In early 2018 I got this idea in my head that I wanted to drive cross-country with my three kids and our dog. I tend to get a lot of crazy ideas, especially in the middle of the night when I wake up at 2 am and can't get back to sleep. The wheels start turning and I just can't make them stop. I think my husband was hoping this might be one of those crazy ideas that come and then goes. Alas, I could not let this one go. I convinced my husband this was indeed a fantastic idea, he knew this was one of those ideas that was not going away, so he went with it - he did, however, convince me not to bring our 90lb dog...GREAT CHOICE.
Now, this was in no shape or form a spontaneous, carefree road-trip. I had a set date we could leave, a specific date we needed to be in Escondido, California for a family reunion, dates we needed to be in Sisters, Oregon with family, and of course our dreaded, ridiculously early school starting date of August 1st. Working within those parameters, I started to plot out our five-week road-trip, trying to hit National Parks and cities to keep the trip fun and varied along the way. In high school, I had a teacher who used to tell us "Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance." That was my motto for this road-trip, it was planned, every night, every drive, every stop (mostly). I tend to start most things incredibly strong, but then my enthusiasm starts to fizzle out, so Part I of our trip was super well planned, Part II was so-so, and Part III was where we could be more "spontaneous" (aka take our pulse with a week left and let's see how we are feeling).
Part I - Atlanta, GA to Escondido, CA
Part II - Escondido, CA to Sisters, OR
Part III - Sisters, OR to Atlanta, GA
Before we departed all of our hotel reservations were made for Part I of our trip, along with reservations for Yellowstone which was during Part III of our trip. Fun fact, people make reservations at National Parks a year in advance, we were a little late to the game considering we were planning about two months in advance. We did manage to find places near or in parks by calling somewhat constantly and asking if there were any cancellations (a tip a friend gave me). We didn't camp because not only do I not know how to put up a tent, but mostly because I was the only driver (my husband joined us for parts of our adventure, but had to miss out on all of the fun drives - like from Atlanta to Arizona and Cheyenne to Atlanta <sarcasm>). I needed sleep every night and the thought of sleeping in a tent with my three kids did not sound restful, nor did share an RV with them and having to empty out the waste contents. Another time we will do all of those things, but this wasn't the time. My mechanic helped convince me that my Honda Odyssey minivan was the way to go, we had no flat tires, no breakdowns, I only took it in once in California for an oil change. Less than a month after we got home our van did break down, thank goodness it happened close to home.
I channeled all of my dreams of homeschooling and prepared travel journals, writing prompts, packets with workbook pages, book reports, driving quizzes, and more. I'm sure you would be shocked to know that most of these items were not put to use. I brought a huge bag of books, coloring materials, trivia games, and a bag of prizes. Using monopoly money (denominations of $1, $2, $3, $4, and $5 "bills") kids could earn "Mom Bucks" for completing worksheet packets, writing in travel journals, reading a book, trying new foods, crossing a state border, posing for photos with a smile....and then they could "buy" items from the prize bag. Mom Bucks worked so well that I now incorporate them into our allowance for the week taking away for bad attitudes, not completing chores before screen time, and of course, anything I can think of, they are a great bargaining tool. While I would like to take all the credit for “Mom Bucks” they actually stemmed from an idea one of my daughter’s teachers had I just tweaked it to make it work for us/me.
Packing is, of course, a question I get asked about a lot. I went a little type-A with this as well. We had four suitcases, one with just toiletries, and then a different suitcase for every few days. When we arrived at a hotel, we only needed to bring in two suitcases, my backpack, and a cooler that plugs into both a regular outlet and the cigarette lighter in your car. Outfits were planned in advance, and packing was based on when I might be able to do laundry again. This made getting in and out of hotels much easier. I also had a bag with just swim clothes and goggles so we could grab it in the event our hotel had a pool. When we left the car was packed, but very organized. After day one, the car was a mess and a not so well organized, but I sure felt organized when we left.
After a solid week of getting things packed, organized, and ready - it was time for our adventure to begin. Tune in next Tuesday to hear about our first stop, New Orleans
P.S. I know I never finished my blog about Africa, I promise I will eventually. I hope to post every Tuesday but I might miss one here and there but stay with me.