Thursday, June 30, 2011

Our Road Trip! (my Travel Tips)

Just truned 3, Vivienne already a travel pro ...
Being married to a person from France, travel will always be a part of our life.  By the time Vivienne was 2 1/2 she had flown to France twice, Portland, Atlanta and Los Angeles from San Francisco.  Her first trip, and my first trip with a baby occurred when she was 8 weeks when she and I flew alone to France.  The pediatrician told me at 8 weeks it would be the easiest time I ever traveled with a child.  Now that she is almost four, I know he was right!

As she got older, and I had more kids to deal with, I got more and more travel savvy with the help of many friends and family who offered their tips for a trip as successful and painless as you can hope for.

This past weekend, my travel skills were tested with a road trip to Los Angeles with the three girls and my mom.  It was going to be a quick trip for my nephew's 4th birthday.  Down and back in three days.

First things first.  The best tip I got was from a good friend who told me to pack a bag of small "treats" for each kid to be given out along the way.  Small toys / books, you know the $1 - $3 stuff.
GREAT travel toy!  No mess!!
The etch a sketch was a huge hit on all of our trips.  From 18 mos on, the girls love using it.  This trip my mom also brought little chalk boards.  Vivienne used hers for a long time.  We had an IPad, IPhone, a lot of books and another must - tons of food.
Another great travel activity ... coloring fun no mess!!

Car travel is different than air travel in that when a little one gets antsy, there is no getting up and walking around.  You have to stop.  This is where the patience of those adults on the trip is tested.
I went to school in LA & have made many road trips to and from San Francisco.  I had the trip down to 5 hours, with one stop for gas.  This trip, it took 7 1/2 hours each way.

I did some research on "kid friendly" stops, and really couldn't find much for our route, until you get to the base of the grapevine.  There is a blog called  which has a bunch of travel tips.  I discovered that 1 1/2 - 2 hours was the maximum amount of time we could go before someone lost it.  Our first stop was in Santa Nella.  You know, Anderson's Pea Soup.  Perfect timing for a pit stop   especially when dealing with a 4 year olds bladder.   We didn't stop to eat.  I am not a fan of sitting in a restaurant on a road trip.  I am not a fan of going to a sit down resatuant w/ three kids under 4 at any time, but espcially when the point of a pit stop is to get that energy out.  Anderson's has a huge, clean bathroom.  Nice diaper changing table.  There is also a toy / candy shop when you walk in, so beware of that.  My girls are good with playing with all of the fun stuff but don't throw fits when we walk out with nothing.  I usually say oh you want that?  Pick it up & then when they look at the other thing they "have to have" I put the first toy down.  There is a little grassy area with a photo op (cut out of people making soup) for a fun excuse to run around.

Back in the car for another hour and a half.  My kids who normally sleep in cars (especially the baby) were WIDE awake for this trip.  I am so glad I had my mom to switch out books, pass back snacks and retrieve the numerous "lost" pacifiers.  Our next stop was one of the multiple exits that boasts a McDonalds.  Now, we had packed so much food there was no need to stop for lunch, but it was time to fill the gas tank.  I took the opportunity to get two Happy Meals (for the toys) and use the restroom.  So many of these stops there is no where to have the kids run around, and two of the rest stops were closed.  

Naps came about an hour after that stop and the rest of the trip was about as uneventful as we could have hoped.  

The trip back proved to be much more, shall we say, eventful.  

Leaving LA (near Ontario) at 9:30, we hit a little LA traffic.  We stopped an hour later in Ventura to get gas.  Coco & Audrey were out.  I had hoped to stop on the other side of the grapevine.  I have heard that there is a great park w/ picnic tables and large areas to run around.  I was not about to wake the kids though!!

We stopped in Buttonwillow for lunch.  It was now 12:30 and we needed a break.  Again, I opted for the McDonald's ... in hopes the toy could buy 30 minutes of "good kids".  The McD's here has a small grass area in front & we played red light / green light for about 10 minutes to encourage the girls to run.   Our next stop, 2:00 Harris Ranch.  We didn't stop to eat, but to play in the courtyard.  They have a huge fountain as well as tables and chairs to sit.  It is well shaded and a nice little place to rest.  Also, for other people the gift shop ;) Nice clean bathrooms too.

ok w/ Coco who went into a massive 2 year old tantrum.  We tried everything we could w/ out stopping.  45 minutes later I whipped out the benadrill, and 15 minutes later ... she was still screaming.  We pulled the car over, my mom (no, she didn't want me.) held her for about 5 minutes while she calmed down.   I got into the drivers seat and away we went.

Along this route there is a neat radio station that plays song from the 40's & 50's.  1330 FM.  Talk about kid friendly radio!  It is fun to hear the songs too.

We arrived back into Concord at 5:30 pm.  400 miles, 8 hours ... I survived.  I think it is kind of like childbirth, you just have to get through it & then you forget how bad it was so you'll want to do it again. I really should have plotted out the rest stops, and will do that next time!  My mom brain totally spaced on those.  Now, your turn.  I would love to hear your travel tips!  What worked for you?  Any must have travel items?  Let me know!

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