"We're crazy," I told my husband while packing diaper bags on the eve of our weekend odyssey.
The crazy plan was an accident of geography. The husband booked his 5K, then we both committed to the baseball game with friends, neither of us thinking of the fact that both venues were across town. Making the hour-long roundtrip from our house to the far side of town twice just didn't make sense, so a daytrip it was. I was sure it would be a disaster. The toddler would get tired and cranky. Blow-out diapers and accidental flashings while nursing would embarrass us all. Without naps, we would never survive.
I was wrong. We enjoyed the most fun, relaxing and pleasant day we had had as a foursome, in the four months since the baby's arrival.
Here's why: No distractions. I paid attention to my boys instead of dirty floors and piles of laundry. Television and computer screens couldn't tempt any of us. The husband abandoned his work cell phone on the nightstand. We had no to-do list to cross off and no real agenda. It was lovely.
Since then, I have tried to make weekend daytrips a family tradition. We don't take one every week. The house has to be cleaned sometime. But at least once a month, we spend a day gadding about as a family. The days usually start early and sometimes we're home early enough in the afternoon for a late nap, though we don't follow a clock on trip days. Everyone usually is whooped, which is a perk itself. The boys go to bed early, and the husband and I have time alone. We have stomped waves and dug holes in the sand at the beach. We have strolled along trails. We have taken boat rides.
We don't think about plans too much. The whole point is to reduce stress. But some prior planning is required. Here's how to organize your own family daytrip:
WHAT TO DO
- Think cheap and easy. Check your local newspaper, its website or the local government's recreation department for events. Scout out nature trails, pop into children's museums or hit up festivals.
- Stop boredom before it starts. Waiting for an event, play I Spy or let the kids run around in a grassy open area. While killing time in the mall, treat a pet store like a mini-zoo.
- Be literate. Libraries make great stopping points because they encourage kids to be calm and quiet and give everyone something to read or at least look at while traveling. Make it the main event by hitting up a children's story hour, or use it as a transition between other activities.
WHAT TO EAT
- Bring snacks and drinks. Hunger and thirst - for kids or adults - almost always translate to short tempers. Water is easy, good for everyone and no big deal to clean when spills happen. This article has plenty of ideas for healthy eating on the road.
- Pack a picnic lunch. Eaten al fresco, even peanut butter and jelly seems special. Other low-maintenance foods: cheese and crackers, fruit, nuts, dried fruits and quick breads packed with fruit or vegetables (think zucchini or banana).
- For a treat - or to make life easier on you - stop at a restaurant.
- End on a sweet note. Ice cream isn't something we eat every day, which is why it makes our daytrips special.
Be prepared for whatever the day is bringing. Special things - picnic lunches and swim bags, for example - are packed as needed, but every trip includes two bags: an emergency car pack and my purse.
- Two diapers per kid
- Scarf that doubles as a nursing cover.
- Two small toys and/or books
- Water bottles
- Extra diapers
- Basic first aid, i.e. a couple bandages, children's acetaminophen, teething tablets
- Change of clothes per kid and extra shirt for me
- Snack bag of cereal, dried fruit, etc
- Jarred baby food and spoon
- Changing mat
- Blanket heavy enough for a playmat, but light enough for a nursing cover
- A few small toys
- Spare sippy cup
- Baby carrier
- Bouncy ball, frisbee or other sporting gear
My purse is huge and doubles as a diaper bag, in which goes:
Find more tips for making your family road trip a memorable one.