We managed to drive from California to Pennsylvania with three kids and a dog without losing our sanity!
In all honesty, the drive itself wasn’t bad at all.
I thought I’d share a few things that helped us along the way.
New things keep the kids busy in the car. After good days on the road, Trenton and Charlotte got “surprises” to use in the car the following day. Their surprises were things like puzzles, stickers, puzzle books, and workbooks. Also, before our trip, I went on eBay and bought Trenton and Charlotte each a couple games for their Nintendo DS’s and books for their LeapReaders that I used as surprises.
Nip car sickness in the bud. Charlotte started complaining of “forehead aches” our first day on the road before we even got out of California. Her DS and LeapReader were making her carsick. I made her put them away for the rest of the day, and the next morning I walked across the street from our hotel to make a visit to CVS. I bought Sea-Bands and Bonine. She wore the Sea-Bands each day in the car and also got half a Bonine each morning (CVS only had the adult version of Bonine, so that’s why I had to split them in half). These worked wonderfully, and Charlotte didn’t complain of “forehead aches” again.
Talk to locals. Jarrod met a couple in a laundromat in West Yellowstone, Montana that told him about a route – Alt 14 - through Wyoming that went through the mountains and was only open during the summer months. We took the route – along with the roads that took us from the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone to Alt 14 - , and boy are we glad that we did. It was one of the most gorgeous drives I’ve ever been on!
Get out of the car. It’s always nice to get out of a cramped car to stretch your legs and learn about a new area.
It’s also a nice change to run around in the snow on a nice summer day!
Get off the interstate. Jarrod and I saw a show about Devil’s Tower National Monument a week or so before our move. When we looked at the map, it wasn’t that far off our route, so we decided to get off the interstate to check it out. Trenton and Charlotte were equally interested in the actual way that the formation came about (volcanic activity) and the Indian legend as to how the formation came about (Seven Indian girls were being chased by a bear, climbed on a rock, prayed that the rock would save them, and the rock grew. The bear clawed at the rock (leaving claw marks), but the rock kept growing until the girls were pushed all the way up into the sky where they still are today – a group of stars known as the Pleiades.)
If you’re in South Dakota, stay here! We got into Rapid City, South Dakota around 2:00 in the afternoon. We called the hotel we had made reservations at (Best Western), and asked if we could check in early. Our room was ready, so we checked in, changed clothes, and hit the hotel’s indoor water park. This was definitely the best Best Western I’ve ever stayed at (and they have a good military discount)!
Watch those road signs! The badlands wasn’t on our list of places to stop and see, but when we saw a sign for Badlands National Park, we decided to check it out. We didn’t spend much time there (it was hot, and we had Bailey with us), but what we saw was really neat, and the kids (including the big kid) had a blast “rock climbing.”
Be flexible. Our original route had us visiting Chicago. But it was hot, and we had Bailey with us, so we didn’t think we’d be able to see much in the Windy City. So we changed our plans and took a more southerly route. I messaged a friend from Monterey who is now living along the new route we were going to be taking, and she offered up their guest bedroom to us. With about 24 hours notice. Military friends are so awesome! And it was so nice to relax with friends and spend a night in a house rather than another hotel. I think the kids enjoyed it too!
Grow an extendo arm. Yeah, so I didn’t do this, but it would have been nice. Especially since a certain baby can’t hold a bottle herself or keep a paci in her mouth very well.
3600 miles, 12 states, 3 national parks, 1 national monument, 1 national memorial, 2 reunions with friends, and many many memories made. I’d say we had a pretty good trip! Now getting into and out of hotels and all the kids asleep each night and back out the door before 9:00 the next morning was another story. If anyone has tips on that, let me know!