What a week and it’s only Wednesday!
John’s 40th birthday just happened to coincide with the start of Spring Break on Monday. For weeks I had been trying to figure out the best way to mark this momentous occasion. I mean, he’s finally reached my decade. That is cause for celebration! But things are so different from back in the day when year 30 rolled around. We have the kids to think of now, and Ronin and Ellie were so excited to celebrate Daddy’s big day.
We really do love involving the kids in our adventures, especially now that they’re a bit older. They are just a lot more fun. So we decided a mini family vacation was just the ticket.
We live on the “East Side” in the Seattle area and while we certainly get into the city quite a bit, we don’t ever actually visit touristy sites like the Space Needle. So step one in our John’s turning 40 vacation was a short drive to check into a downtown hotel. We visited the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum, and then headed for dinner on top of the iconic Seattle Space Needle. So fantastic!
Step two was a couple hour drive to Great Wolf Lodge, from which I am writing to you at this very moment. The kids (and John) are asleep after an exciting day of water slides and games, which can really take the life out of you! I’m staring at that cozy bed myself. But being smack dab in the middle of our family road trip adventure, I can give you my travel tips hot off the press.
I’m excited to share because I’m pretty proud of how the last few days has turned out. Ronin has ceremoniously announced both Monday AND Tuesday have been the best days EVER (and Tuesday involved a lot of driving.) And John seems quite touched and thankful for what we put together, which makes me very happy. So here goes…
My Top Family Road Trip Travel Tips:
Tip 1: Go Tech! (Low Price Data Plan)
My kids, much like my game developer husband are big gamers. Technology is a huge part of our lives and I make no apologies for that. And there are so many great ways to use technology while traveling!
While on the road, having a phone with a data plan can be incredibly helpful to keep those kiddos entertained. But I need my phone. Like yesterday, I was working on my phone while John was driving with GPS on his. We couldn’t pass our phones back to the kids!
But recently I was able to start testing out a new Alcatel Fierce 2 smartphone with Walmart Family Mobile. For $29.88/month (for the first line) you get an Unlimited Talk, Text and Data service plan, which includes up to 500MB of 4G LTE data. Such a great deal, especially for an extra phone for the kids, which is how I’ve been using it. (As an aside, I’m not talking about Ronin taking this phone to school. He’s in first grade. It is just not time for that. But having a line that is always available to both of the kids, even if I’m not at home, is a great idea. We do not have a land line, and you never know when an emergency might strike.)
So back to the road trip. One of the things that the kids LOVE to do while traveling is track our route and progress via GPS. I personally use WAZE all of the time. (It’s one of the apps I think helps reduce my own anxiety over driving.) But I can’t hand my phone to the kids to follow our route when I don’t know where I’m going myself. However, Ronin especially can be entertained forever watching our little car move on that map. He loves seeing the traffic and counting down the minutes to arrival. No more “Are we there yet!?”
That’s worth it’s weight in gold.
Also, how about when they want to watch a video? Option 1: They get to watch Netflix on their own smartphone. Or Option 2: Go one better and use the phone’s data plan as a personal hotspot to watch a movie on the even bigger screen of their wifi-only iPad.
Also, if you ever visit the Seattle Space Needle like us, they have an awesome app. Fun for the kids on the smartphone too!
Tip 2: Road Trip Gamification (Merge Tech with Analog)
The best way to engage my kids to the fullest is with a mix of hi-tech and analog. And when it comes to analog entertainment, an old school scavenger hunt is the best. So I created one, road trip style. (This is a free printable of my Family Road Trip Scavenger Hunt for download.)
Oh my gosh, the kids were so excited about this! I printed my sheet on card stock and got plain clip boards that I decorated with their names using permanent chalk markers. The minute they saw the pages come off the printer they started planning the hunt. I revealed the clip boards the night before our trip and they both wanted to sleep with them. So cute!
The spent the entire trip answering questions and drawing pictures. But like I said, we are big tech geeks. So I also integrated technology into the tasks, which made the game even more interesting for them. I asked them to do things like:
- watch a movie or TV show
- play a video game
- text a photo to a loved one
- track our progress by app
- take a selfie
They were determined to complete all of the tasks and had a lot of fun doing it. I had never seen them so excited to be driving. This road trip gamification was a huge success all around.
Tip 3: Tech Accessories/Extras
Of course it’s important on road trips or any travel to bring the extras such as extra chargers, batteries and headphones. Note: If the headphones are new, make sure the kids try them on and like them before your trip. Trust me, you do not want to deal with complaints the entire time. (That happened on one plane flight a few years ago, and it was not fun at all.) Also you might want to download a movie or two in advance, especially if you don’t have access to a handy personal hot spot like I have with the Walmart Family Mobile plan for on-the-go downloads.
Tip 4: Travel Necessities
I would be remiss if I didn’t also suggest bringing lots of snacks and water on road trips. Note: Low sugar snacks are best because again, trust me, you do not want to have kids strapped in car seats all hopped up on sugar. High protein snacks like cheese sticks are a great option. I always bring snack cups for sharing and tissues/paper towels for bloody noses or spills. Accidents always happen!
What’s your best tip for traveling with kids?
Do you use technology to your benefit?
Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to http://cbi.as/6z2i or your local Walmart for current pricing.