Affordable and Enjoyable
Family Roadtrips
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Affordable and Enjoyable Family Roadtrips

It's Imagefall and the kids are back at school - phew - that's a relief!  But, as we all know, time flies and before you know it, it is going to be spring and the kids are going to be let out for around 10 (long and strenuous!) days.  It's a tough time of year for parents because it's not like in summer when there are a multitude of camps from which to choose.  Also, the weather is still somewhat cold so the option of throwing them in the backyard for hours on end is also out.  So, the question remains, what do you do with your kids?

If you are able to plan it so that you can take some time off of work, then I strongly suggest planning a road trip.  It's a relatively inexpensive way to take the whole family away in a (somewhat) comfortable environment.  Sure, we'd all love to be able to afford first class tickets for the whole crew to Disneyland or Hawaii and stay in an all-inclusive luxury resort for 10 days but seriously, who's got the cash flow for that?  Just one day at Disney costs enough to feed your entire extended family for a month (OK, maybe I am exaggerating, but you get my point).  So, take the time now to reserve a minivan rental and start planning a fantastic getaway for the spring.

Below are some tips to follow so that your road trip is inexpensive, fun and hassle-free:

Where to stay: There are many ways to plan the trip so that you are able to stay on a relatively low budget.  If the weather is somewhat nice, pack your tent and sleeping bags and spend each night at a different campground.  If the weather isn't so fantastic (or you are a wimp like me who needs a real bed), book nights at cheap inns or motels.  You won't need more than one room - just cram everybody into one room and threaten your kids that if they don't 'behave' they will be the one to sleep on the floor without a pillow (works like a charm!).

What to eat: First of all, make sure to pack as much food as you can from home.  You know all those cans of beans, tuna, soup and tomato sauce that have been sitting in your pantry since the inception of the Internet (OK, well, maybe not that long - if you have stuff that is that old, pitch it!)?  Well, now's the time to pull it out of the cupboard, blow away the dust and pack it all up in the car (just don't forget your can opener).  You will be amazed at what you have lying around the kitchen that needs to be eaten. 

Of course, you can't pack all of your food for 10 days so make sure to pass by a supermarket every other day on the trip.  Pick up fruits, veggies, bread and milk - at least enough to last you a few days.  Sure, you won't be eating like a superstar while you're away but at least you won't be hungry!

To avoid the pending, "Mom, I'm hungry, I need to eat" whines that are surely to irritate your ears at least 20 times a day, be sure to have lots of snacks at your disposal in the car (isn't this what glove compartments are for?).  Nuts, granola bars, crackers and dried fruit are perfect healthy snacks to keep on hand.

Entertainment: Sure, the scenery through which you are driving may be unbelievable but try telling that to a 5-year old after the first hour of driving.  Somehow I don't think his or her appreciation of the foliage will be as earnest as yours.  It's a good idea to play games while driving.  You know which ones I'm talking about - the ones we have all played at least once during our lives: "I spy with my little eye", "Punch Buggy", and the naming of countries starting with the last letter of the country named by the person before you.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  (If not, send in a comment and you and I can have a little word game of our own.)

Portable DVD's are handy - just make sure to bring headphones.  The last thing you want is to be listening to Dora the Explorer while trying to enjoy the scenery.  Somehow the two just don't go together.  iPods and CD players are also lifesavers.

In her article, Family Road Trip Packing Trips and Checklist, Maya Kruchankova offers some great novel entertainment tips:

Banish the "Are we there yet?" with proper kid-friendly entertainment. For the little ones, bring along interactive games, flash cards, and new books to pique their interest. But feel free to get creative. On our most recent road trip I brought along a pack of colorful pipe cleaners. The end result was hours of designing. We made eye glasses, very scary monsters, and a garden, which was "planted" in the back seat pockets.

Gotta Pee?: Yeah, we've all heard it before, "Dad, can you stop NOW, I HAVE TO PEE!!"  (If only I had a quarter for each time I heard that while driving on the highway with my three little girls...)  Anyway, there are quick fix solutions to this problem.  Now, bear with me on this one because it is kind of gross but apparently works like a charm.  My sister-in-law has 3 boys ages 4, 9 and 10.  She and her husband have been going on road trips since the boys were babies.  When diapers were no longer part of the picture they introduced the empty water bottle.  Every time one of the boys has the urge to tinkle, the bottle comes up, pants go down and PRESTO! problem solved.  Of course, it has to be said, don't think that bottles of apple juice magically appeared by the end of the day - that would be a rude awakening!

It's a bit more difficult for girls - for more than obvious reasons.  Bringing a portable potty seat to pull out and use at the side of the road is helpful.  But if you can't stop the car... well... here's to hoping...

This just about sums it up for me.  If you have any other useful tips, please do comment below.  Let us parents unite and - the more suggestions the better, especially if they are going to assist on the next road trip!


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