We just got back from a glorious spring break trip to California. Four days ago, we were at the beach, yesterday it snowed like a mother and all my kids threatened to move to L.A. as soon as they’re old enough. Figures.
I’ve noticed that on these trips, I always go through the same 5 stages. Every. Time. At least now I know and I’m ready for it.
The 5 Stages of Road Trips With Kids
1.) The Prep
This is always the most stressful part and I always yell at least once that if I’d known going on vacation would be this hard, I’d have made us all stay home. This stage begins 3 days before we leave with me thinking, “I should start packing. I should at least start laundry,” then putting it off until 10 the night before when we’re planning on leaving at 5:30am. It also includes at least one unexpected school project, a forgotten meeting, and this year, a new car and a really fun ski trip that still took us out of the loop for a day and added to the laundry pile. By the end of the preparation period, I’m ready to cry, nap, drink, and definitely ready to actually be on vacation.
2.) The Launch
The morning of. Go-time. The Launch often involves an early start, while I worry that we’re waking up the entire neighborhood, a very anxious dog who keeps trying to jump in the car and come along, and a kid who has to go to the bathroom when we’re half a block from home. I spend the first half hour worrying about everything I’ve forgotten while Chris repeats, “You say this every time,” continually until I shut up.
3.) The In-Between
By about Hour 2 or 3, we’ve settled in. Everyone has their stuff where they want it. We’re relaxed but still excited about vacation. Sometimes there’s singing. We have pun wars. I suggest picking up a hitchhiker, which Chris ignores. Some of the kids are actually doing homework. At some point during this phase, I look around the car and declare, “When we get back, we’re selling the house, buying a motor home, and traveling the country while I homeschool the kids!” while Chris repeats, “You say this every time,” continually until I shut up.
4.) The Arrival
So we bought a new-to-us van three days before we left on this trip. By the time we arrive, the van has been thoroughly Falin’ed. It’s a mess. We accidentally lost the roof rack off the top. There are food wrappers and electronics and charging cords and shoes everywhere. Kids are mutinying, refusing to sit next to each other, and using the seat leany-backy controls as weapons to shove each other around. There’s a lot of crying. From me.
But we arrive, everyone scatters as far as they can from each other after 15 hours in the van together, and we have a wonderful week relaxing and visiting people and soaking up the sun before we have to go back to bratty, snowy Colorado again. And then it’s time to leave.
5.) The End
We don’t ever begin the trip home with as much forethought as the trip there. I have no snacks. I have no idea where anyone’s chargers are. I have no idea where anyone’s clean clothes are and tell everyone to “just put on whatever and ride it out til we get home.” The car smells like feet. And then we remember why we left L.A. Because we have 15 hours to go once we get out of there, and we’re stuck in traffic forever and ever. At some point, Chris hollers, “Wherrrrrrre is everyone going?? Stay home and enjoy yourselves!!!!” and I realize that’s our cue. We’ve had a lovely week, but it’s time to limp on home now.
How about you? How do your trips go?