4.17.2011

Traveling tips from my dad!

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a very special guy. One of three male followers. (Yes, that does me he has a blog. Read it here.) My dad! I asked him to kick off my week of travel posts while I'm on vacation! He is a super cool guy, and I swear he could pack an entire room into one box. It's like magic! So I asked him to share some of his traveling tips with you to help you be more prepared when you travel!

This is us from the fancy gala we went to last weekend. See the resemblance?
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Howdy.  Amie's dad here.

For some reason, Amie thinks I have some mad packing skills. (Amie interjection: he does)  I'm not so sure, but I will gladly share my tips with you.

Amie's grandparents live about 4 hours away by car, and when the kids were little, we used to drive there all the time, a half-dozen trips per year.  As the kids got older, and their activities increased, our trips became less frequent, where today we are lucky to get up there for Thanksgiving once a year. So when I think about packing, I think about car trips, which does not have the restrictions of air travel.

Tip number 1:  A week before your trip, start a Word document with your trip to-do list.  As the week progresses, you will remember things to bring, so add it to the list.  Brainstorm.  It's no big deal if you put it on paper and then don't bring it.  It's a huge deal if you forgot to write it down and don't bring it. Put down everything, specifics, like "3 pair underwear for each kid" and "extra AA batteries for games."  So, make the list, put a little check box next to each item.  And save the document!! On your next trip, pull up the list, make any adjustments, and it's done, no need to sweat through it all over again.


Tip number 2: It's not just what to bring on your trip. It's also what to do at home while you are away.  Cancel the newspaper or get a neighbor to pick it up?  Bring the cat with your or get a neighbor to feed her?  (Amie interjection: Um, BRING HER!!) Water the plants before leaving.  Unplug tv and computer, to protect against power surges.  Adjust curtains.  Turn on a light.  Check doors.  Check that toilets are flushed, you don't want a 3-day old surprise waiting for you upon your return. Adjust and put thermostat on hold, no need to heat/cool the air when you are not home. Tell a trusted neighbor that you will be away, have them keep an eye on things, and get the mail if you are gone a long time.  Finally, after hearing a few horror stories about broken pipes, I now turn off the main water valve in the basement, better safe than sorry.


Tip number 3: What to bring.  It's always a strange balance between minimalism and overkill.  For instance, if you are gone 5 days, but your destination has a washing machine, only take 3 days worth of clothes, and do a load of laundry halfway through.  When the kids were young, we started the habit of letting each one of them prepare their own travel backpack.  Include favorite books, handheld games, coloring books/paper/pencils, stuffed animals, etc.  Important tip: your kid will want to pack things they like, which is not necessarily a good travel item.  Your goal is to keep the kids busy, occupied, and happy for the length of the trip. Your kid may like his chess set, but he's not going to play it in the car; replace it with a Guinness Book of World Records book. Books like that (book of lists, Believe it or Not books) will generate good discussions, which will help pass the time ("hey dad, guess how big the larges intestinal tumor was?"   ahhhhh, good times).  Playing word games or trivia games also helps pass the time.  You'll be tempted to over pack, but what's the worst thing that could happen if you only bring 5 Disney dvd's to watch, and not 10?  KISS.  Keep it simple.  Stupid.  No one needs more than two pair of shoes on a trip. (Amie interjection: I brought five. Oops.) Often, a hoodie is as good as a down jacket, with 1/10th the bulk.  As the kids got  older, their backpacks were filled with game boys, iPods, and schoolwork, and that was enough to keep them busy.  Don't forget laptops.  Grandpa's has wi-fi, so we often all just sit around with our laptops in the evenings, and no one wants to fight.  Final note on the car: bring snacks & juice boxes or water bottles. We often take the mini snack-size zip lock bags and fill them with assorted things, from pretzels to fritos to candy and dried fruit. (Amie interjection: and we put them all in an empty pretzel barrel! Love that thing!) When a kid demands food, just toss them back the assortment of stuff and let them pick what they want.  Just remember to pack food that is not breakable and won't melt in a hot car.

Tip number 4: How to load car.  Don't use a roof rack unless you absolutely have to, since that really kills your car's stability and fuel efficiency.  Other than that, I suggest keeping things in small bags or containers, and not large suitcases.  Small items can be shoved into tiny nooks and crannies in the van, under the seats, between the seats, etc.  It's amazing how much you can fit into a car if you treat it like it like a game of Tetris, methodically filling up every possible space. Also, you will ALWAYS bring back more stuff than you took up with you, so leave room in the car. (Amie interjection: Like I said...he could fit a whole house in a box!)


Tip number 5: Traditions.  This sounds stupid, but if you routinely drive the same route, it's important to have specific places where you can stop every time. For us, it's the Dairy Queen in LaVale, MD, near Cumberland.  We stop there every time, a good place to stretch and hit the bathroom. The kids look forward to it. (Amie interjection: I STILL look forward to it! If I know I'm going to be near that particular DQ I must stop no matter what.) Also, the Sonic in Uniontown, PA, since they don't have  Sonics in the DC area.  Another tradition for the Kings is to play certain games in the car. We are all sick of them, but we only play them in the car on long trips.  For example, I like the name game.  You go around the car (or table if you're at home) and the first person says the name of a person, either famous or known to everyone in the car, say Jim Smith.  The next person has to say a name whose first name starts with the first letter of the previous last name, so he'd say Susan Jones, then Jenny Rosen, then Ralph Adams, then Alphonse Daudet, etc.  There are two wild cards: people who are commonly known by only one name, like Cher or Kesha or Bono, and those with the same initials, like Jim Jones or Robby Richardson.  In those cases, the order reverses, so in essence you can have a two-way battle, if you keep flinging those names back and forth to each other.  


Those are my five tips for traveling.  Enjoy. 
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 See? Amazing huh? He always had everything under control when we traveled, smooth as butter. Hopefully these tips help! Thanks Dad!

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2 comments:

ourlifeinaclick.blogspot.com said...

Great tips!! It's always so stressful to pack (for me, at least) and travel. This was great!

lisbonlioness said...

Sounds like me before I leave the house to go to work ;) Mad skills, I'm more of the panicky "stickeverythingthatfitsintothebiggestbagyoufindandLETSGOALREADY!" type! ;)

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