The Nuts & Bolts of our Road Trip

I thought it might be helpful to have one blog post dedicated to random things like timelines, packing, my whining bag, etc. Tomorrow we’ll get back to the picture heavy posts!


We were gone for 12 days and half of those were travel days. Yep, half! We knew it was 26 hours of drive time each way, so we tried to break the trip up in a way that wouldn’t leave Nick and me utterly exhausted and would keep the whining to a minimum. Fun fact: we put 3,478 miles on our van during the trip!

Day 1: We left our home at 2am, with one confused 18 month old and three very excited 4 year olds. I knew they would be excited and probably wouldn’t go right back to sleep, so I had a glow stick waiting on each of their car seats for them. Huge hit! So Nick and I assumed that the boys would all drift off to sleep after an hour or so. After all, it was the middle of the night and the middle of Missouri, which is quite dark in the middle of the night! Nope. It wasn’t until 8:30am that all 4 of the kids were asleep! Wow. We made it all the way to Columbus, Ohio – about 13 hours of traveling.

Day 2: We left after breakfast and headed for the Harrisburg, PA area! Spent about 8 more hours in the car that day. We explored the college campus Nick and I met on (Messiah College!) and then enjoyed some downtime and dinner with some very special college friends! Some of that has been blogged already and can be read here.

Day 3: We left again after breakfast and headed for my grandparents’ home in western Massachusetts. This trip ended up being around 8 hours too (I think), and the kids were thrilled to see the playground across the street! Our time there has already been blogged, and can be read here.

Day 4: We left again (everybody now) after breakfast, and headed to Nick’s parents’ home in central Vermont! Thank goodness this trip was only about 4 hours! (It should have been shorter, but the bathroom stops were a bit excessive I think.) There was great rejoicing when we told the boys they wouldn’t have a long car ride for a few more days!

Days 5 & 6: We just relaxed and caught up with family at my in-laws’. It was a great time! The boys got to essentially meet their cousins on that side of the family (they don’t remember them from when they “met” at 10 months old), and Nick’s younger brother got married! One of our relaxing evenings has already been blogged, and can be read here.

Day 7: We ate a quick breakfast and hit the road to head for my parents’ home on the coast of Maine. We had hoped it would only take us 6 hours, but it ended up being closer to 7. Ugh! Did I mention yet that traveling with kids always takes longer? 😉 We arrived at my parents’ to an open house already in full swing, where we got to connect with family and friends we hadn’t seen in years! After the party broke up, we loaded up and headed to the beach, which was blogged already too! You can read that fun post here.

My view of Lily for most of  the trip 🙂

Day 8 & 9: Lots of ocean themed fun, in Maine! Posts with pictures to come 🙂

Day 10: We spent a couple of hours at the beach before packing up the car and beginning the journey home. We drove as far as Fishkill, NY (isn’t that a fun name?).

Day 11: We woke up at 1:45am, packed up the car, woke some very sleepy children up (who this time whined about the early hour, instead of being excited) and headed west. We made it all the way in Indianapolis (about 13 hours) and spent some time relaxing in the pool and hotel room. Funny story from that hotel – apparently someone on a message board I post on, saw Nick and the boys in the elevator! She wasn’t 100% sure it was them, so didn’t say anything to Nick, but she did ask me online a few days later if we had been at that hotel. Too funny!)

Day 12: After breakfast, we loaded up and began what felt like the longest drive ever! We made so many stops, and the boys were so whiney and obnoxious! We were still nearly 2 hours away when I decided I wanted to just walk the rest of the way home 😉

We came home to find our front yard looked like fall! The drought here is so bad, one of our trees has dropped all of it’s leaves.

In the Car

Awesome App Award: Waze – gives you directions, helps you get around bad traffic, tells you when there’s construction ahead, a police car ahead, an accident ahead, etc. You can also search for nearby gas stations (and Wazers update the latest gas price, so you can find the cheapest station!) and nearby restaurants. Super handy and kinda fun!

Cheap Lap Tables: I knew if we were going to spend so much time in the car, that the boys would need some sort of lap table, but cringed at the thought of shelling $15 a piece of a lap table. Enter the .99 cookie sheet! That’s right, for $3 I had 3 fabulous lap desks! See?

