Friday, August 2, 2013

All Aboard the Crazy Train: Toddler Road Trip 101

We haven't been on a family vacation since Hayden was six months old.

The ugly truth is this:  The idea of any period of time longer than it takes to get to WalMart spent in the car with my kids has a tendency to be miserable.  Crying. Whining. Fighting. Sometimes puking.  It is enough to drive the sanest, most patient person to hurl themselves from a moving vehicle. Seeing as I am neither the sanest or the most patient person, I was starting out at a disadvantage. 

So I just avoided it.

Until this summer.  We just returned from facing my fears head-on - The Diegel Family took this circus on the road.

My husband's company sent us all on an incentive trip to Park City, Utah. We stayed The Grand Summit at The Canyons Resort. Let me tell you - it is gorgeous.  I love little mountain towns!!  And ski towns in the summer = PERFECT for kids.

This was the view from our hotel window:

Park City is 9ish hours from our house.  My girls were such troopers - and it didn't hurt that I had a bunch of tricks up my sleeve.
First of all, I will admit to "doping" my kids with Children's Dramamine.  Carsickness was at the top of my list of fears on this trip.  (Remember me? The sympathetic puker who gave birth to another sympathetic puker?)  Hayden has gotten carsick a few times in the past, though not lately (knock on wood) and even though Carly never has (knock on wood)  but I don't want to find out if she does.  So we drugged our kids. Judge away.
Second bit of advice I have was given to me by a friend who had just traveled solo with her 2.5 year old cross country - LEAVE AT 3AM, BE DONE IN THE CAR BY NOON.  Seriously.  We left at three, and our kids were awake for a little bit and then slept until 8am.  We had driven more than half way, no stops, no crying, and they were totally unaware that it had happened.  We didn't do this on the way home.  Take our word for it - DO IT THIS WAY.   Trust me!
When they woke up, we stopped to potty.  Another road trip MUST = forced bathroom breaks.  I don't care if Hayden says she has to go or not, she has to sit on the potty and go.  Otherwise, we will end up stopping along side the road or at a shady looking roadside rest two miles out of  town.  And little girls + shady roadside rests = GROSS. 
After forced potty breaks, we passed out breakfast - those premade PB&J sammies, chocolate milk in a box, raisins, crackers, all packed into new lunchboxes that we just passed back to them, along with a spill proof cup with ice water. 
Soon, (38 seconds later to be exact) they lost interest in breakfast.
Now, here's when poop got real, people.  Here is where the roadtrip really began.
Thankfully, I had planned ahead for this moment.  I had a HUGE stash of surprises. 
I had gone to the dollar store and bought a bunch of little crap treasures ($80 worth - ack - that seems insane, I know) to use as bribes surprises- small toys, stickers, lollipops, fruit snacks, band aids, plastic jewelry, coloring books, magnets and cookie sheets to stick them on, pipe cleaners and cereal to make necklaces, paper bag puppet kits, a million new board books, etc. - and I wrapped them all up in tissue paper, like one million tiny presents.  I had a basket for the trip there and a basket for the trip back.  There were two identical packages of everything to prevent fighting, of course.  This worked like a charm.  Every 38 seconds (give or take - haha!)  I had something to pass to them.  They were happy as can be for the next four hours.  No complaining, no fighting - the bribes surprises and one stop at a playground to play before hitting the road again and they were happy campers.

Because we had left so early, we were in Salt Lake by 12:30.  It was great that we had practically an entire day before we could even check into our hotel at 4, so we took the little troopers to Utah's Hogle Zoo.  We dressed them in the parking lot, fed them a quick lunch from the ice chest (another tip: pack an ice chest full of drinks, snacks, sandwich stuff, waters, beer. It will save you so much money!! More on that in a minute.) and took the monkeys to the zoo.
They had never been to a zoo before - and they thought it was MAGIC.

The only complaint was that it was HOT. 104 degrees to be exact. It felt like the surface of the sun. Between the heat and the fact that we had skipped naps to go to the zoo, that little rental stroller soon became more like an MMA fighting ring.  They were killing eachother in there.
Naturally, we shut them up with snow cones as big as their heads.
They had so much fun, but it soon became clear that we were going to pay the price for skipping an afternoon nap.  But by the time we checked in to our room, it was too late to let them take a nap, so we explored the village at The Canyons on our Strider bikes in an attempt to ride it out. 

