Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crossing My Fingers that Car Sickness Is Our Biggest Problem. Basically, Panic Is Setting In.

The countdown to our road trip is on, and I'm starting to panic.

Good grief, what was I thinking?  Who takes 6 kids on a road trip with zero plans??

Me, apparently.  Because instead of, I don't know, making plans, I'm cleaning out my purse.  And painting my toenails.  Real important stuff when you are about to embark on a road trip.

In a weak moment this morning, I asked the kids, "Should we pack a tent?  I'm afraid that at least one night, we're going to be sleeping in the van down by a river."  They simply paused from their bagel-eating to look at me.  They knew if they just sat there quietly, I'd answer my own question.  Which I did.  "No, you're right.  We won't have room for tents.  We barely have room for ourselves with all this other stuff we're packing."  "We" went on to discuss our lack of foresight when buying the 12-passenger instead of the 15-passenger van.

Yup.  It's going well.

Bryan, for his part, is doing his own panicking.  He would never tell me to cancel the trip, but he's making subtle hints.  Last night he suggested, "Remember Nashville?  It has all sorts of fun things to do.  The zoo.  The Parthenon.  The fun museums."  His hinting didn't make me book any hotels, but it did make me wonder if he secretly reads Dyanne's blog.  That would annoy me, since he doesn't even read mine all that often.

He has also handed me a Hilton card with all the phone numbers I can call if I decide to book a hotel in advance.  And this morning, he said, "Once you get to (someplace I can't recall), you can decide whether to go more southeast and head towards Gatlinburg."

There's a reason he plans all of our vacations.

I know there are plenty of people out there who can't even stand the thought of road tripping with kids, never mind road tripping without plans.  I'm not worried about the road tripping part.  Our kids are great travelers.  When they aren't throwing up from car sickness, they are a dream.

Our trip home from Disney two years ago.  Thirty minutes into the 20 hour drive, one child vomited.  15 minutes later, a second child did.  While I took photos, my mom held the bag of vomit-covered everything that Bryan handed to her.  Notice Cuckoo, still strapped into his car seat, "reading" as if nothing gross is going on behind him.
If you are planning on taking a road trip with kids, I've got some wisdom to share.  We've done this lots and lots and lots of times.

1.  Keep them well fed.  Hungry kids are cranky kids.  A steady supply of food will go a long way to keeping everyone content, if not happy.  When feeding the children, I look for fast, mostly healthy ways to do it.  Fast food is fast but gross.  Restaurants can be good, but they take time and require more sitting.  Our solution is to pack a lot of food.  If the kids are doing well, we'll eat in the car.  If they are squirrelly and need a break, we stop.

On a trip to St. Louis when I was pregnant with Giant.  The rest stop was closed, so we just got off at the next exit and ate in the grass next to a hotel parking lot.  Those boxes are the best things I have ever purchased in my entire life.  I don't think Tupperware sells them anymore, which is a darn shame.  They are awesome.  I still use the same ones I bought 13 years ago.

Our favorite foods to pack include cheese sticks, hard-boiled eggs, individual fruit containers (ex: applesauce cups, boxes of raisins, or pineapple tins), cups of peanut butter with pretzels, fruit leather, peanut butter crackers, granola bars, grapes, carrots, sandwiches, and cheese quesadillas.  Basically, anything that doesn't require a fork or spoon.  (My kids are able to "drink" their applesauce out of the container.)

2.  Give them things to do.  Busy kids are happy kids, so make sure they have things to occupy themselves.  I get carsick if I turn around much while Bryan drives, and I have no desire to sit in the back with them.  The kids are on their own when it comes to entertainment.  Poor, deprived children that they are, we have never had a van with a TV in it.  Each child has a desk in which he can pack toys and other activities but also use as a flat surface on which to write or play.  Activity books are great, whether they are mazes, hidden pictures, brain teasers, color-by-number, or MadLibs.  There are lots of travel games from which to choose, and if they are magnetic, even better.  They always pack crayons and pencils and a notebook.  (Loose paper is a pain in the neck.)

The day before the trip, we go to the library so each child can pick out a bag of books.  The littlest kids are only allowed to pick board books, as I don't like to pay for books little kids rip to pieces while sitting behind me.

Notice the library books between Phoenix and Buttercup?  How about the kids' camera for Giant?  And the small water bottle for Star?  Helps to keep those smiles all the way to our final destination.

