School is winding down and as there is sometimes a 10-day to two-week gap before camp, we find ourselves in that most wonderful time of the year: the season of no homework and no babysitters. You can use that time to catch up on errands and some delayed spring-cleaning – or take the family on a road trip.
The one disadvantage to a road trip is that it takes a lot of time. However, that is also a huge advantage, as it gives you a great deal of family time, something that it is rare these days with our lives so heavily scheduled. The benefits of simply being together are tremendous and long serving.
Last year, my family of five made a 9-hour trip to Niagara Falls in Canada. I will not lie, I was very nervous before we began the journey, but the trip was so successful, we plan on doing it again!
Here’s some easy tips to help you plan and create the road trip of your dreams.
- Ensure your car is in good working order. Nothing ruins a trip like being stranded on a highway in middle of nowhere. If nobody is capable of changing a tire, then make sure that you have some type of roadside assistance subscription in case of trouble.
- Map out your itinerary. The beauty of a road trip is the relatively slow pace of the travel. You can stop at farms, hikes, shopping malls, arcades, or whatever else sparks your interest. With the beauty of Google maps, you can easily see what attractions are near your route. Pick one or two stops that will please the whole family and add it to your directions. In our case, we stopped at a kosher Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in Pennsylvania on the way up north, and a gorgeous and easy hike at Glen Falls on the way back. Although stopping makes your journey longer, it also makes it more interesting, so I feel that it is well worth it. However, you want to minimize the stopping to one or two pit stops so that you eventually reach your destination.
- Pack the car. Kosher food is always our biggest concern. We began stocking up on snacks that were on sale as soon as we started planning the trip – you can never have too many snacks. My shopping list included foods that don’t need any preparation, such as tortilla chips, salsa, crackers, peppers, baby carrots, apples and grapes. I also brought a hot water urn so that we could heat up water for instant soup, oatmeal, hot cocoa, and of course, coffee.
I prepared and packed Shabbos in a cooler, as the meals where we would be were pricey. Here’s a list in case you need some inspiration: deli meats, hardboiled eggs, gefilte fish, pasta, cans of pickles, olives (check if the cans require a can opener, because if so, you will need that as well) and schnitzel, as that can be eaten cold. We also brought along challah, grape juice, salt, and plastic tablecloths, along with some nice paper goods to give the feeling of Shabbos.
However, we got a great deal on a combination of major attractions and Shabbos meals, so, we joined Chabad for Shabbos. It kept Shabbos structured, and we had a wonderful time meeting all the different types of Jews. Therefore, if there is a Shabbos plan at your destination, go for it. You will not regret enjoying delicious Shabbos food with your fellow Jews from all over.
- Packing for the actual ride. We loaded a MP3 player with songs and children stories, and made it clear that whatever song comes up will not be skipped, so that we could avoid any arguments. Our kids brought their blankets and pillows into the car so that they could sleep comfortably while we drove. Remember to pack books, cards, and coloring books with markers to give everyone lots of options.
- If you are leaving the country, remember to check what ID you need for each passenger.
- Figure out when to drive. Although it is always tempting to drive at night to avoid traffic and so that the children will sleep, remember that it is as dangerous to drive when tired, as it is to drive while drunk. In addition, many country roads are dark and featureless, which just increases the tiredness the driver may be feeling.
I would recommend waking up very early, and moving the kids into the car while they are still sleeping. This way, they can easily fall back asleep and you can take advantage of the pre-traffic hours.