Learnings from The Great American Road Trip
vacation family outing to a location that is not your home for an extended period chooses you. Trips vs. Family vacations has been written about before, but I digress.
Due to the timing of Easter and our school district’s spring break, we had 10 whole days on the calendar with no one in school. Originally, we planned to fly to see family in Oregon and Utah. Once we started looking into flights we realized we didn’t have the GDP of Bolivia to fly our family of 6 out west.
So we weighed our options:
- Fly to London: it was cheaper to fly, but we didn’t have passports for everyone and weren’t quite ready for foreign travel for kids who wouldn’t appreciate it.
- Don’t go anywhere: Although we are the joneses and everyone in our town should keep up with us, we knew Child#1’s classmates often talked about trips to various locales. Because they did is not a reason to do anything, but we want our kids to have great experiences too–well ones that are in line with our budget.
- Road Trip to D.C. and NYC: DING, DING, DING, DING, DING!
We could see my wife’s brother and his family in DC and there is so much to do there that is free. We could stop to see my wife’s cousin in New York State on the way down to DC and then hit New York City for a few days on the return. What could go wrong?
Some would think that was a set up for the most HORRIBLE trip in the world. But the trip was actually great. We saw museums, got our oldest interested in history, saw world-class entertainment, and reconnected with family. Traffic leaving was marginal, traffic to NYC was great, traffic home was okay. There were tears, anger and vomit–as our family has yet to have a road trip without it.
I will spare you the play-by-play at this stage in our blossoming blogging relationship, but here are some key take aways.
- Everyone needs a bed: Our hotel in D.C. had a king bed and a sofa bed. Although this configuration gave us a little more space to fit in a portable crib, it made for some sore mornings on my part. My back was done with the sofa bed by 6 a.m. It was easier to fit my wife and two daughters in the King bed, but night time acrobatics by our younger girl made it restless for them. In NYC we had two California Twins (full beds). We did this to save money as we are on the cusp of needing 2 rooms, but everyone needs space to sleep.
- Don’t Apologize for your Kids being Kids: Traveling is hard for everyone. You are off your schedule and short on sleep (see first point). At some point there will be meltdowns and short words. Take a break. Walking away for a few minutes is something I need to work on #crankydaddy. Don’t care what other people think. At one point my parenting was questioned by someone who obviously had no clue what he was talking about. Say good day and move on. Overall we found many people who were helpful, kind and supportive of our family. (Random NYC woman who just gave our youngest a matchbox car on the cross town bus I’m talking to you!)
- Adjust Your Expectations: Food while traveling is a big deal to me, I always want to try great food. I’ve been a parent for 10 years and when we travel I still have to remind myself that the time for fine dining is not now. But we had Cronuts, and great chocolate chip cookies, and child #3 had grilled cheese every day. #Allthecarbs. You also may not get to see everything you want to see or do everything you want to do. Well at least I can’t with my kids. but you make the most of what you can see.
- Invest in Experiences: Research says you should spend money on experiences and not things. But who am I kidding… we bought souvenirs to spare. Still though, I am glad that my wife and I got to see Sara Bareilles in Waitress the Musical. I’m glad Cathie and the Kids saw The Lion King. We also enjoyed our tour of the U.S. Capitol–which was free. I will remember those things when the trinkets and t-shirts are long gone.
There is more “wisdom” I could share I suppose, but we will leave it there for now. I am glad we went. We had a fun time and by the time you read this the laundry should be just about finished.