When you are getting ready to set out on a month long road trip with three children during the aftermath of a pandemic there is a lot of planning involved.
Were are we going to stay? Where are we going to eat? What is open to see and do? What are the travel restrictions in the different places we are going? What health and safety precautions are we going to do? The list goes on and on.
Here is how I plan such a long trip and keep my sanity.
- Map out the route
- Plan where to stay
- Make a list of sites and attractions
- Get the car prepped for travel
- Create packing lists for everyone
- Making a budget
- Plan for safety
Mapping Out the Route
I know many people are more then happy to just jump into their car and drive, but I need a plan. With Covid still a part of life and us wanting to be safe and avoid big cities mapping our route is even more important. I love using Google Maps to make my route. The fact that I can play with different routes just by dragging the line makes it so much easier to plan. Mapping your route also makes it easier to find attractions and sites.
Planning Where to Stay
Years ago we use to just drive until we got tired then stop at the next hotel. That all changes when we were driving from South Dakota to California during the Sturgis motorcycle rally and hotels were all full for hundreds of miles. That one experience made us start pre planning where we will stop to stay and making reservations.
The hotel brand I like to stay at the most is InterContinental Hotel Groups also known as IHG. IHG hotels have high end brands like the InterContinental and Kimpton to more budget friendly hotels like Holiday Inn Express and Avid to the extended stay hotels like Staybridge and Candlewood Suites. You can find an IHG brand hotel almost anywhere and their loyalty program is on point with rewards.
Making a List of Sites and Attractions
There are three different ways you can go about doing this.
You can either make a list before you create your route meaning you will be creating your route around the places you want to stop on your list.
You can make your list after you have created your route and only pick things to do and see based on your route.
You can do a combination of both. This is the way I like to do it. Your are going to make a list of the main places you want to go and base your route off those places. Then you go back after you have a route and see what there is to see and do based on where you are going to be.
Anyway you make your list always be open to changes and opportunities.
Getting your Vehicle Prepped for Travel
I always do all the basic car maintenance on my can before any trip. I like to start getting the car ready a month before I leave just incase a problem comes up it gives me time to fix it. Here is a list of basic maintenance items.
- Make sure your car registration and insurance are up to date and will be current during the whole trip
- Oil Change
- Get brakes and tires checked ( check spare tire too)
- Check fluids, light bulbs, and wiper blades
- Wash and detail your car (I love to start with a clean car)
Now that your car has all the maintenance done time to get it ready for a road trip.
- Travel trash can or trash bags to keep the car clean
- Wipes! Keeping wipes in your car during a trip can be a life saver especially with Covid being an issue. Hands get sticky you have wipes. After you pump gas you have wipes. Something spills you have wipes. Need to freshen up, you have wipes.
- Snacks! I like to keep healthy snacks during road trips so we don't have to stop for food so much. My go to snacks are trail mix, jerky, snack bars, fruit snacks. I also travel with at least a case of water for emergencies.
- Entertainment for kids/passengers. I like to print car games and laminate them. Use a dry erase maker and you can reuse them the whole trip. I also have clip boards for the kids to use to write in. We have portable tv's that I can plug a flash drive into (pre loaded with movies and shows). Crossword & Sudoku books.
- Ice Chest for drinks and snacks. ( I refill the ice at the hotel for free)
Creating a Packing List For Everyone
I like to make a packing list for everyone because I cannot tell you how many times things like socks, undies, swim gear and medications have been forgotten.
When making packing lists keep in mind how much space you have and will you have access to a washing machine. If I have access to a washing machine I will plan only enough clothes to get to a washing machine plus one extra outfit.
Remember to pack for the weather of where you are going not just the weather of where you start or end. I like to keep a large laundry bag in the car that way our dirty cloths and clean cloths never mix.
Common things people forget to pack are...
- Charging cords
- Charging plugs
- Toothbrush (most hotels offer free toothbrush)
- Hygiene items (antiperspirant, lotion, sunblock, tampons, razor)
- Jacket (even in the summer you should pack a light jacket)
- Medications (do you have enough for your whole trip? Can you refill out of state?)
Making a Budget
It is so important to have a budget made. As someone who use to work in hospitality I can not tell you how many times someone would come to check in and not have enough money for their deposit.
Here are things to keep in mind for your budget
- Gas ( different states and counties have different prices for gas. California gas prices are very high.)
- Hotel cost. I always book directly because the incidental or deposit is usually less then booking a third party. Find out how much the incidental hold is. Some can be hundreds of dollars and some are only a percentage of your hotel costs. Incidentals can take up to 30 days to return to your credit card based on the credit card company's policy. (also if you have any issues hotels cannot discount third party reservations but are able to do so with direct bookings.)
- Food costs. I like to budget an amount per day. If I use less one day it can go towards a different day.
- Sites and attractions costs. Even road side attractions can cost. Look up where you want to go online before going. How much does it cost to go? Is there a parking fee? Do you need any kind of pass to get into the area?
- Gifts and souvenirs. These things can really add up so I set aside a certain amount for each location I go.
- Extras. I line to keep a certain amount set aside incase an emergency happens or in the event something special comes along. Nothing can ruin a trip faster then a unforeseen cost of car troubles you didn't budget for.
Plan for Safety
If you are like ma and a female driving alone with children you need to take extra safety precautions. Here is wat I do when traveling alone with my kids.
- Request a hotel room on an upper floor and in sight of cameras.
- Always try to get your gas during the daylight hours.
- Everyone goes to use the restroom at the same time.
- If you feel like you are being followed call 911. (only if you really feel you are being followed)
- Never where you are or when you are going to be somewhere.
- Only park in well lit areas away from other large vehicles especially with dart tinted windows.
- Always be aware of your surroundings.