Car Trip Packing and Survival
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The only way we can afford to go to WDW once every 12-18 months is to drive there from here in upstate NY.
I always get a trip tik from AAA, and another wonderful book is the Exit Authority. Renamed Exit Source in 2001, I think it is now out of print. It is a wonderful resource that would tell of all gas stations, restaurants, banks, Wal-marts, hotels, etc, etc. within a 1/4-mile radius of any given interstate interchange. We managed to find a copy on ebay for a friend. Even though the info might be slightly outdated, not all that much changes at those interchanges from year to year. It is a great resource. Haven't found anything that really compares.
I just love the welcome centers as you enter each state. Usually within the first couple miles after you cross the border, there are always clean rest rooms and if the weather is nice, you can take advantage of the picnic areas which are usually there. No gas, but a great stop for a quick on-off.
On our drive down last summer, we located McDonald's with play areas approximately where we planned to stop for lunch. We would unload the kids and make the necessary bathroom stop. Then, DH would pick up food for the two of us and we would eat while watching the kids burn off some steam in the play area. When we were ready to go, I'd wash up the kids and get them loaded into the car while DH would buy their lunches. They ate while we resumed our trip and then they were ready for 'nap time' (all parents favorite time of the day).
The McDonald's website is very easy to use and provides directions so that you can be sure you're choosing a location that's right off of the highway (and not 15 minutes out of your way). It even lists locations with drive up windows (if the kids are sleeping when you are hungry).
I NEVER thought to have us adults eat while the kids play and then let them have THEIR meals in the car! My kids are pokey eaters, and then they want to play too. What a fantastic idea. I keep those divided trays in the car for eating in there normally, they'll be making this trip with us! Thanks!
WARNING. This is a long post. I've got all this information in my pre-trip report in another forum, but I thought I'd just slip my 2 cents (or 2 bucks) in here.
We have a Dodge Sport Caravan. It’s smaller than a regular minivan by about a foot in length. Space is at a premium when you’re driving 12 hours and then another 10 hours (and that’s one way). For these trips, we carry “The Turtle” on the luggage rack. It’s a hard side “X-Cargo" luggage carrier we bought from Sears years ago. Better than the soft-sided ones when it rains. All our luggage, extra drinks, etc. go up top in the Turtle.
We always take out the middle seat of the van (we have a bench seat). The kids sit in the very back. Between the kids, on the seat, is our portable DVD player (with headphones - no other way to go!). Behind the seat is my “Medicine Bag” (I keep this packed to the hilt), my cosmetic bag, a bag with one change of clothes for everyone, pillows and blankets. We try to be sure that the seat will still recline so the kids can nap on the way.
Under the passenger seat is a drawer where I keep a large check file with a map of every state we’ll be passing through, as well as our AAA TripTik and auto insurance/registration as well as copies of our Annual Passes in case they’re lost. Also in this drawer is some “office essentials” such as scissors, tape, post it notes, note paper, paper clips, 2 pens, a mechanical pencil, a sharpie, travel size hand sanitizer gel, comb, glue stick, binder clips, tape measure, swiss army knife, Carmex, fingernail clippers, mints, extra sunglasses and a few extra bandaids. It sounds like a lot, but it all fits with room to spare.
We try to keep the area between the driver and passenger seat clear since I’m usually the one who has to hop out of my seat to help the kids with anything. I just keep a little tote bag of my reading things handy there.