We shot for an early-ish bedtime - one that came only after a very loud, very grouchy experience in a very expensive restaurant that resulted in two grouchy, embarrassed parents.....  We made sure to avoid that mess for the rest of the trip by planning mornings and afternoons as two separate things, with our usual 1pm nap in the middle.   It just wasn't worth the price we paid later.  So yet another tip: DO NOT skip nap. 
And set your expectations LOW.
An example of setting your expectations low:  The next day we thought that the kids might like to explore downtown.  Shopping, walking around, lunch.  That sounded like fun. We would have fun. The kids would love it!!
We were wrong.  They acted like total monsters the whole time.  Crying. Whining. Causing more embarrassing scenes.  We were read to give them away.
Don't let this weird little smile fool you.
She is actually in time-out. For the fourth time that day. Ugh.
Another tip: Find a brewery that serves lunch. 

You will be glad you did.
Of all of the things downtown, the only thing our kids liked was the free trolley.  This was the only time that they smiled the entire morning.

Then, when it was time to get off of the glorified bus trolley, they both immediately melted down and cried because we couldn't (well, mostly Garrett and I wouldn't) stay on the damn thing all day.
Ugh. Where was that brewery again?? LOL
Anyway, we drove two screaming trolley lovers back to the hotel for nap.
Now, navigating a hotel stay with kids is just as interesting as the roadtrip part of a vacation.  Kids are loud, antsy, and eat a lot.  None of which is conducive to a hotel room.
This is another place besides the car where the ice chest comes into play.  We stocked and restocked our huge ice chest and we took it in the room with us.  We fed them PB&Js for breakfast every morning and usually had snacks and drinks on hand, as well as things for lunch most days.  I swear, this saved us SO MUCH money!!
Another lifesaver was a sort of unexpected one.  I bought this bucket of Legos before we left and it kept them (especially Hayden) busy and happy at times we were in the room.
That afternoon, we enjoyed the village some more on our bikes and enjoyed a really fun picnic/party put on by Garrett's company.

The next morning we got up early (my kids are early birds anyway) and went for a swim.  Earlier in the summer, Hayden was afraid of the pool for some unknown reason, so I have been careful about taking her when things aren't too rowdy, so early morning was perfect.  We were all alone there - we noticed that in the afternoon it was WAY too crowded for our little swimmers and avoided it.

We were all having so much fun, and then, after lunch it all came to a screeching halt when for some still unkown reason, Carly puked in he car seat on our way to buy Garrett some flip-flops..... We were pretty well stuck in the room for the rest of that day.
Thank goodness for those Legos.

She must have had a little tummy bug because she ran a little fever, slept off and on all day, and woke up the next morning hungry and spunky, if a little bit tired and grumpy. But she was fine so we got the fun rolling again.
We decided that we would take them up the hill on the Gondola at the Canyons.  They liked this almost as much as that stupid trolley. 

In fact, there was a replay of that meltdown when it was time to get off at the top.  They wanted to ride the Gondola like a merry-go-round, up and down and up and down all day long.  And, like the trolly incident, they created quite a scene. 
(Why wasn't there a brewery at the top of this mountain?)
Once we all got over the gondola trauma, we played swords.
And hiked a mile (each way) to a lake.

And looked for fairies.

It was really fun - and the Wasatch mountains are just PERFECT.  I love these precious little adventures with my girls - even the unpleasant parts (ahem, the fit at the gondola) - and my husband.  I hope that the girls are falling in love with nature a little more each time so that the four of us can continue having this kind of simple fun.
After nap, we strapped on our helmets and went to check the little downhill mountain bike skills park right behind the hotel.
They really never cease to amaze me - especially on these bikes.  They are so fearless and brave.  Like I have said before, they didn't get that from me.  I hope they stay that way, though.

(Doesn't the pink Mohawk helmet just suit Carly Kate perfectly?! I love it!!)

I think that we have two future badasses hardcore mountain bikers in our brood.  They had a BLAST.  We are planning in adding some of these features to our own little Strider track in the back yard. 
And to round out the afternoon, we played a painful fun round of mini-golf.

The jury is still out on whether or not we have any golfers in our brood - because, well, we stunk.  LOL You can't be good at everything, I guess.
Our vacation ended up being so much fun.  A little bit of planning (and a lot of bribery and some VERY low expectations and a few beers) went a long way.  I know that it doesn't seem like we really made any effort to do anything earth-shattering - and it looks that way because that is exactly right.  We just remembered that our kids are still little and tried not to ask too much of them (waiting in line, long drives outside of the trip to and from, skipping naps, walking ridiculously long distances, etc.) and we remember that we have more fun when our plans are small (and there are breweries nearby).  We tried not to sweat the small stuff - like tantrums - or let the big stuff - a random puking kid - get to us either. 
And on our never-ending drive home, the dumb VTech Battery Sucker things didn't hurt one bit.

All in all, my fear of roadtrips is greatly diminished.  In fact, I wish that we had the time and money to take another one right away. 
Because, honestly, if I am going to be locked in a car, traveling across the desert, for hours and hours on end with anyone, it is these three weirdoes.
LOL Aren't I a lucky lady?

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