Mr. Snickerdoodle had a conference for his work in San Francisco last week, and in true cheap-skate fashion, we decided to make a family vacation out of it. We piled the kids into Grandpa Ben's Suburban (thanks Grandpa Ben!) and drove almost 800 miles from our little house in Utah to that beautiful city by the bay.
With three boys under the age of 4.
In a snowstorm (so grateful for 4 wheel drive and snow tires...).
We made it safely, and in the process we learned a few tricks for making road trips with kids a fun and memorable experience, instead of a recipe for misery and whining:
Preparation: Racking up 30 hours in a car in only one week requires lots of advance attention to the topic of fun. Here's the lowdown on how we kept little minds and bodies occupied and excited for the journey:
Pit stop presents. Before we left, I spent $15 at the Dollar Store on little toys and stickers and a packet of pipe cleaners (this was a huge hit). I wrapped them up individually, and the kids got to pick a present to open when we got back on the road after each stop. I'm normally not at all a fan of toys from the dollar store, but this was possibly the best $15 I've ever spent. It really helped them to have something to look forward to. (this idea came courtesy of the Arnolds-- we owe you guys big time!)
Multimedia fun. We came armed with movies, books on CD, and regular books for me to read aloud. Books on CD were probably our favorite-- the boys loved being able to listen to a story and look at the passing scenery at the same time. We read and highly recommend Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (thanks Woods family for letting us borrow your DVD player-- we owe you big time too.)
Flexibility: We had to stop for the night in a tiny Nevada town when I-80 was closed due to a bad snow storm. This meant shaving a day off our San Francisco itinerary. In an attempt to make up for it, we encouraged lots of swimming in the hotel pool, jumping on the bed, and the rare treats of morning cartoons and sugary cereal from the continental breakfast. This detour ended up being a highlight of trip. My favorite quote of the whole trip came from my three year-old: "I enjoy spending my time in Fernley."
Old Fashioned Road Trip Fun:
We sang lots of songs. (The infamous rhyming song, 'Down By the Bay' was a favorite- it put baby Jack to sleep every time)
We told "tag stories". (one person starts a story, and then tags another person to continue, etc.-- you end up with some CRAZY plots that way.)
We looked out for all the different state license plates we could find, and looked for all the letters of the alphabet on billboards and semi trucks and stuff.
Anyways, I was a bit nervous about spending so much time in the car with three such little ones, but the whole trip was actually a lot of fun. Looks like I'm back on the road trip bandwagon.
And one more thing, if you're ever visiting the Bay Area, check out Hidden Villa. It's a hostel located on a spectacularly beautiful little educational organic farm in the Los Altos hills-- it's about 40 minutes away from San Francisco. This was our first experience with a hostel and we were really pleased-- we had a comfortable little cabin to ourselves, access to a great kitchen, and we got to meet lots of friendly people (and farm animals). And you don't have to stay at the hostel to visit the farm-- anyone is welcome to come up and check it out.