Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Road Trip - part 1 (planning and packing)

We have been talking about taking a road trip out west to visit with family for months, OK maybe it's been over a year.  Well, we finally decided to stop talking about it and actually drive out there.  So that's just what we did for 17 days this August.  It was the first long road trip for the kids.  We've never driven more than 2 hours with all three kids, and up to 4 hours with just two of the kids.  Maybe we should have started with a shorter road trip to give us some practice and to see how thing would go - but we just went for it.

From our home in PA to my in laws in WY would be about 34 hours.  We'd make a couple of stops along the way to break it up and on the way back east we'd stop for a few days in South Dakota before making the long trek home.  Overall we logged 5300 miles and were in the car for at least 75 hours.

How did we do it?

Mapping Our Route

The first thing I did was to use Google Maps to plan our route and all the stops.   We wanted to stop by some of the historic Mormon Pioneer sites since they are along the way too.  Omaha, Nebraska seemed like a good 'middle' point so we decided to spend the night there on the way to Wyoming.   We'd visit the Mormon Trail center while we were there too.

Our next stop was in Laramie WY (the eastern part of WY).  We spent the night there and left the following morning for Grover WY (the western part), stopping along the way to tour the Willie 6th Crossing Pioneer Site.

We arrived at my in laws around dinner time and stayed with them for about a week.   That was the first leg of the trip which lasted about 10 days.

For the second leg of the trip,  we headed to South Dakota to visit an old friend of my husband's and to see some touristy stuff like Mt. Rushmore.

We didn't realize when we planned the trip that the Sturgis Bike Rally was going on.  We had originally planned to visit SD first then WY, but we had to switch that since the Bike Rally was going on the week of August 6th.  We had a couple of hotel stays in South Dakota near the points of interest we'd be seeing, and then another 'midway' stop on the way home, this time in Iowa.

I also used this site:  http://www.onthewayapp.com/
to find some neat things to do along the way, such as stopping to see the Green Giant Statue.

Once I had our route planned, I could start making hotel reservations.


We used Priceline to get a good deal on hotels.  We spent between $48 and $66 per hotel night.   For most of the hotel stays, we arrived late and left after breakfast the next morning.  So paying for a hotel with lots of amenities didn't make sense.   Some of the hotels were better than others, but they were all clean and we all slept well.  When you use Priceline, you are booking a hotel room for 2 adults.  If you need to have 2 queen beds instead of 1 king, you then have to call the hotel and see if they can switch your room.  We did this for each hotel and all but one was able to get us into a room with 2 queen beds.   Oh, and you have to call each hotel and make sure you get a non smoking room if that's what you prefer.  All the hotels we dealt with were nice and tried to accommodate our needs.  One night we stayed in a log cabin, which we thought would be fun because we'd all have our own beds and it was two rooms.

Sleeping Arrangements

Since most hotels had two queen beds, the Mr. and I slept in one bed while the two older kids slept in another.  We'd let the Spencinator and Sweetie Pie fall asleep in different beds and then put them together in the same bed when it was time for Kevin and I to go to bed.  By the end of the trip, they didn't even complain about this and fell asleep in the same bed without having to be separated first.  We also tried to do something in the evenings and get back to the room late, or we just arrived late from driving all day.  That way the kids were tired and we just got to bed, without trying to settle them down too much.  As for the Babes.  Well, she had become quite particular in her sleeping which really worked out for us in this trip.  A couple of months ago she refused to sleep in her crib.  So she'd been sleeping in the guest bed in her room.  Then she even refused to sleep in the bed, only sleeping on the floor.  We tried a toddler bed and an air mattress/sleeping bag thing on the floor, but no.  Just a blanket on the floor with a pillow to lay over and her blankie in her hand with her dog blanket on top of her.  This is how she slept for our road trip and it worked great.  I usually moved the little table and chairs that were in the corner of the hotel room, and set up her 'bed' there.  She did really well in going to sleep with all of us in the room.  And now that she is home, she sleeps in her toddler bed most nights.  Every now and again she still requests 'the floor', but overall she is learning that she should sleep in a bed.

Now that I had planned our route and made our hotel reservations, it was time to start packing.


I found a couple of great ideas from Holistic Homemaking, you can check them out HERE.
I liked her idea of packing each complete outfit in a zip loc bag {including underwear and socks}. That way you aren't rummaging around trying to find a shirt to go with the shorts or looking for a single sock.
And I liked her idea about an overnight back for when you are just staying one night in a hotel.
She says: If you will be traveling over the duration of several days and will be stopping at a hotel, packing an overnight/bedtime bag is extremely helpful. It saves you from having to unpack the car to get in to your suitcase at each stop along the way. Be sure to include toiletries and any needed hygiene items as well as any lovies your child needs {blanket, stuffed animal, etc}.

We did this several times and having the kids clothes in zip loc baggies made it so easy to pack for each overnight stay.   So how much did we pack?  We had 10 outfits each, knowing we'd be able to do laundry at my in laws before the second leg of the trip.  I also had toiletries (including diapers) and swim stuff.
Kevin and I each had a suitcase with our own clothing in it.  I also packed one large suitcase with all three kids clothes, each outfit in a separate zip loc bag.  I had one bag of toiletries and other hygiene items, plus our overnight suitcase.  For a total of 4 suitcases and one large tote bag.  We'd take the overnight suitcase and the toiletries bag into the hotel.  Between hotel stays I'd put the dirty clothes into the kids suitcase and take out another baggie of clothes for the kids to repack our overnight bag.  This worked out great for the most part.  There were a couple of times I had to unload everything to sort things out, but having the overnight bag saved us a lot of time searching for clothes and hauling stuff into the hotels.

I'll explain in another post about what toys/entertainment stuff we packed to keep the kids busy in the car ride.  This post has gotten long enough.

Most of my ideas I found through Pinterest.  You can check out my 'road trip' board on Pinterest HERE.

Anyone else have some great road trip helps and ideas for staying organized.  I'd love to hear about them.  Our road trip went well enough that we'd consider going on another one (in a year or two).

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