A few weeks ago we took our first family vacation with Grayson. Growing up, my family took a vacation every single year, and it's something I have always told A I would love to do with ours. I think time away to relax and forget about the day-to-day grind is so important, and I love seeing new things along the way. Our family was big on road trips - my first flight was actually at 17 because my dad drove us everywhere - and I still love a good road trip when possible.
When we were trying to decide where we wanted to go I had a genius idea that was helped along by my mild OCD tendencies. As eclectic and random as I am, I still like to do things in a certain order...so I decided that we should make it a goal to see all 50 states as a family, and we should do so alphabetically. Soooo, Alabama was the winner for family trip numero uno! I know Alabama may not seem all that exciting, but it has literally the only thing the husband cares about, and that is BEACH. I did a little Googling and found lovely little Orange Beach. Family friendly and a mere 11 hour drive. Easy peasy.
But oh. Keep in mind, friends, that we had a 16 month old child in tow. I knew that with Grayson's lack of patience and tantrum throwing and whining (aka, being a toddler) that we would have to plan well to make this trip enjoyable. We discussed several options beforehand, and I really think that what we came up with worked out super well. In case you're traveling soon and need some help, here are the things that worked for us.
1. Leave Early
We debated driving overnight and getting to Alabama early in the day, but after a lot of debate we decided early was the best option. If we drove overnight Grayson would sleep the entire way, and then we would be exhausted when we got there and he would be ready to start the day. This way we would get to the room right around bedtime and we could wake up bright and early, well-rested and ready to hit the beach.
We planned on leaving by 6 AM, and made it out of the house right around 7. To be honest that was better than I expected knowing how much last minute stuff always seems to come up. It worked out well because we had breakfast in the car, put on a movie, and Grayson ended up falling asleep around 8 since he woke up so early. That made for a long morning nap that lasted nearly until our first planned stop. Even with all of the stops along the way, we were checking into our hotel right around 10 PM. So a total of about 13 hours travel. Not too shabby for an 11 hour drive!
2. DVD Player/iPad = Your Best Friend
We have an iPad and talked about downloading a few movies for G to watch, but decided that we'd rather go for a portable DVD player. He got a few movies for his birthday that he hadn't ever watched, so we thought that would entertain him for a while. The player that we got actually came with two screens (not needed now, but helpful when we have more kiddos) and was something like $75. Not bad for an investment that probably saved us hours worth of screaming child.
He's still rear-facing, so we strapped the player onto the middle seat and he just zoned out. I'm not huge on lots of TV watching for him, but to be honest he can usually take it or leave it at this point so it's never an issue. But for some reason he was totally into it in the car. Randomly, The Jetsons was his favorite movie. Thank you, Target $5 DVD sale.
This was key. KEY. I packed a big duffel bag full of snacks for all of us. Convenience stores used to reel me and A in like crazy when we would drive back and forth from Oklahoma, and we probably spent like $50 a trip in junk food that we shouldn't be eating anyway. Live and learn. This time I had granola bars for G and for the two of us, candied almonds for myself, two ziplock baggies of cheerios, veggie straws, yogurt pretzels, and those little organic puff things for toddlers. I also took a little cooler full of bottled water and pouches full of some coconut water berry smoothie thing for babies that I found at Target.
Every single time he would start to fuss, I would reach into my magic bag and pull out something that I could hand him. It worked like a charm. The only downside is that I almost lost my mind from hearing "mo! mo! moooooohhhhh!" a billion times. Mo = "more" in Grayson speak. We're currently working on "Mo Peeez!", which is much more polite :)
I took yet another bag full of some of his favorite toys and probably five books. If the movies and the snacks failed me, I had something else up my sleeve. He was surprisingly into the books, and I definitely figured out what toys are his favorites. Anything that plays music was a clear winner, and his little stuffed animals were big, too. I would say I maybe overdid it in this area, though. Probably would have been good with like a handful of toys, because if he wasn't in the mood for one, he wasn't in the mood for any. He would just toss them to the side, one after the other, until I was out of options.
Then I'd just try to give him another snack.
5. Frequent Breaks
We planned our breaks out in advance. We knew Shreveport, Louisiana was about a 3 1/2 hour drive from home, so we planned to get out, stretch our legs, and have an early lunch. We found an outdoor shopping mall and just walked around for maybe 30-45 minutes. To a one-year-old, this was plenty of fun. We went to Bass Pro Shop, which was a new experience for all of us, and made it painfully aware how much we don't know about country living. But Grayson did find a stuffed horse he simply couldn't live without, so there's that.
From there, it was around a four hour drive to Jackson, Mississippi. If you have never used the Roadtrippers app, I highly recommend it. If you enter in your starting point and destination, it tells you everything that you can find along your route. Kind of a lifesaver. We actually found this amazing children's museum where Grayson had the time of his life for over an hour. From there we had a quick dinner, and were ready for the last leg. It was about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Jackson to Orange Beach, and it was by far the toughest stretch. We didn't get there until about 10, which was two hours past normal bedtime. For some reason he wouldn't sleep, so it was meltdown city for the last hour. But I mean, not terrible for a 16 month old child who had spent eleven hours in a car.
6. Arrive at Your Destination BEFORE Bedtime
Lesson. Learned. This would be my only change. Leave two hours earlier, avoid the late night meltdown. Even if he would have fallen asleep, we were running the risk of him waking up and then being up for hours. We're past the point of being able to transfer him from the car without waking him, so if he would have slept from 8-10, chances are he would have seen that as a nice little two hour nap and stayed up until well after midnight. So yes, plan to get to your destination right around bedtime. If You can't do that in a day, consider making it a two-day trip with an overnight stay along the way. I guarantee that's what we will do next time.
So there you have it! My words of wisdom. I was oh-so incredibly surprised by how well our trip went, and I like to think it had a little something to do with my planning ahead. Totally could have been luck.
I'll be back with a recap of our trip, which will probably mainly be pictures of Grayson on the beach and me ranting and raving about food. Actually, that pretty much sums it all up, so not sure I even need the recap post...
Happy travels, y'all!