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Preparing our cross country drive...

Are we crazy? I don't know. We are in the midst of planning our cross country drive. My hubby is at SOBC in Connecticut right now and I am staying with family. In a few short weeks we will be loading up our vehicles and driving across the United States of America, east coast to west coast.

With four kids, the oldest being six and the youngest being 11 months.

I'm freaking out.

It sounded like an adventure before, but the more I look at all the work we have to do to pack for the drive, plan the drive, and then make the drive (with 4 kids), the more my stomach turns to knots and the more I just want to bury my head in the sand.

Why did I agree to this?

I was going to fly... we were going to ship my van... and now we are driving both our vehicles...

But here we are. My husband appealed to my sense of adventure. I agreed. We have a room full of things to pack at my parents' house. We have two vehicles to drive across country. We have a game plan and it is almost time to execute it.

Since we are taking both of our vehicles, my hubby and I will be caravanning. We plan on splitting up our 4 children, he with 2 and me with 2. We also think that we will be able to move the car seats around on different days if that helps with sibling fighting, though to start we are putting our 4-year old twins in the Jeep with him and our 6-year old and infant in the van with me. I'm hoping our 6-year old helps with the infant, since has done that on past road trips. We are estimating this to take us 5 or 6 days. Before this road trip, our longest road trip with children has been 8 hours on Google Maps, 12 hours actually driving it.

What am I doing to get ready for our drive across the United States to our new duty station?

  1. Packing
    Before my hubby finishes SOBC, I am trying to pack everything that I can. Since we moved to my parents' house around January, we have small winter wardrobes here for myself and our 4 boys. I also have a bin of the next size up summer clothing for baby #4. I spent the other morning rolling these clothes from the 3 bins they previously occupied into one large bin. (Let me tell you... rolling clothes compactly with the assistance of two 4-year olds and an infant takes a long time.) I'm trying to get those kinds of things packed now so that when my hubby gets here, we can focus on packing the clothes we will need for the drive (and the clothes we will need before our HHG are delivered).
  2. Collecting entertainment
    I'm trying to gather things to help keep the children entertained on our drive. With 4 children, I would really like to avoid markers that can stain (or just make a huge mess). I'd also like to avoid things with too many pieces that can fall off their laps or trays easily, such as markers with lids or play sets with lots of pieces. It is very frustrating having 4 children crying for things that have fallen every couple miles. Thanks to my helpful friends on Facebook, I'm feeling much more confident about our entertainment grab bag. Here are the things that we have collected so far for our non-electronic entertainment grab bag:

    -Water Wow by Melissa and Doug: the cool thing about the Water Wow compared to Crayola Color Wonder is that the Water Wow pen is refillable and never dries out. The color sheets can also be reused once they dry! Amazing! I think these will be a step up from the Color Wonder pages that we have used in the past.

    -Melissa and Doug Reusable Sticker Pads: my boys love these pads. I found the scene pads, like My Town and Vehicles, because I think they will be able to play as they do those. We have other Melissa and Doug Reusable Sticker Pads that we love, such as the Make-A-Meal, but I'm hoping these scenes can help ignite a little imaginative play as well. I chose pads that they don't already own to bring in the "new" element on the road trip.

    -Fubbles Bubble Light: I never would have thought of bubbles. A friend suggested bubbles and I'm running with it. I think bubbles will be great at rest stops as well as in the hotel rooms. I also picked up bubble refills so we are never out of bubbles (until one of the children dumps the bubble solution, but, well, you can't win them all, eh?).

    -Melissa and Doug Secret Decoder: I bought some additional Water Wow books for our twin 4-year olds, but I thought they were a little young for our 6-year old. I found these Secret Decoder books and picked him up two. He's recently told me that he is going to be a scientist detective, so I think they will be right up his alley.

    -Usborne Build a Train: I'm obsessed with Usborne. I feel like they just get together and decide on amazing books that children will love and then that is exactly what they make. I'm pretty excited about these build a train books. I found these Build-a-Train books for our 4-year olds and the next level up Build-a-Train book for our 6-year old.

    -Usborne Moving Sticker Book: Even more exciting of a find is this Usborne Moving House Sticker Book. I love it. It talks about packing up the old house, moving to the new house, and putting your things in your new house. It will be a great conversation starter with our boys who are very nervous about this move. I picked up one for each of our 3 older boys. Such a great find for our military family!

    I found these things at a local children's toy store that offers a buy 2 get 1 free on Melissa and Doug pads and On the Go books-- a perfect sale for shopping for my older 3 boys. This store also sold the Usborne books. I'm still gathering things like these magnetic play sets and a few more Usborne drawing books/sticker pads, but I think our non-electronic entertainment bag is set! This should hold us over for our road trip as well as when we arrive in Washington state and are waiting for our HHG to be delivered (and while we unpack! *shudder*)

    For our electronics, we have the usual DVD players, one tablet (for our kindergartner), an iPod (again, for our kindergartner), and books on tape. I love books on tape. I'm borrowing the Harry Potter audiobooks from my parents for our drive. Jim Dale is such a fantastic reader and the boys and I love listening to him. It is enjoyable for me as the driver to listen to audiobooks as well, far better than listening to DVD's loop over and over again. A friend of mine also reminded me of the Disney Song and Story CDs. These were popular with our oldest when he was a toddler and I had completely forgotten about them.
  3. Booking hotels... kind of
    I've booked the hotels for the first half of our trip since we have a couple stops we want to make and not a ridiculous number of miles between those stops. For the second half of the trip, we plan on driving each day as far as we possibly can, so we've made a spreadsheet with possible hotel stops for us; we plan on making reservations as we go, calling from the road.

    The important thing when booking a hotel in advance is to book DIRECTLY WITH THE HOTEL, not a third-party site. KNOW THE CANCELLATION POLICY. I chose hotels with a 24-hour, no deposit cancellation policy, meaning I can cancel the hotel room UP TO 24-hours before the reservation without consequence. I have a list of the hotel reservations I've made with phone numbers and confirmation numbers so if anything changes, I can call and cancel or adjust our stay.
Have you ever driven across country before with or without children? What did you do to make the drive better/easier? What are your road tripping tips with children? Please share with me! :)


Spring said…
We haven't gone cross country but we have done our fair share of traveling from 3 hours to 18 hours. When our boys were 2 we got the bright idea to drive from FL to Nashville (8 hours) & then from nashville to upstate NY (14 hours) then back the same way. The 8 hours was a breeze but the drive through no mans land from TN to NY was brutal. We had planned on stopping at restaurants with playgrounds for the boys to play a bit. It worked perfectly like I siad for the first leg of the trip but there was only 1 playplace the entire 14 hour drive which just made it hard for the boys.
In addition to entertainment I pack lots of little snacks, raisens, baby carrots, popcorn, cereal...
Good luck & have fun!!!

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