We took our first real 'road trip' as a family last week, driving more than 4 hours away with an overnight stay. We've always wanted to get to Olympic National Park and thought it'd be cool to go to the Hoh Rainforest visitor center area and check out low tide at the beaches of La Push the following morning. It was awesome AND a living hell all rolled into one. I should know by now to not have any kind of expectations when it comes to the kids: the things that I expected to go just fine, went horribly awry, and the things I worried about were no biggie. Figures.
The car time had me worried. We don't have a DVD player in the car and I really don't want to HAVE to go down that road. We certainly handed over electronic devices from time to time (our shared family Kindle Fire and the kids have a MobiGo), but they also did a good job with sticker and coloring fun packs, books, and SNACKS. Want my kids to pipe down? Give them food, especially 'road trip only' food like Twizzlers - ohhh, that was a big hit. Breaking the trip up into smaller sections was really helpful, too. We had a nice ferry ride at the beginning, drove for awhile, then had lunch, and drove again. For more great tips, here's a great post from Modern Parents Messy Kids that I read AFTER we got back. Figures.
Hiking with our kids is something we do quite a bit, so we were prepared for that and it went great. In addition to the usual hiking essentials (water, some food, sunblock, bug spray, small first aid, extra clothes, etc.), having big brother bring his own 'hiking backback' and camera always makes him feel like he's helping and gives him a place to put his 'treasures.' Moveable Mom has some great tips on this post and we're TOTALLY gonna look for magical creature cottages on our next hike; such a cute idea!
Eating was pretty slim pickin' in Forks, despite it's world renowned fame for being the hometown of Bella Swan and the Cullens. Just for kicks, we looked up where the closest McDonald's or Starbucks were located - at least 60 miles away. But the Thriftway is always a fun jaunt in any town and they had lots of good deli options to take back to our condo or out for a hike. The little pizza joint (Pacific Pizza) was tasty, albeit kinda depressing with the ripped vinyl booths and bad wallpapering. But, for the kids, it could have been Disney for all they cared. NEW! FUN! DIFFERENT!
So, the one thing that just sucked beyond belief was trying to get our two year old to sleep somewhere other than her crib. And, as all parents know, lack of sleep makes everyone cranky and pissed off. She's at the age where she's not quite ready for a real bed and too old for a pack and play. We got a two bedroom condo with two queen beds and figured we'd put both kids in bed together and just let them stay up until they passed out. Since our youngest has always been pretty go with the flow, we just thought it'd work out. Yeaaaaahh, not so much. We put 'em to bed at 9pm (nearly 2 hours late) hoping they'd be tired and fall asleep. Bwahahahaa! They stayed up playing in the bed until nearly 11pm when finally went to intervene. On the upside, they spent two hours in a queen bed playing quietly together without fighting like cats and dogs. That's a small miracle right there. Anyhoo, my husband took a deliriously overtired toddler into our room and got her to sleep on him and then put her back next to her sleeping brother around midnight. Only to have her wake at 2:30am screaming her head off. So, we basically spent the night taking turns holding her and trying to get her to sleep. Kinda like when she was an infant. At least there was more napping on the drive home and a lot less sniping between her and her brother! I think if we, for whatever reason, had to get on the road before baby girl has transitioned to a real bed next year, we might try borrowing one of those sleep tent things from a friend of ours and just zip her in there...
Thankfully the beach at La Push was amazing and gave us a little pep in our step. We had the best time checking out tons of starfish, anemone, clams, hermit crabs, seaweed... It was a blast for my son who seems to have a penchant for marine biology.
Overall, it was all SO worth it to get out and spend some time unplugged with the kids. Big brother was so psyched about sleeping in a new place and trying new things, and I know his sister will get there soon. Now that we've taken that first tentative step into family trips, we're really excited about future adventures.