In front of the kids / behind us (the now big open area) is for everything else we’ll need in the car. Behind the passenger seat, we keep a full-size cooler with cold snacks, water and juice pouches in it. We’ve thought about getting an electric cooler, but have always been afraid it would run the battery down when the car is off or get too warm if we turned it off completely. We don’t mind ice packs in the cooler. This makes it difficult to enter the car through the passenger sliding door, so it’s pretty much blocked off. The kids get in from the driver side sliding door. Behind the driver’s seat is a plastic 4-drawer “tower” I got from WalMart a while back. It is essentially four drawers that separate but fit on top of each other. We use clear packing tape to keep these connected in a tower and bungee them to the driver seat with the drawers facing the passenger seat. This is where I put the following: paper towels, plastic utensils, condiment packets (salt, pepper, sweet/sour sauce, etc.) , snack (including peanut butter, cheezits, Pringles, pop tarts, chocolate chip, cookies, gummies, Triscuits - garlic!, granola bars, small cereal boxes, powdered drink mix, and whatever looks good at the store right before we leave), car games, paper plates, wet wipes, 6 or 7 DVDs (ours and borrowed from friends and the library), art supplies, car cell phone charger, camera and film (enough for the trip there), earplugs (for me to nap in the car peacefully), 3 booklights, ziploc bags, paper cups, playing cards, book of card games (for those we haven’t learned yet!), straws, extra plastic grocery bags for trash can (which is next to the drawer unit), extra batteries and books. (Whew!)
In between the cooler and the drawer unit, right down the middle of the car, I usually lay down one of our camp mats. It’s very long so I have to tuck the foot of it under the kids’ seat too. This is a self-inflating mat I bought at Sam’s Club last year. When you unroll it, it airs up to about a 2 1/2” thickness (with padding inside) and you roll it back up to push the air out. It’s VERY comfortable and better than a rumbling hot car floor. It covers the tracks where the bench seat installs, too. We also use it at the hotel if the kids refuse to sleep together. I use it in the car to sit with the kids and play (while they stay in their seat belts), or for me or DH to lay down for a nap while on the road. The inside of our car resembles some kind of kids’ fort by the time we’re through. All we need is a blanket draped over it all. I store a stack of four divided trays under the kids’ bench seat for eating in the car on the run.
We took our first Disney trip two years ago. Our children at the time were 3, 13, and 11. The youngest is a boy and the older two are girls. One thing that we did was to buy small, inexpensive presents for the kids. I wrapped these presents and gave one to the kids each day we traveled. Not only did they have fun opening presents but they kept the children busy for a while.
This is a great article I read from "Organizedtimes.com". I get their e-newsletter every week with organization tips. There's some good ones in here:
Are We There Yet? How to Organize Your Family's Travel Time
by Debbie Williams
Are we there yet? How far is it? I'm hungry! He's looking at me again!
If you are in a car for more than 15 minutes with a child, I'm sure you have heard any or all of these questions in your travels. Summer is finally here, and many of you are
planning to hop in the car to drive to an exciting destination, perhaps to your favorite theme park, to camp in the mountains, or to visit loved ones seldom seen. But often the thought of spending hour after hour in a small space listening to a constant whining noise gives you the shudders.
By using some of these travel tips, you'll be able to plan a less stressful outing for your own family, and find the courage to do it again next year, too.
When Are We Going to Be There?
Whether your kids are 2 or 12, they are clueless when it omes to space and time. Telling them repeatedly "soon, dear" does not give them any more indication of an ETA (estimated time of arrival) than saying that Christmas is in December to a 3-year-old. They just don't get it.
Satisfy their curiosity by providing them with the rights tools for the job: a map, a compass, and an inexpensive digital watch. Even the smallest of preschoolers will be happy to find North on a compass, not to mention telling the driver he's going the wrong way!
Give your little navigator an atlas or state map, or make a good photocopy of your original one. Highlight your route, placing stickers or stars at scheduled rest stops. Not only does this point the way, but it also takes care of the next two challenges: perpetual hunger while in motion, and boredom. It helps your little travelers to know when and where they will be stopping to stretch and get the wiggles out.
It's inevitable; no sooner than your minivan leaves the riveway, a small voice from the backseat cries, "I'm hungry!" At the risk of giving professional car detailers everywhere a jump in business, I highly recommend putting the kids in charge of their snacks. I'm not endorsing a junk-food frenzy, but you can make food and drink accessible
to them so that they have a sense of independence and responsibility.
Put a small cooler with drinks (juice, milk, and water) in a central location where everyone can reach. In our SUV, I have a small cooler between the seats, Velcroed to the carpet to minimize slippage. But you can place this on the floorboard or between the seats. It can even double as a seat divider to diminish those cries of "Mom, he's TOUCHING me!"
