Before we left on our trip last week, I wasn’t sure how our first family vacation with three kids was going to turn out. We’ve taken kids on overnight trips before but they’ve usually been a three or four hour drive away and we’ve always stayed with a family. We’ve never taken them on a 1,300 mile round-trip, stayed in hotels, and had them meet people and kids they’ve never seen before. Thankfully, we couldn’t have asked for things to turn out any better.
Instead of making the drive to Phoenix in one day, we made it a two-day journey. We thought that the kids would do better with shorter drives. We were right. After about six hours in the car the kids were ready to run around. So it was nice to have a place to stop and let the kids expend all their energy. It was also nice to learn that the kids found the hotel an exciting, mysterious place with cool things like swimming pools, ice machines, and elevators – three things they couldn’t get enough of.
The second good decision we made was to buy a portable DVD player. Okay, the DVD player wasn’t just for the trip. Marathon Girl and I do like watching movies together on the weekends after the kids are asleep and my laptops a little too big to be comfortable in bed. But we thought that during long stretches of the drive the kids might like watching a movie and keep them out of mischief.
I should admit that until this trip I’ve been opposed to kids watching movies in the car. And there was no real reason for my opposition other than I just figured the kids would either sleep or find something to do themselves or enjoy whatever part of the country we were driving through. Of course that’s easy to say when you’re an adult and the one doing the driving. I remember talking long, family vacations when I was a kid and being bored out of my mind during the long drive. At the very least, this would give them something to do for a few hours.
The DVD player worked just liked we hoped. About two hours into a drive, the kids would become bored and restless so we’d start a movie. This would keep them focused on something for another two hours. After we turned the movie off they’d sleep or play until we reached our destination. And while we won’t use this DVD player on short, every day trips, it’s nice to know that when we have to take a trip longer than two hours, the kids have multiple entertainment options – including the occasional movie.
The third good decision we made was not to pack the days with lots of events but small things that the kids would enjoy. (This was helped by the fact that the friends we visited had kids roughly the same age as ours.) Whether it be trips to a “train” park, a baseball game (more on that later), or swimming at the hotel, or eating at a place the kids would enjoy, we tried to make the trip as kid friendly as possible. We must have done a decent job of it because, much to our surprise, our two oldest kids expressed disappointment when we told them we were finally heading home.
It’s nice to know they enjoyed the trip just as much as the adults.