Perfect for some crafts!

And perfect for snacks and meals!

Activity Kits: I apparently failed to take a picture of these – whoops! I bought some $3 hard plastic cases in the back to school section. They’re a little bigger than a notebook and deep enough to hold lots of stuff. When the boys first got them, they found colored pencils, a spiral notebook, some stickers and a map inside. The map was a laminated one of the US, and Nick and I had drawn our route on them with dry erase crayons! The boys loved looking at them and figuring out where we were. As the trip went along the boys added items to their activity boxes, and kept them within reach (usually) of their car seats.

Whining Bag: At the front of the car, I had my Whining Bag, AKA my bag of tricks. These were things I knew I could pull out if the whining got bad and it might distract for a bit. Inside? A bag of balloons, bubbles, pipe cleaners, glow in the dark pony beads and mini bags of m&ms (chocolate makes everything better).

They’re hard to see here, but Ty was going after bubbles! I think they were the biggest hit from my whining bag. Great in the car (we aimed the vents toward the back of the van, turned  them on high and then blew the bubbles into the stream of air) and great at a rest area!

Electronics: We own an iPad, and I borrowed a DVD Player and a LeapPad from some friends, just for our trip. Nick and I managed to keep all electronics hidden away until Day 2, which is great considering how long we were in the car on day 1! Ok, not all electronics… I had also purchased 3 knock-off MP3 players this last spring, and kept them hidden until our trip. We gave those to the boys after we stopped for breakfast on Day 1. HUGE hit! They loved having all of their music loaded onto their own MP3 players!

Treat Bag: This bag lived in the trunk, and items only came out at various stops along the way IF the boys had been well behaved on the previous leg. Inside was: some color wonder kits, Silly Putty, Stickers, Activity Books (Walmart had some great ones for only $1!), a Dry Erase board with dry erase crayons, various items from the retired Treasure Box.

Packing for 6: A couple of packing tricks for you – pack a smaller bag (or two) that can be used just for nights in hotels. It’s so much easier to carry just one or two bags in, rather than big bags! Also, a friend of mine recommended packing outfits in big ziplock bags and then sitting on them to squeeze all of the air out. Brilliant! I saved so much packing space by doing that, especially when I packed bulky things like jeans and sweatshirts. I didn’t bag everything (probably about half of the clothes), but it was a huge space saver.

We also had a cooler of snacks and drinks, a snack bag, sleeping bags, Lily’s booster seat, Lily’s pack n play, her diaper bag, the boys’ puddle jumpers, Lily’s pool floatie, pillows and a small crate of medicines (which we did have to use, so I was glad I brought them)! I kinda wish I’d taken a picture of the car when it was packed 🙂

I think those are the big “Nuts and Bolts” – things I forgot will be mentioned in the vacation posts that are still to come! Big pat on the back to those of you who read all of this 😉

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  • andrea

    Another packing tip is to put an entire outfit (or outfit + jammies) into a gallon size zip-lock bag, then when you get there you can just grab a zip-lock for each person and go. (This is also great for packing kids to go to camp!)

    For our epic trip (not quite as long as yours!) I packed not suitcases, but instead into reusable shopping bags. I had them labeled, one for each of our (many) stops, and one that we took out at every stop (with toiletries and medicines). At our long stop we took everything in with us, did laundry, and then repacked an overnight bag for the trip home. It made it far easier than having my kids paw through an entire suit case then having to repack it every day. (My kids are horrible about tossing the contents of suitcases each time they look for something.)

    When we travel in the car, I usually bring a laundry basket with us. We pack our pillows and the kids blankets in that, so it’s easier to cart them in and out everywhere.

    I love your cookie sheet idea! I will have to do that for our next trip.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica

    Chocolate does make things better!ReplyCancel

  • Another packing tip: We bought a bunch of Packing Cubes from, and they are fantastic for being able to group packed items into smaller bags. They come in many colors, so you can have a different color per family member. Or use different colors for different types of items, like pajamas in one, shoes in another, etc. They also come in a variety of sizes. (Our favorite size is the Medium.) We absolutely love them for vacationing. We’ve even bought them as gifts for family members! They make it so easy to keep everything organized, and not have to haul the whole suitcase around if it’s not necessary.ReplyCancel