Moving is stressful. Moving across the country is stressful. Moving across the country with two kids under 5? That’s totally not, right? Here are some PCS tips to help make that move more of an adventure than a headache.
OK, this may sound silly, but the reality is that you have to fit all the bags you need for a cross-country road trip, plus up to two months in a hotel with two kids under the age of 5.
Practice packing — move things around, and repack. Don’t do it the day before. Prep two weeks before, a week before, and a few days before. The number of things you need will change and multiply, and practice makes perfect.
Ask Friends and Family on Your Route for Tips
That hotel in downtown Pittsburgh may sound cool, but a quick consult may reveal that it’s nowhere near walkable to the sites you want to see with young kids. Plus, the locals always know the best places to eat — that way you can pace yourself on the McDonald’s drive-thru.
Stay with Friends and Family when You Can
If you are able to find family or friends who will take you in for a day or two, this is a great way to really see the country as a local would while catching up with familiar faces. Not to mention, this is cheaper than any hotel, even if you bring a load of groceries to your friend as a thank-you.
Check Military Lodging First
Another significant way for military families to save when road trippin’ is taking advantage of military lodging facilities. The rooms are often basic and don’t boast expansive chandeliers or ceilings, but they are clean with a good breakfast at an affordable rate. Bonus — there are usually playgrounds nearby for the enjoyment of the littles and adults alike.
Grab Grub at Grocery Stores
Sick of the usual road-trip eats? Hit up the hot and cold bars or the deli at grocery stores. Grab milk and yogurt for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and restock the cooler with some fresh fruit and veggies, and use all the money you save from not dining out to explore a museum on your route.
Pack a Cooler
This is a big Tetris piece, but it earns its keep. With a cooler, you’ll always have whole milk for the toddler without having to search multiple gas stations along the way, and you’ll have the ability to picnic at rest stops or parks.
Map Your Rest Stops
The night before each leg of the travel, look up where the rest stops are along the way to plan appropriate bathroom breaks to minimize the chance of having to change out the car seat cover.
Pack an Extra Car Seat Cover
If you have a potty-training or recently potty-trained child, make sure to pack an extra car seat cover since you won’t always have laundry facilities available. Unexpected naps happen, and unless your kiddo responds well to wearing Pull-Ups during a road trip, plan for a potential potty accident (and then you probably won’t need it).
You will be sitting for several hours a day. Sitting still can increase your risk for blood clots in the legs and staying hydrated decreases this and makes you get up and move to use the restroom every couple of hours. Plus, it will prevent crankiness in the adults and kids.
Entertain the Littles
Make “play packs” for each of your kids, catering to their interests and age level. Markers that only color on the magic paper, colored pencils, new books, stickers, window clings and new toys make the cut. Wrap up new little toys (cars, planes, and Little People) in wrapping paper. Your little one burns time unwrapping it, playing with the paper, and eventually the new toy. Just watch where the wrapping paper goes in case your little tries to eat it!
Look for Hotels with Mixer or Happy-Hour Evenings
Let’s save time and a trip out of the hotel for dinner. Several hotel chains offer free happy hour with snacks during weekday travel days. This can help save money on an evening meal and add variety with local fare.
Plan Adventure Stops
Nothing makes a kid (or adult) crankier than being in the car for hours on end, day after day. Planning fun stops along the way gives everyone a chance to get out and stretch their legs, burn off some energy, and learn about the local area along the way. Awesome budget-friendly adventures are National Parks (there’s a free annual pass for service members and military families) and Blue Star Museums.
It might not be your first. It probably won’t be your last, but these tips will help you make the most of it. Cheers to a successful road trip and PCS!