Mexican Domestic Goddess

#SkempsGoWest

10 Tips for Road Tripping with Kids

Travel, CampingJacqui Skemp1 Comment

{read my previous post in this series here}

I’ve done my fair share of traveling as a small child and with small children. In my youth, we flew or drove to Mexico every year to visit our family. Flights were longer than three hours, and the drives were just shy of 30 hours. Needless to say, we got really good at keeping busy in the days before screens were readily available. 

concepts.png

I learned to love those long trips, especially the drives. In preparation, I would borrow or buy books and keep them on my dresser anxiously awaiting the hours where I could sit back and read. I spent the weeks leading up those trips recording songs on the radio, later burning cd’s with curated playlists. 

We started traveling with our youngest when he was only two months old. Most years we only traveled once, but some years we were fortunate enough to get two visits in. A few times a year we travel about three hours to visit family in Minnesota, and last fall we did our first big drive! We drove 18 hours over the course of two days to get to a family reunion in southern Texas. So there are definitely some things that work better when travel days are longer. If you’re flying with littles, read my post on that here.

1. Reduced Drive Time 

When we drove from Minneapolis to San Antonio, our days were long, and our stops were very short. So we put the older boys in pull-ups because I was not down for dealing with any accidents. When planning our trip from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, we had the luxury of time. So we made it a point to keep most travel days (especially ones where we were going to be setting up camp) short, as in, no longer than 5 hours, preferably closer to 3. That made a huge difference for everyone. We had enough time to delve into our car activities, but not be completely sick of being in a moving vehicle for too many hours. 

2. Daily Routine

At home, we thrive on routine. I don’t keep a tight schedule, but a general order to our day makes things run smoothly and helps the little ones know what to expect. It made sense to do something similar with our travel days, particularly because we would be traveling for over a weeks time. Our days went something like this: break camp, breakfast in the car, family prayer time, read books/color/play with toys, stop for gas and then head to a park while I made lunches, lunched in car and then the baby would nap, audiobooks for the kids, dinner at our destination. 

3. Screens

We didn’t do any screens this time, but for other trips in the past we have, and I thank the God Lord for the gift of ipads. The “kids” ipad is one my dad handed down to us. It took some figuring out, but it’s completely safe, and only has educational apps, and we busted it out only a handful of times. We did download a few movies onto our ipad and the kids got to watch a couple of movies during our trip to Texas. Call my crazy, but I think the lack of screens on this trip actually made for better behavior. Another thing that helped with behavior was...

4. Good Food

Did my kids cry for candy and cookies? They absolutely did. Did they get them? They did not. We kept a tote bag full of apples, clementines, bananas, and a cooler stocked with a variety of berries, carrots, sugar snap peas, and cheese sticks. They got pb&j’s for lunches, and water. On a short plane ride I have no problem busting out gummy snacks, but in a car where my husband and I are the only ones who have the pleasure of hearing our children complain about the lack of processed sugar, I am happy to deny my little ones. We also packed salami and cheese and beef jerky for ourselves. Good food =  no sugar crashes = better behaved humans, including the adult ones. 

5. Favorite Lovies

My kiddos each have a small stuffed animal (or superhero) that they love, so we made sure to pack those along with a small blanket for each boy. The stuffed toys danced to silly songs, and blankets became secret caves and tents. It’s amazing what little minds can imagine when resources are limited. Plus, I think the reminders of home helped them feel comforted when they were resting their heads in new places each night.

 

6. Books

Each boy gets a backpack to fill with their stuff. I had the boys pick out a handful of books that they love, and I also picked out a few that I could tolerate reading. It also helped that this year we have a reader, and since he sat in the middle, he was able to read to his younger siblings. Here are a few we brought a long, but feel free to check out the tab above with more of our favorite books. 

7. Arts and Crafts

This doesn’t get used a ton, but it does come in handy. I packed a pad of blank paper, a few character coloring pages, a bag with color pencils, a bag with crayons, and a bag with Color Wonder markers. If you haven’t entered the color wonder world, please do yourself the favor and get in on that. 

8. Toys for the car that wont make you hate yourself 

I limit toys big time. Kids get maybe one thing because I don’t want to have to go digging around for legos and matchbox cars. We had one Batman toy sneak in, and I know exactly who to blame for that. My all time favorite car toy for the kids are Tegu blocks. They’re really beautiful wooden blocks with magnets in them and they’re large enough to not get easily lost. We’ve also found things like the shoelace boards, and toys that can be strung together useful.

9. Activity books

Sticker books forever and ever, amen. They have saved us when we’ve been stuck on a tarmac for two hours, long car rides, and really my kids just love them at home. I usually pick up several packs when the Target dollar section has them, but a good sticker book is nice to have as well. I let them go crazy and stick them all over the place as long as it keeps them happy. Sticker away, little babies! We also like Water Wow! books because, as you might have guessed, it’s just water. They also love Melissa and Doug sticker books and scratch pads.

10. Audio Books

Last but most definitely not least: audio books. Our eldest has been listening to audio books on the way to and from school for two years now, and they are just great for longer car rides. My aunt gave us two volumes of Classical Kids (vol. 1 and vol. 2) and my kids absolutely love them. We’ve uploaded them onto an ipod shuffle that we connect to a splitter and then each of the big boys can listen. My kids are also very into listening to the Tiki Room over and over and over and over…. So there’s that.

I hope you find these tips helpful and encourage you to load up your littles into your vehicle and see more of the world!

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links}

Skemps Go West Day 2!

