Across the Country Trip – What We Can Learn

On the About Us page, I talk about how my parents and ten of the kids traveled across the country in a van when I was a kid.  Many people have asked me how my parents survived that.  So I asked my mom this week what they did to make the trip manageable.  Here what she said she allowed or brought:

  • Each kid was allowed one box.  In this box, they needed to have 3 days of clothes and anything else they wanted to bring on the trip.
  • Everyone was allowed to bring their pillow and favorite stuffed animal.
  • Ice cream scoop – She kept this in the van at all times even when we weren’t going on a trip.  I think this is brilliant.  When we wanted a special treat, she would stop at a grocery store and buy ice cream and ice cream cones.  It cost her probably a little more than 1 – 2 ice cream cones at a ice cream stand to get ice cream cones for all of us.
  • Cooler and drink cooler – She kept snack food in the cooler and Kool Aid in the drink cooler.  She said they would pick up ice whenever they stopped.
  • Disposable cups, plates, and utensils – She said she wanted to make her life as easy as possible so she didn’t want to have to worry about clean up.
  • Peanut butter, jelly, and bread – This was a staple.  Everyone liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so it was an easy way to feed everyone on the road.
  • Can opener – This may not be as necessary today, but she said it was necessary when we went.  She had the kind that open around the cans and also punctured the cans.
  • Paper, crayons, markers, coloring books – Personally I would suggest against crayons (and opt for marker) because crayons melt, but her point was to give the kids something to do in the car.
  • Road Bingo – I loved these games.  I tried to find a link for the ones we had, but I can’t find them.  They were Bingo games where you had to find things you might see while on the road.  Some of the boards included street signs, others included things like animals, cars, trucks, etc.  They had slides that you would move when you found an item.  You can create your own Bingo games.  Just Google Road Bingo and there are sites that show you how.
  • View Finders – We had a couple of these in the car.  Whenever we stopped at a site, my mom would buy a View Finder disc for that site.  That way we could continue to remember the site after we left.
  • Frisbee and a Rubber Ball – She had these so when we got restless they could stop at a park and we could play.  She said she packed a rubber ball instead of a baseball on purpose because she didn’t want anyone to get hurt.
  • A Map of the U.S. – She said the kids loved this.  She would give the map to the kids and have them try to figure out where we were.  She said that one of my sisters said that this is how she learned to read a map.
  • Plan stops along the way but be open to unexpected stops – We saw many must-see sites like the Grand Canyon, the Rockies, Yellowstone, and Mount Rushmore, but I think there were 2 unexpected places we stopped that none of the kids would forget – Casey, Iowa and a church in the middle of the country.  We stopped in Casey, Iowa to go to a playground and to gas up.  There wasn’t much in the town when we were there, which became a running joke on the trip.  My dad also lost the gas cap when he filled up the tank.  We won’t forget the church because my parents insisted we go to church even though we were on the road.  After church, we got back on the road.  When we were going for a little, we noticed it was quieter than usual.  We started asking where our youngest sister, who was louder than some of the other kids, was.  We thought she might be hiding under one of the seats (you didn’t have to wear seat belts back then).  Nope – we had left her at the church.  We went back to the church to find her at the priest’s house eating cookies and milk.  A scary situation at the time, but one we’ll never forget.
  • Scrapbook – Even though we didn’t do it, my mom suggests bringing a scrapbook.  She said when you stop, you can pick up postcards and other items for the book.  The kids can put it together along the way.  And when you get home, you’ll have something nice to show family and friends.
  • Books to read

A few things I’d recommend for today that wasn’t available back then or we didn’t bring:

  • Portable DVD player if your vehicle doesn’t have one
  • Portable electronic gaming systems
  • Books on tape – I always stop at our library before we go on a trip and pick up books on tape.  Our library even allows you to download books onto your iPod or phone now.  I find that books help make the trip seem to go faster.
  • Handheld GPS for Geocaching – For those of you who don’t know about, it is a site that gives locations to “treasures”.  You put the coordinates in your GPS and try to find a box.  They are usually located in parks.  It’s a great activity for kids and would be a nice thing to do when the kids need a break from the car.

One Response to Across the Country Trip – What We Can Learn

  1. Dad Rooney says:

    Enjoyed reading about our road trip. It brought back some good memories.
    Remember to be flexible. We camped and stayed at motels.

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