Fill paper lunch sacks with pre-measured snacks of fruit, crackers, cookies, trail mix, etc. Use your imagination, or let the kids help you make these in advance. They just love being in charge of their meals, and this is a good way to let them help while you pack the car for your trip.
But I'm B-O-R-E-D!
There's nothing to do. I'm tired. I don't want to play another game of License Tag Bingo!
Tired of the old standby car games? Plan a few new ones this year with a quick visit to your local toy store, or invent your own. Magnetic board games, handheld video games, a Discman or Walkman with books on tape (story tapes for the smaller tots), or your child's favorite music are a great start to car harmony.
Assemble Activity Bags in paper lunch bags filled with a snack, an activity, and a toy. For toddlers and preschoolers, this can be a small box of raisins, a travel-size Magna Doodle, and a Beanie Baby. Older kids might enjoy Fruit Rollups, word search puzzles, and a comic book. These don't have to be new items, either; just raid the toy box for items that haven't been used in a while. You'll be recycling their toys as well as their interest (for a few miles, anyway).
Take the Activity Bag one step further by placing colored stickers on the outside of each bag: 1 sticker for the first bag, 2 stickers for the second, 3 stickers for the third, etc.
If you hide these and don't let the kids know what's up until you get in the car, it's like a treasure hunt on wheels. At a predetermined spot on your map (and theirs), they can open Bag 1, but they have to wait until the next spot to open Bag 2, and so forth. Put a star on the map indicating when (and where) they can open their bags. This
passes the time, keeps their interest varied, and even teaches basic geography skills all at the same time.
Another simple twist on the Activity Bag is to wait to open them until you are stopped at a rest stop. The bags contain snacks, physical activities, and provide a little structure for the wiggle worms in your care. Last summer during a long driving vacation, I stashed bubbles, a small Frisbee, and a Hot Wheels car in my son's bags. He was excited about the contents of his activity bag, and stayed busy with Dad while I unpacked our picnic lunch. It also gave him something safe to do while we were stopped.
Driving trips don't have to be dreaded all year long. With a bit of organization, planning, and teamwork, you can supply your travelers with some simple and effective ways to pass their time. Before you know it, they will no longer be asking, "Are we there yet?" but rather "Dad, can I drive?" Enjoy the scenery, have a safe trip, and don't forget to send me a postcard.
Debbie Williams is a professional organizer and editor of the online organizing forum, OrganizedTimes.com. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For a fun game everyone can play--even the driver, even though it might sometimes be hard, try Rubberneckers. It's a card type game where you draw cards out of a box and the first person to spy what's on the card wins points.
For example, if you get a card on it, it might say...find train tracks for two points. If it has a moving train on the track, you get four points.
It's kind of fun and fairly easy to play while in the car without making a big mess.
Hi Everyone! We are driving down on July 17 from Boston. But we found a great book called Drive I-95. It has "exit by exit info, maps, history and trivia." It tells you what every rest stop has in it and what it offers. It tells you all of the hotels off of all of the exits, gives a list of radio stations along the way, lists radar traps, shows where the 24hr gas places are, and a lot more. If you are driving I-95 at all go and get this book! (It's written by Stan Posner and Sandra Philips-Posner.)
Geeze, you would think I get a kick-back or something for promoting the book, but alas, I don't.
I went to my local Borders and purchased the book on Friday nite. I can't believe the information in it, as we drive from NY it's perfect for our needs. Big Dog Dad - It is true that is does not cover the portion of !-95 in FL. The book encompasses from Boston to the GA/FL border. The way I look at it is it is more information that I was armed with before and it's a handy reference guide if you plan on stopping overnite. In our case, we drive straight through (usually takes us about 18 hours), but it does tell us where certain gas stations are and what food there is to eat. It tells about drug stores, supermarkets etc. Lists radar traps, speed zones and rest areas. I think it is well worth the cost, I paid $22.00 + sales tax.
Hello Sumil67! We are also from NY, Westchester County, and will be making the drive down in November. It will be our frist time driving down to Florida. Sounds like that book might be worth a second look, thanks for the feedback. Would love to hear any other info or recommendations you may have for the drive down. Thanks again and have a great vacation.