Travel, CampingJacqui SkempComment

{read my previous post in this series here}

We broke camp early that morning. That night we slept with one of us on either side of the tent, with the children sandwiched in the middle. We awoke first, followed shortly by our eldest. While we planned on doing some traveling and sightseeing before arriving at our next destination, we dressed the boys in the one set of mass clothes that we brought for them. Seeing as we wanted to get on the road quickly, we fed the boys fig bars and fruit for breakfast in the car. 

Enjoying a cup of trail mix before breakfast, as one does.

Enjoying a cup of trail mix before breakfast, as one does.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Badland National Park. It was a welcomed break from the flat terrain of most of South Dakota. I hadn’t looked up any photos of the park, so it was all new to me. I think I spent the next few hours with my jaw on the floor. It was so beautiful and impressive. 

IMG_9924.jpeg

We stopped at the first visitor center in hopes of having the boys do the junior ranger program. But once we saw how involved it was, and because we planned on getting to a midday mass in Rapid City, we opted out of it. I purchased a National Park Passport, sticker for the park, and a few postcards for the grandparents. We got our passport stamped (in the wrong place, but I didn’t notice until the next day) and then we stopped a few times within the park. 

Yes, I used the Junior Ranger stamp even though the kids didn’t do the program.

Yes, I used the Junior Ranger stamp even though the kids didn’t do the program.

We arrived in Rapid City and found a park that was minutes from the parish we were planning on going to. That was also the day I realized my kids would not eat lunch at a park. They’re just too excited to play on a new playground to stop and eat. From that point on, we started using sandwich baggies, and I would prep lunch while Ian watch the kids play. Then we would load them back up into the car and hand out their lunches. 

IMG_9952.jpeg

Before heading to mass, we got several notifications that there was a thunder and hail storm forecasted for the area where we would be camping. We made a last minute decision to stay in a hotel that night. Again, it felt a bit like cheating, but I knew we would be camping for the next three nights, so I was okay with sleeping on a real bed that night.

IMG_9929.jpeg

We went to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, where the baby (my 2.5 year old baby) fell asleep in my arms, as it was well past his naptime. The liturgy was in Spanish, and the priest turned out to be a classmate, and fellow priest, of one of my classmates who I studied with in Rome. 

That evening we rolled into the hotel, ate pizza, and we all swam in the pool. It was pure luxury, and a gift because the next night was going to be quite the opposite. But I’ll save that story for the next post. 


{read the next post in this series here}

Skemps Go West! Day 1 and Notes on Prep

Travel, CampingJacqui Skemp2 Comments

{read my previous post in this series here}

I’ll start with a little bit of trip prep and then get on to day one of our trip. 

I’m a planner and I like lists. Lots and lots of lists. I made lists on my phone, texted lists to Ian, and used our two (yes two) white boards on our fridge to make more lists. I wanted to make sure that we had everything we needed without over packing. 

IMG_9911.jpeg

Starting in March my husband took the time to plan out our route. We went through several options, used recreation.gov and google maps to plan our trip. The goal was to not drive more than 5 hours in a day. He booked the sites ahead of time, and we started to gather supplies. Since we didn’t know if we would like camping as a family, we borrowed most of our gear. Pots and pans, and a tent came from our friends. Sleeping bags and pads from my in-laws. We bought a small cooking stove, used our utensils from home, and picked up plates from target. This post by Susanna was really helpful. I  just copied and pasted her list to my notes app. Oh, and as for clothes, we knew we would be able to do laundry once we got to Salt Lake City, so I only packed enough clothes in each persons bag to make it there.

This is what went in the back of our vehicle:

  • We each got one small duffle bag for our clothes, travel pillow, and headlamps

  • One bag for shoes

  • One dirty laundry bag

  • One small carry on suitcase for our non-camping clothes and things

  • A bin for dry goods

  • A bin for cooking and miscellaneous goods

  • Our larger cooler in the back

  • Tent, pads, sleeping bags, and chairs

  • Bag for toilet paper, paper towels, and small lanterns

  • A bag with our swimsuits and floaters for the kids

IMG_9867.jpeg

In the front seats the kids each had a backpack with things to occupy them during the trip (more on that later), their favorite small blanket, and a lovey. I kept my bag upfront with a magazine, books, and my Kindle. We also kept a small cooler upfront with snacks and our lunch stuff for the day.

Our route included two nights in South Dakota, one in Wyoming, one in Idaho, and three in Utah. Our trip included seeing Badlands National Park, Blackhills National Forest, Shoshone National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Cache National Forest, Salt Lake City and St. George Utah, and the God-forsaken desert between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. 

Day 1

About two weeks before we were set to leave, we got notice that our first reserved campsite was flooded and would be closed for the rest of the season. We scrambled to find a new place, and thanks for the recommendation of a friend, we ended up at a KOA in the middle of South Dakota. It extended our first day’s drive by two hours, making it the longest day of driving on our trip- or so we thought. The KOA (Kampgrounds of America) was the perfect way to start our camping trip. The site was clean, it had amenities, and was probably a step down from glamping. The heat index read 105 degrees that day, so after setting up the tent, I honestly wasn’t sure we were going to be able to sleep in it. Fortunately they had a pool available so we hit that up to cool off. We also ordered burgers and brats from the grill they have there. We chatted with the guy who made our dinner, and he was so encouraging and enthusiastic about camping with children. The pool and grill felt a little bit like cheating, but it was perfect for the kids and we still slept in a tent so there. The kids made friends and played with them on the playground right next to our site until the sun set. We all slept really well that night.

IMG_9908.jpeg

{read the next post in this series here}
{this post contains affiliate links}