state (if only we’d thought about doing that on our drive from KY to UT) and marking our route on a map. I have a map I’ve kept for each of the boys since they were babies and every time we travel I color in the states so they can keep track. I’ve also created these Road Trip Journal Pages to add to our road trip booklet, which includes a map to highlight the route taken and record favorite memories. It will be fun to keep one for each year and see all the places we’ve gone.

Here are a few Road Trip Survival Tips to make the journey easier:

1. Seating Arrangements: This is important for a tear-free road trip. We have learned that our oldest has to be in the back row all alone. If he is in arms reach of any one else, there will be crying. I also clean the car and vacuum it all out before a trip. Kind of pointless I know, since it looks like a tornado hit after day one, but it still makes me feel better to start out clean.

2. Busy Activities: For weeks before a trip I gather things together I know will keep them occupied. New coloring books, printable travel games, magnetic games (or wooden Doug & Melissa games where pieces are attached), toy computer, mini train track, drawing books, and we always take a trip to the library for a few new books to bring along. Ethan’s only got three books left in the A to Z Mystery series, so we’ll pick them up before we hit the road. I also let them play games on my iPhone if they start to have a meltdown, but I save that as an absolute last resort.

3. Music & DVDs: I try to find some fun music for them to listen to as we begin the trip. They love Steve Songs and Kindermusik. I play cd’s as long as they’ll let me. I try to hold off on a movie as long as possible, because I don’t want them to have mental junk food the entire trip, and once you start movies you can’t turn them off without a fight, or until they fall asleep. I get a few netflix movies they haven’t seen before and that will keep their attention. I also check the bargain bin for DVDs, the key is to finding something they’re not already bored of. I also download a few audio books on my iPhone for me to listen to while I drive. I’m currently reading anything Amish- (Beverly Lewis & Cindy Woodsmall)…

4. Food: If possible, I like to begin our trip early in the morning while they boys are still sleeping. We load them into the car with their jammies on and they usually will sleep for several hours. I pack them each a sack breakfast- banana, raisins, yogurt, and juice. So when they wake up they already have their food ready and I don’t have to climb in the back to help anyone.

We get real tired of fast food so the first day I always try to pack our own lunch, pb&j or chicken salad sandwiches. For snacks, a veggie tray, assorted fruit, goldfish, pretzels, animal crackers, and a special snack they don’t normally get like chips, fruit snacks or licorice. I used to travel with lots of juice boxes but they usually end up spilled all over and dumped on the floor, so I try to limit to one juice a day and water for the rest.

If it’s a multi-day trip we’ll often stop at a grocery store along the way to purchase fruit and veggie trays to replenish our supplies. If we’re stopping for dinner we’ll often try to find a grocery store with a deli and get a rotisserie chicken, french bread and tater babies. So much tastier than fast food.

5. Packing: I get the car completely packed the night before. If it’s a multi-day trip, I pack separate backpacks for each boy of clothes and things they will need at the hotel. So when we arrive we simply grab our backpacks and head in. The other clothes and things are packed in a suitcase or tote bag. I have an insulated picnic sized lunch box that sits behind my seat with all the snacks. I always keep food in arms reach because traveling makes you hungry.

I have some boxes I use to put books and things in for each boy and place it by their seat (or in the seat pocket) so they can easily access it while we’re driving. Their breakfast bag/snack bag is also placed by their seat. They each have a fabric trash bag attached to the seat in front (if only they could learn to use them!)

Fire up the GPS and get it programmed to your route (also have printed mapquest directions handy because you never know when it’s going to say “updating firmware” and be completely unusable). Fill up water bottles, have a stack of diapers and wipes handy, and don’t forget special blankets or stuffed animals.

The last thing we put in the car is the kids. Never make them wait in the car for you more than a few minutes or the trip will start off on a bad note.

6. Have Fun: Make the road trip fun! Don’t be in such a hurry to get to your destination that you can’t stop to enjoy the things you’re passing by. If you happen to see on the map that the world’s largest ketchup bottle (yup, I have a picture of it) is just a few miles away, take a detour and have some fun.

McDonald’s is your friend! Every few hours the kids are going to need to stop, pee and stretch their legs. The best place to go is McDonald’s. They get a ton of energy out running around the play place and it gives them something fun to look forward to. It really only takes 15 minutes and it is so worth it. We usually get out and stretch for lunch too. If it’s warmer weather we’ll have a picnic on any grassy spot we can find and let them run around. Again, it doesn’t have to be long, 15 to 20 minutes, but it will make a huge difference in the level of fun the kids are having.
If they’re old enough to read, give them an atlas or a copy of the state maps and have them trace the route. Have them look for cities on the map as you pass them. Let them know when you cross a state border, my kids get so excited and scream and yell whenever we enter a new state. 
Do you travel with your kids? What do you do to make traveling fun?
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6 thoughts on “Road Trip USA”

  1. Love this post. but it makes me want to travel rich tnow 🙂 We only travel to Orem and back and Orem and back….its daunting and I hate the drive! 🙂 I am so with you on the RV thing and traveling with kids. I can't wait to to on a Road trip use one day! 🙂 Have fun!

  2. I've always wanted to do the RV thing. Sadly, we've never had the means to travel much with our kids but maybe someday. Sounds like fun though. I hope you all have a blast!!

  3. I too have the RV dream! I somehow missed that you'd be traveling alone-you brave girl. : ) You must stay with us! I think the boys would love to play together!

  4. I love your blog!! I especially love your photos of the temples, I would really love to download one of the photos of the SLC temple and donate for it, however it seems as though the link to the SLC temples is the only one that doesn't work.

  5. Hello! I just discovered your site as it was linked on Latter-day Homeschooling. Umm…are you perfect? Because you sure seem to be. I think your blog is so awesome. About your homeschool planner, will you be updating it for the 2012-2013 school year? Pretty please 🙂 Good luck on your road trip. I love road trips.

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