We came. We saw. We conquered. We traveled.
Thank God I arrived the day before yesterday, the first of the month, at this port of San Diego, truly a fine one, and not without reason called famous.
— Junipero Serra
Seven or so hours from home, we drove the Dodge Grand Caravan with its rattly windows, misfiring electronic key and suspicious tire pressure from the hot and smoking armpit of California to paradise, a hot and hazy with humidity San Diego.
Do you want to travel with kids? Tsh Oxenreider of The Simple Show and Women’s Work, author of At Home in the World and some other titles is your expert. I have heard at least three podcast episodes sprinkled with her expertise on this one topic. It made all the difference.
This is what we implemented.
Per her recommendations, we wrapped simple gifts. In this case, two coveted toys and one leathery dried fruit snack on the way there. Three salty or sweet indulgences for the way home. The plan was to break up the drive with excitement, the anticipation of more to come and giving toys gave them toys to play with when we reached the guest house. The downside was cost. Oxenreider says the gifts can be dollar store items, crayons, exciting snacks (squeeze smoothies, peanut butter filled pretzels). We went slightly higher so the gifts would last and not add to my garbage bag toy collection.
The philosophy behind it: stimulation.
And it worked. To a fault. Because the children did not nap like we had hoped.
Would naps have worked so well with our frequent breaks? We stopped every two to three hours for either 30 minutes or an hour. One stop was at a rest stop with minimum security prisoners taking a pit stop and picnic tables to run around. The other at a friend’s house in Los Angeles with children to play with to boot.
It worked. The philosophy: activity.
Having had the sort of childhood with drive-through food or packed sandwiches and distinct memories of going to Oregon or Washington without stopping, the breaks to move, stretch, run and play were invaluable. Necessary. When my toddler is a man and tries to drive his children 14 hours without stopping but for gas, he will look back on this experience and thank me by saying, “you are amazing, mother, really stupendous. I revere your memory.”
We were tired when we arrived, of course. We had no plans for dinner and focused on getting settled. With the planned snacks along the way (separate from the wrapped presents), the kids were not starving. My mom prepared dinner. My dad prepared the wine. My husband drank the whiskey. We put the kids to bed.
For three days, when asked what we would do I answered, “sightseeing.”
“What is sightseeing?”
“Seeing the sights.”
The outings took place as soon as our youngest shed the tubes of his medical pump, around 8 or 9 in the morning. We hit the road. Most things were 30 minutes from the guest house. One stop a day, with snacks, arriving back to the house around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. If we lucky Children #3 and #4 slept in the car and were transporting by the loving arms of their dear father to their darkened den of sleep. That happened once. It was nice.
The afternoon composed of “rest time” when I say, “don’t talk to me, I’m resting” (on Facebook) and my children play free. Most days, a movie followed. There were debates about going out again. We discovered a library (in theory, but we never made it inside). There was one after dinner trip to a park, but mostly it was hot and without additional hydration for the little guy, we kept it cool.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next Sunday.