As for electronic devices, the older kids are allowed to bring their iPods.  They get to use them until the battery runs out.  Basically, that gives them 2 hours.  The little kids are allowed to use my phone to play, but I limit them to about 30 minutes.  I save this phone time until the kids have played with everything they have brought and are getting restless.

3.  Stop often.  This is the key to any successful road trip.  For us, the vacation starts the moment we get in the van.  Why wait until we get to our final destination?  If possible, we have a buffer day on either side of the trip to allow us to stop and do fun things along the way.  Even if it's not possible, we still add some fun to the drive.

Every town has a school, and every school has a playground.  Our kids have played on many of them all over the country.  Parks are everywhere, and a short hike is a great way to burn some energy.  We stop and enjoy the touristy things in the cities we travel through.  For example, we made a great find in the zoo in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  Little museums and historical sites dot every state, and they are usually cheap or even free.

If nothing else is available, we turn rest areas into parks.  We can play tag, have a relay race, throw a football, chase the squirrels, or follow the leader.  I don't know why, but one of the favorite games of younger kids is to simply play "follow directions".  I stand in one place and tell them what to do.  For example, I tell them to skip to the tree, then hop on one foot back to me.  Over and over again, they want me to tell them what to do.  It's simple, easy, and the perfect way to get the sillies out.

One year I took the kids on a trip to visit my sister in Hilton Head.  This was taken at a rest area on the way.  Some stranger saw the kids playing and me taking some photos for Bryan and offered to take one of all of us.

Basically, be flexible and prepared.  Be especially prepared for car sickness.  No one wants to travel naked and surrounded by vomit simply because Mom and Dad forgot to have extra clothes, trash bags, and wet wipes handy.


It looks like the entire gulf coast will be hanging out in the 70s for our trip, so that's where we're headed. Yes, the coast spans 3 states (and parts of two more), so it's not really narrowing things down much, but it's a start.  We looked at a map to give the kids a better idea of distances and possibilities, so everything from New Orleans to Destin to Atlanta are possible turn around points.

I noticed today that my dad has now gotten an Instagram account to keep track of our travels.  Feel free to do the same.  My tag or whatever it's called is "inthecoop".

Do you have any tips for us and our travels?  What do you do to make sure your road trip is fun and headache free?

Have a lovely day!


  1. make plans! HahaHAHAHA. just kidding...i love going the no plan route because it makes everything a novelty instead of limiting it to one destination. HaveIloads of fun!

    1. Ha! You aren't the first ones to think it!
      I'm hoping for lots of fun novelties.

  2. 1 - I think if I had kids who were car sick I'd be less inclined to feed them well and more inclined to starve them - I don't 'do' vomit! :(

    What do I do to make sure my road trip is fun and hassle free? - I don't take any kids! lol

    Anyway, stop panicking, get yourselves out there and enjoy it - you know you will :)

    1. Hahahaha! It never crossed my mind that people would connect those two things! :)

      The car sickness almost always occurs within the first hour of the trip, before any food has been consumed.

      Yes, your dogs are most certainly easier to travel with. No doubt.

      I know we'll try!

  3. have a great time and enjoy the sights...consider Dramamine or Bonine!!!!!

    Enjoy and be safe!

    1. Thanks! We have used boxes and boxes of Dramamine. Thankfully, Star seems to have outgrown the car sickness. I am hoping Turken and Cuckoo aren't simply taking his place.

  4. This is fascinating. I don't know whether to applaud you or buy you a case of Dramamine. :) Ellen

    1. Applaud and pray at the same time, please. We have the Dramamine covered.

  5. I wrote this big comment and then lost it bc I couldn't remember my Google password - ugh! Anyway, I was saying that we took a trip to Atlanta a few years ago just for the aquarium. It's expensive, but has both whale sharks and manta rays - the only aquarium in the U.S. to have them. Those things are HUGE! We loved watching them swim around, they were so graceful. Loved it. Have fun! I don't think I could take a trip like that. Maybe if I got it in my head that we would have to stop A LOT - I think that probably makes our road trips suckier - we don't stop enough.

    1. Ack. Sorry about that. Thanks for sticking around to write another one.

      I have been to Atlanta a couple of times, but never to the aquarium. It sounds like a great stop. I'll keep it in mind if we end up heading that way.

      Kate, you must stop more often. For your sanity and theirs.

