Friday, August 28, 2009

Home again, home again...

We are back home!

22 days
3,187 miles
6 states
2 happy kiddos that did well enough to make road trips a future possibility

We dropped by grandma's house yesterday to pick up our dog and stay a night, then we headed on home this morning. Since we arrived at noon, we've eaten lunch, visited school to make sure Sierra is squared away to start Monday, gone grocery shopping (twice...had to hit the sales, more on that later), went by the library to turn in the girl's summer reading logs (again, more on that later) and eaten dinner. Hoping to get all the "return home" chores done by tomorrow so we have one day to really rest before everyone goes back to school.

A basic run down of some lessons learned on this trip:

People are more important than money. We were financially able to take this trip because I did a big training in Louisiana that completely funded our travels. We were very fortunate to have that work out. That said, I found myself thinking many many times that so many people spend the majority of their time working. But the point of working is to gather money, and what's the point of having the money if you don't have time to enjoy it?

Our country is made up of vastly different populations. This may be a heretical idea, but I really started to wonder what in the heck we're doing with all these different people under one government. I truly mean it when I say VASTLY different. Not only can you not please everyone, I'm thinking you can't please anyone. As far as regional differences go, there is just a completely different culture in different places (and we were just in the Southeast...you start moving out West or to Hawaii or Alaska and the differences are even more pronounced).

Young kids CAN roadtrip. Josh and I were geared up for every day on the road to be misery and it wasn't, at all. We respected that kids are kids and we had age appropriate expectations. That means we kept driving days short (under 6 hours except for one day), we found some activity to do in each city rather than containing them to car and hotel, we hit more McDonald's than I care to admit (good food? no. cultural lesson? no. Happy kids? yes!), we packed A LOT of movies and let them watch them for the whole drive, we packed surprises so they got new things along the way. It went well enough that I wouldn't be hesitant to do it all over again.

Life itself is a good education, just take advantage of teachable moments. Earlier in the summer, Sierra was doing a very very light homeschool schedule. For the trip, we didn't have her do anything. We did answer her questions though. I'm sure she didn't remember it all, but there was plenty of opportunity to discuss what types of animals live in what shells, why the tides are high or low, why there are waves, how to read a map, states and cities, alphabetizing (to look up maps in an atlas), writing skills (to send postcards), budgeting, different kinds of ships and boats, types of animals and what they eat and why.........and the list goes on and on. She missed out on a week and a half of school, but I have no doubt she gained at least an equivalent education through life experience.

Country Inn and Suites is a great family hotel. There were no Embassy Suites on our path, so we tried out a Country Inn and Suites and we were so impressed, we stuck with them throughout the rest of the trip. Very comfortable beds, great showers, they give you pantene shampoo and conditioner, pool, fridge and microwave in the rooms, free wi-fi, free hot breakfast, free lending library of books (that you can take with you and return to any country inn and suites). It was a great place to stay at a great price ($70-$85/night depending on where we were).

The entire central Louisiana service industry could use a little refresher course. There were PLENTY of super nice people in central Louisiana, but everywhere we went to eat and each grocery store we went to had terrible service. Just rude employees that acted like you were interrupting their day. It was very frustrating. As soon as we moved into Mississippi, everyone we ran into was exceedingly friendly and nice.

You can travel cheap. We were gone 22 days, clearly we spent quite a bit of money. Averaged out though, our per day cost wasn't that bad ($100 or so). Some ideas: We kept a "budget" where we put down how much money we were starting with and recorded everything we spent, so we didn't come home to surprise debt. If you roll into a hotel in the evening with no reservation, you can cut a deal on a room--renting a room at a reduced price is better than leaving it empty. If you try that on a busy travel day, you may find yourself driving from hotel to hotel, but if it's a less busy time (weekday during the school year!), it's no problem. Find a hotel with free hot breakfast...everyone can tank up and that's one less meal to buy. Pack a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread, or some similar shelf stable item for lunches. We had also accumulated a small stash of jelly packets from eating out over the last few months. Look through pamphlets in the hotel lobby for restaurant and attraction coupons. For dinner, remember that you can't take your leftovers with you, so don't order more than you can eat. A lot of the time we ordered one kid's meal and one adult meal and everyone got full. Chili's is doing their 2 for $20 deal that gets you an appetizer, two entrees and a dessert and that fed all 4 of us and we still had leftovers. If you can find a hotel with a microwave, it's easy to pack along convenience items. Those easy mac and cheese bowls are quite expensive at $1 each, but that's still way cheaper than eating out every single meal. Some of our skimping on meals enabled us to come home with quite a few souvenirs for the girls.

Vacation should be a treat. When you DO go out to eat, order a dessert. Give the kids ice cream, even if they didn't finish dinner. Let the kids stay up late. Buy fudge, and eat it.

Never stay on the coast if you are facing a direct hit from a hurricane. 'Nuff said.

In a pinch, when you're really bored, you can pretend your foot is a telephone:

1 comment:

Casey, Alicia, and Ada said...

Awww!! It looks like y'all had an amazing time!!!

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