You’re about to set off on an epic road trip across the states! You’ve got an awesome playlist already streaming through your mind. You’re craving pitstop junk food, dreaming of wind in your hair, and embracing the idea of just seeing where the road leads you. And then, as your toddler hurls a teether across the living room, narrowly missing the tip of your nose, you snap out of it. This isn’t an epic vacation; this is a PCS road trip with kids.
Oh, the trip will still be epic. It’ll be epic in the sense of “How much stuff can we fit in the minivan and still get the doors to close?” or “How many times can I listen to the kids’ Raffi CD before I lose it?”
First of all, you will survive. Repeat that aloud until you believe it. You just need a plan and a little optimism (and, of course, gasoline and stuff), and you will all get there in one piece (with most of your sanity intact).
Map Your Route
Young kids and sitting for long periods of time do not mix. Most adults want to get to point B as fast as possible, but that’s not always feasible with kids. As you map out your route, find places to stop about every two hours. You don’t need to make each stop a big thing; just allow enough time for everyone to stretch their legs, take potty breaks, and maybe eat a snack.
Make it Fun
If you’re driving across the country, you’re looking at days, not hours, of travel. Take a look at some of the cities you will drive through, or cities close enough to justify a detour. Research them and see if there’s anything of interest there. Maybe there’s an impressive landmark, a great zoo, a fun museum, or a beautiful hiking trail. If you find something great, make it a pitstop where you can stay overnight. You can often find Airbnb accommodations that rival the cost and comfort of a small hotel room.
Pack an Arsenal
So, what do you do when you’re actually in the car and not off on a fun little side adventure? Make the car ride fun too! Buy a bin or bucket that can fit in the backseat with your kids, and fill it with their favorite small toys and books. Make sure you buy a few new items as well — ones you’ve saved just for the trip. The excitement of “new” will keep your kiddos entertained for at least a few extra minutes. Sticker books are always a hit, and art lap pads are fantastic (plus there are now mess-free options)!
Make a Travel Binder…for the Kids
The iPad is a great backup if all else fails, but it’s important for kids to be aware of their surroundings. Emphasize looking outside and taking in the changing landscapes — swamps changing to plains, plains changing to deserts, deserts changing to mountains. Make a travel binder to help your kids understand where they’re going and what they’re seeing along the way. Include a map, so they can trace the route. Add some travel- or destination-themed coloring sheets. There are plenty of fun, free, printable travel games on Pinterest, like car bingo or road trip eye spy.
Traveling to your new duty station may seem daunting, but doing a little prep work can see you through all those miles. Make your mandatory travel an adventure. You’ll be glad you did!