  6. I so remember all of these things. Now it's just hubby, me and our dog Little Bit. It's so much easier now. I can't wait to hear how this unplanned trip goes.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. I imagine it is a lot easier. Especially since you all spend so much time on a boat these days.

      I can't wait to see how it goes. :)

  7. I am a planner, so I'm so impressed that you can take a road trip without a destination in mind! You have the "how to travel with kids" thing down pat, though. My only other suggestion would be singing together. Whenever we cross from Oregon to Washington, or vice versa, we sing, "Roll On, Columbia, Roll On." We sing it as many times as it takes to cross the bridge. Usually we get in a couple of renditions, but when we cross in Astoria, the bridge is 4 miles long, and allows for a "this-song-is-stuck-in-my-head-now" sort of experience. Singing isn't just for bridge-crossing, though. When kids are singing, the "He's breathing my air! She's in my space! He's looking at me!" comments decrease.

    1. Ha! Funny you should mention singing. Cuckoo and Turken have spent half the day trying to learn our little vacation ditty we always sing as we pull out of the driveway when we leave for a vacation. The spelling the end of v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n is throwing Cuckoo off. We have lots of little songs that pop up. I bet your kids will be continuing those song traditions with your grandkids.
      The image of a van full of people singing the same song for 4 miles is cracking me up.

  8. Have a GORGEOUS time. You seem to have it covered. Hope it all goes really really well x

  9. I've never done a no-plans roadtrip, that is a little intimidating! We had a 15 passenger van for a couple years and that was awesome for roadtrips with 7 of us kids. Having plenty of snacks is key. My parents seemed to practice the "never stop" strategy, though. They were quite proud that they could make the 9 hour trip from our home in KY to visit my grandparents in MI with only one stop along the way--it was a little torturous, though.

    1. We've taken a few, but all were before kids. They were so much fun, so I have high hopes for this one.
      I'm jealous of the space of a 15-passenger.
      Oh my word. One stop in 9 hours? Sounds rough. The only time we get excited about not stopping is when we travel back home to Ohio. It's a 6 hour drive, and we rarely make it without stopping. The only time I remember in the last 5 years is the one when we left Ohio at 9:00pm, trying to beat the blizzard heading for Indy.

  10. More power to ya! We love St. George Island, Florida along the gulf coast! There are a couple of hotels there, but we typically rent a spot for the week. Hope you have lovely weather! Great tips, kids were experienced travelers as well! I loved the prep as much as the trip.

  11. I will keep that in mind, in case we head that direction. Even if there aren't hotels, we can go to a beach for a few hours, then drive back towards home for a hotel off the beaten path.
    Thank you!

  12. Your kind of travelling is right up my alley. :D G...not so much. Point A to Point B with the least amount of spots and apparently you win! Gas??? Not unless the station is right off the exit ramp in the direction we are going. I did, however, pack many, many snacks and we were most thankful when they got their own electronics. I think we wore out the cassette tape of the Lion King one summer and the Backstreet Boys another. Haahaa!

    Have fun!!!

  13. Ha I have vacationed with little ones and pregnant, the kids are resilient and willing to do more if they realize it is what they need to do to survive!
    And,you have a friend who lives in the gulf coast!!! we would welcome a visit, there are 2 parks in asking distance and plenty of floor space to "camp out on" white sand beaches only an hour away!

  14. I hope you have a lovely vacation! We are embarking upon a great adventure with our crew this Saturday and I will keep all your tips in mind! I only wish I was married to a man not quite so hell bent on driving the whole 10 hours in one stretch!

  15. I am so far behind and not even reading these travel posts in order Lol! All I can tell you is that I think you are the bravest person I know.

  16. Such a challenge getting kids across the country in one piece. I remember growing up how much trouble my parents had with me and my 7 brothers and sisters. It was like corralling chickens most days. I think that is why I chose to stick with only 4 kids. That way there is a hand for each child to hold.

    Damion @ Jacky Jones Lincoln

  17. That is a great picture from Hilton Head. My mother lives in Savannah and that area has the best scenery for pictures. My sister got married there and it was just absolutely breathtaking everywhere you go. There are so many old historical building and beautiful natural flora and fauna. Thanks for the list though, it covers all the major points.

    Paige Hollingsworth @ Baldwin Motors Lincoln


Thank you for taking the time to tell me what you're thinking!