We absolutely love to camp. It's our favorite family vacation. It's inexpensive and very low key. We love to "check out" from modern life for awhile. Last summer, we had the ultimate vacation travel experience driving from Alabama to Washington and Oregon and back again. It was an absolutely amazing trip.
Spring Break is next month and we're trying to find the perfect camping spot here in Alabama. We haven't actually been camping here yet, so it's exciting. We're leaning towards Gulf State Park.
Alamo is asking moms what their best tips for fun, distraction-free vacation. They're offering gas cards to bloggers! Our trip last summer taught us more than a few things:
1. Disposable Cameras are still a great investment! When we arrived at Yellowstone, we gave each of the children a disposable camera. They could take as many pictures of whatever they wanted. It kept them from fighting over our cameras.
2. Create Traditions Whenever we go to a new state, we find the Welcome To sign and take a family picture in front of it. This helps to document where we went and when. My 8 year old also decided he wanted to collect road maps from each state we visited. He has a pretty large collection now!
3. Lunch Bags At the start of each travel day, we packed a lunch bag with snacks. This prevented us from stopping for snacks. It also saved money because we weren't buying all sorts of extras at the gas station.
4. Have TWO itineraries We had excellent plans on our vacation. We travel quite a bit with the kids and we knew how far they could travel in one day. What we didn't plan for immediately, was what would happen when kids got sick. On our return trip we had best case travel and worst case travel plans!
5. Eat at the Grocery Store! Many grocery stores have deli counters and ready made foods. We planned to eat this way, again to save money. We did not want to eat fast food every single night. Sandwiches, breakfast items and delicious dinners! It was just as fast to run into the store to pick up supplies and meals each night.
6. Prioritize activities One of the things I hate most about vacations is feeling like you need a vacation once you get back. Decide what things you absolutely must do and what things you can skip. For us, Yellowstone was a must see. Grand Canyon, not as much. So we completely changed our return trip plans at the last minute. We ended up having an amazing time as we decided to stop in Nauvoo, Illinois, instead!
7. Red Box I swear Red Box saved our sanity. If you haven't tried Red Box, then you are really missing out. We rented movies in Kansas and returned them in Utah. It let the kids watch a variety of movies and we didn't get sick of the same ones over and over. Plus, we could return them anywhere in the country!
8. Assignments As much as the kids hated it, we had to assign seats. It minimized fighting. We also gave daily assignments such as who was lunch helper, official sign spotter, etc. It kept things interesting and stops fighting. That's worth mentioning twice.
9. Driving Games There are so many resources for fun car trip games. We loved the license plate game. Since we traveled so far, we were able to find 49 states! We only missed out on Rhode Island! We also got most of the Canadian provinces. My kids decided to play "who can get the most variety of road kill." That one was more to keep the older ones occupied.
10. Just Have Fun! My husband has a tendency to freak out over all the little details. He wants everything to run like a well oiled machine. And it doesn't...not when you have six kids! You just have to find the humor in everything and not sweat the small stuff. The schedule isn't nearly as important as the time spent together.
We are planning another big road trip! In 2012, we are driving back west again, this time stopping in Colorado for my high school reunion. And, we're going to hit the Grand Canyon this time and head back up to Oregon and Washington. I want to do a bigger loop and stop at Mt. Rushmore on the way home.