Last summer my father excitedly shared that he’d booked a cabin for a family reunion in Gaitlinburg, TN. I gulped.
Then I mapquested the trip. And then, I cried.
TWENTY-FIVE HOURS. That’s how long it would take my little family to drive from Flagstaff to Gaitlinburg. I immediately decided we’d fly.
But, funny thing – flights for the week of the 4th of July aren’t at all economical. I looked at every airline, and every airport within a 5-hour radius of my destination. Red-eye flights. Connecting flights. You name it – they were all solidly expensive.
I was faced with a choice: About $2,500 in airline fees or a 25-hour road trip cross country.
We chose the road trip.
And guess what – it was actually really fun. Not on accident though – here’s what saved my sanity and transformed the 25-hours from a trip I dreaded into the trip of a lifetime!
I learned about this resource from Stephanie Jarnagan. She did a massive road trip last summer and wrote an article about it for Arizona Driver Magazine. She knew all the cool places to go – and she found them using roadtrippers.com. I did the same.
It’s easy – plug in your route, ask the website to show you points of interest within a set radius of your route and begin adding stops to your trip! Each point of interest is reviewed by people using the site, so you know what is a must-stop and what tourist traps to avoid.
We experienced so many cool things I never would have known about without this website.
Road Trip Adventure In A Box
Lots of friends recommended road trip bingo games, and lots of blogs claimed to have free printables. But you know what they didn’t have…this.
The Road Trip Adventure In A Box is a product available for purchase from The Dating Divas. This is a one-stop download complete with adorable road trip bingo printables, road trip Truth or Dare (so fun!), car bucks and so much more.
My favorite was their printable, “Do not open until we’ve reached ______” tags. I wrapped items I was already taking on the road trip – e.g., different car snacks, the road trip bingo, dry-erase board, notepads and fresh markers, etc. – and planned the gifts to be opened during long stretches in the car.
The first item the kids opened was a big, needed item – headphones for their tablets. They were super excited and we started our trip in relative silence!
Next, they opened the Car Bucks, each receiving one off the bat – and got even more excited. I never bribed them with a Car Buck, but would randomly reward them when the kids were doing a great job entertaining themselves.
Just because you do the Road Trip Adventure In A Box, doesn’t mean your kids won’t have the opportunity to be bored. Trust me…there are still PLENTY of opportunities to be bored, and that’s where self-entertaining road trip items come in handy.
When bored, my kids had the opportunity to:
- Contribute to our family License Plate game (we saw 42 of the 50 states on this trip!)
- Play with the toy they selected for the trip
- Use the dry-erase board to play tic-tac-toe
- Read their magazines
- Sleep/Stare out the window
I hear all the time about the importance of letting your children be bored, but I don’t think that means you don’t let them have access to ways to overcome their boredom.
We all have access to that. We are just able to pack it for ourselves whereas our kids rely on us.
If I’m doing this all wrong and “letting your child be bored” actually means not giving them access to any creative solutions for boredom – Sorry, not sorry. I don’t do that to myself, and I’m not going to do it to my kids.
A Theme Day
I totally nerded out and planned to watch movies that would correspond with our selected stops. It only worked for one day of our trip, but it was amazingly awesome.
On the first looooong day of our trip, we watched Jurassic Park before visiting a dinosaur museum. And then we watched the movie Cars before visiting a Route 66 Museum followed by Route 66’s famed Lucille’s Roadhouse Diner for dinner.
This day was SO FUN! If you have the opportunity to theme a day of your road trip, DO IT.
Memories, Not Things
You know what’s really great? Since we’ve been back, my kids have frequently, randomly said, “Oh mom, you remember when…” and gone on to recap one of our many different road trip adventures.
We spent our money on making memories (e.g., cost of museums), then purchased little things at each stopping point that would help us recall the trip for years to come. For example, a keychain to use as an ornament on our Christmas tree, a souvenir cup that we’ll use weekly, a shot glass – which we use for pancake syrup, etc.
The only “toys” purchased were dinosaurs at the dinosaur museum – and they each picked a dinosaur they’d learned about and seen fossils of in the museum.
I think I caught some sort of road trip fever, because I can’t wait to create a photo book documenting this trip or to plan our next one!!
So, road trip. Really. It’s fun!
Much Love, H