Even as we faced a 14 hour car ride, it amazed me that within a minute of pulling out from our street, they asked, “are we there yet?” But that was only the first of 1,567 times. Within 5 minutes, they asked if they could open the gifts my mother-in-law packed for them. Ten total, mind you, in personalized backpacks, one for each hour of the ride. Strict orders. 2015 resolution note to self, be more like my mother-in-law. Another fun question was, what is Florida like? Are there sharks in the water? These are the conversations that occupied our time between drawing on dry erase boards, DVD’s, she- took-my-snack fights and who will catch the rings in the pool. (See below for my travel must haves). Also a highlight was seeing the Rocket in Huntsville, Alabama, the sunset over Louisville KY, and the hills of Tennessee. Sights we could not see from 33,000 feet in the air. Upon arrival, we got what we were looking for: mild temps and a pleasant break from our hectic work schedules in Chicago. Jogging on the beach, watching our toddler ruin our sand castles, and frequenting our favorite Fonville Press coffee shop was the daily agenda. Still dreaming of that iced coffee. We rented a house for 4 adults and 8 kids in Panama City Beach, FL. Talk about a party. Yes, a little chaotic, but mostly a refreshing vacation with the dearest of friends. Thankfully there was a beach to run off the energy and temps that did not require hats, gloves, coats and boots. That added an hour at least to our day. Not to mention less tears. And while the lush European like layout of Rosemary Beach and stark white architecture of Alys Beach still calls my name, I’m already planning next year’s Florida trip. Afterall, 2015 is the year for the kind of planning that would make my MIL proud. So would I do it all again? In a heartbeat.
1. Stay flexible. We get there when we get there. Because our four year old may have to use the facilities every half hour. I’m all the wiser for expecting the inconvenient exploration and toddler tantrums and they’re not worth the gray hairs. Just go with it.
2. DVD’s (We love Charlotte’s web, My Little Pony, Sound of Music, Lion King)
3. Books on tape: Winnie the Pooh, Frog & Toad and Chronicles of Narnia
4. Individual size snacks Popcorn and chips, (I also bring extra Ziploc bags to throw snacks to the back row) Your only chance for healthy snacks is what you pack, so pack smart. Carrots, raisins, chips and popcorn are our favorites.
5. Play “I spy” games. Google native flowers and trees and see who can find them. Make it as educational as possible. For the younger ones, spy alphabet, shapes and colors.
7. Each child got his/her own pillow and blanket. Elsa and Anna blankets worked magic on this trip!
8. Travel with friends. It was like 50,000 built in playdates everyday and knocks them out just in time for bed. We were amazed at how well they slept at night.