Stress Filled or Stress Free Vacations
Have you ever heard of the saying, "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation"? After packing for a weeks worth of travel, looking for a new swim suit for myself and my two boys, and wondering what I was going to occupy them with in the car for 20 hours. I was already fearing my vacation and we weren't even leaving for another two weeks. Planning a road trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras with a three and a half year old and a 16 month old with Grandparents coming along and wait ... all six of Tim's siblings and their spouses (plus another 10 month old child) wasn't sounding like much of a vacation at all. Determined to make my first vacation in four years a success, I stopped my panicking and started some serious planning. So, here is my "determined to make it a success" checklist that can help make any away from home trip the most fun (and least stress) filled event that it is meant to be!
Tip #1 Drive the majority of the trip at night!
My in-laws are seasoned veterans at traveling with children. Driving at night while the children (and Mom's) sleep is the most important tip that I can offer. Sleeping in a van is difficult, but it is better than no sleep at all. We also decided to stop for a day in Memphis to visit the zoo while the Dad's catch up on sleep. Mom's even got a nap after the zoo, while the boys went for a swim in the indoor pool (also well planned). After spending the night in Memphis, we jumped back onto the highway at about 5:00 a.m. The boys slept for a couple of hours, we stopped for breakfast, and were only a few hours away from New Orleans.
Tip #2 Keeping kids busy on the road.
My son, Rook, is what I call a "professional player". He doesn't ever stop playing. Keeping him busy in the car for several hours would not be easy. So, I packed a special bag just for the car trip.
* New Markers (shaped like animals)
* A Mickey Mouse drawing pad with handles
* Two work books - Opposites and Rhyming
* Three new story books * A new small sized Etch-A-Scetch
* A magna doodle (my younger son Drew loved this!)
* Three books on tape that are favorites at home
* Two sing along tapes for road trips
We also bought a lemur for $8.00 at the zoo which had a remarkable resemblance to Zooboomafoo on PBS. He kept us entertained almost the entire way to New Orleans. These items all came in extremely handing in restaurants. Waiting to be seated and then waiting again for food wasn't so difficult when we drew and talked about our days.
I also packed a "rough tout" of breakfast foods and healthy snacks. We planned on eating dinner out every evening and an occasional lunch, so I needed some food that would last us several days.
* Box of Cereal (My favorite)
* Box of dry milk (just add cold water -- another life saver!)
* Bag of bagels (great for any time)
* Box of bite size Ritz crackers and peanut butter
* One large bottle of water
* Small snack cereals
Packing food was a great idea! We ate breakfast every morning before leaving our room and once even had bagels and crackers for dinner before running to catch a 6:00 p.m. parade. I'm glad that I didn't let Tim leave that box behind when he thought the van was too full!
Tip #3 The big stressor: Sleep.
Four adults two children -- one room (two small beds). Being the kind of person who requires eight good hours of sleep to function the next day, I was more than a little concerned about this arrangement. Then to make matters more interesting, I was informed that my FIL snores, LOUDLY. I not only cried, I considered canceling the trip. With the pack-n-play loaded for the toddler and Tim offering to take a bed with Rook (big of him) - I needed to find a place for me to sleep -- comfortably. Remembering back to when my girlfriend was ill with pneumonia, I offered to take her two children for two over nights. Along with the two came a great blow up mattress. I went in search of the air bed and was lucky to find the same one for about $40.00. A small price to pay when considering the alternative (sleeping on the floor). Blowing it up in about a minute with a cool hair dryer, it worked perfectly. So perfectly in fact that my MIL shared it with me every night. As for the snoring (so that actual sleep could be achieved), mentioning it to my Mom was all I had to do. She just smiled and hooked me up with some high quality, ear contouring, ear plugs. I was feeling like I would enjoy this vacation after all. And in fact, it was the best vacation that I ever took. I slept great!
Tip #4 Entertaining kids, but having adult fun too.
Having a hotel right in the French Quarter at the very end of Charters Street (parades 10 blocks straight ahead, Bourbon Street 3 blocks over) was a God send for us. We were able to walk every where, get plenty of exercise and not worry about parking. We visited The Cafe Dumond for Benes every morning (while the partiers slept in), walked to the park, The Aquarium of the America's, parades, the Mississippi River for a fairy ride, trolley rides and all of the great shops and restaurants. It was a really good thing that we didn't skimp on the strollers and brought our heavy duty jogging strollers along. With Tim's parents along, they volunteered to watch the grandchildren in the evenings, so that we could live some night life on Bourbon Street. It truly was a fabulous and relaxing vacation.
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