Over the past several months, several of you have asked me for more details about the logistics of our travels. This is the second post in an ongoing series about how we travel. If there’s something you want to know more about, feel free to leave me a comment and perhaps it will be a topic for a future Bottling Process post.
When I read about other folks traveling around the country like us, most of them don’t have children. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of families on the road (just check out www.familiesontheroad.com for a taste), but it seems the vast majority are traveling either before having children or after their children are grown and have flown the coop. And sometimes I get jealous when I read about all of the exciting things these childless travelers are getting to experience. Traveling with a child, a toddler no less, changes things. But for all of the things that we’re missing out on, we gain so much by experiencing this journey with a two-year old child full of wonder and silliness (even with his unending poo and periodic tantrums). Here are a few things that have made living on the road with a toddler a little easier and a lot more fun:
- Giving him a job at the campsite. We inadvertently stumbled into the best tactic for giving us the time to set up the campsite while Van is not underfoot and also not getting into trouble. At one of our earliest camping spots on this trip, we asked Van to collect sticks and put them in the fire ring. Little did we know that he’d be such a committed gatherer that he’d amass a serious amount of wood for our fire. And he keeps doing it – every single night we camp – without being asked. He’s busy, we can set up the tent and make dinner, and we can have a nice fire after dinner. It’s a win, win, win!
- Membership to a science or children’s museum. When my mother was asking for birthday gift suggestions for Van, knowing that we’d be traveling and not wanting to get him something large or unnecessary for our travels, I suggested that she get him (and us) a membership to a children’s or science museum. Many science and children’s museums provide reciprocity at other museums around the country, allowing members to get in for half price or even for free. Since we are not going to be in one place this year, there was not an obvious museum at which we should become members. I did some research and found a museum (The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio) that not only provided reciprocity for one of these types of museums, it provided reciprocity at over 300 science and technology museums, almost 200 children’s museums, and almost 200 zoos and aquariums. Amazing! We’ve had the opportunity to visit the Explorium in Lexington, Kentucky, the Adventure Science Center in Nashville, Tennessee, the Children’s Museum of Denver, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. And we have a long list of museums we’re excited to check out in the months to come. In addition to giving us the opportunity to visit a number of museums of interest to us at a reduced cost or for free, visiting these types of museums is great for rainy days, hot and humid days, or days when Van desperately needs some kid time after too many activities that are more exciting to his mommy and daddy.
- Libraries. I am a huge fan of libraries – I worked at a library all through high school, we’ve planned this journey largely from library books, and we regularly frequented our local library before we began traveling. But, as great as libraries are for local residents, they are just as great (if not better) for traveling families. Van LOVES books, but we can’t bring too many with us given our lack of space. Solution? Regular trips to the library! But, not only do many libraries have a great selection of children’s books, more and more libraries also have a play area stocked with different toys – puppets, blocks, magnets, coloring pages and crayons, kitchens, play theaters, you name it! And while Van’s busy playing and reading, we can check our email and our update the blog thanks to free wi-fi in many (but not all) libraries. And you can’t take the clean bathrooms and running water for granted, either.
- Making our own meals. I imagine most folks traveling the country on a long-term basis make most of their own meals for cost and comfort reasons, but there are additional benefits when it comes to traveling with kids. Kids can only sit still for so long and so often. By making most of our meals on the road, in addition to minimizing cost, we minimize the time Van is stuck in a high chair at a restaurant and save those times for local places we’re itching to try (like hot chicken in Nashville or bbq in Memphis). We’ve yet to eat out for breakfast and we rarely eat out for dinner. That tends to happen when it’s been a long day, it’s getting late, and we’re famished, usually with no groceries to our name. While we also make the vast majority of lunches (picnics across America should be our trip’s tagline), lunch is our meal of choice to go out. When we’re not eating out for lunch (which is most of the time) we also get to see a different side of a place, since we typically eat our picnic lunch in a town square or other downtown green space when we’re not out on a trail. Since he spends a bit more time in the car, this additional outdoor time is always welcome and lunch almost always concludes with time to explore. Plus, if you haven’t noticed, kids’ menus pretty much stink. Seriously stink. It’s a rare day when we order off of it. He’s still got a small enough tummy that he can usually just share with us, or we’ll order him a small plate of something similar to what we’re eating. I refuse to order him chicken strips and fries every single time we take him to a restaurant. Once in a while, fine. But why is every single kids’ menu the exact same, no matter where you go? But I digress… Even though we’re on a long-term trip, I’ve found that making most of our own meals is a great money and time saver on shorter trips, as well. However, ignore this advice if you travel to Charleston, South Carolina, in which case you should eat out at least four times a day, every day, and mail me your leftovers.