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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tips for taking a solo road trip with your kids

A few weeks ago, Kristen had a traveling obligation and I found myself alone with the kids for a week. In the past, whenever that happens, I typically use it as an opportunity to do a mini-vacation with kids. If I can make it happen with my work schedule, it is a lot easier to be out of the house doing some fun local traveling than staying home and trying to keep my sanity amd the kids entertained. There is also the added benefit of not having to keep the house clean.

The most recent trip Kristen took happened to be the week the kids were off school for winter break, so I took the opportunity to take a "Dad Roadtrip" up to Northern California. I'm glad I did, because the kids and I all had a blast.  Kristen was able to join us towards the end of our trip and drive home with us. 

It seems that every time I do this people act impressed (or maybe it is that they are fascinated by my rationale to think I can actually travel successfully with four kids by myself), so I thought I would share some of my tips for taking my kids on a "Dad Roadtrip".

Tip #1: Pick a great destination

It's important to find a place that's not too far away but not so close from home. My preference would be to go somewhere about 2 to 5 hours away. Where we live in California, their are a lot of wonderful options within a 5 or 6 hour drive from home.

On this road trip I decided to take the kids to a beautiful location in Northern California called Carmel By The Sea. It's a place that I've never been before but I'd always heard how beautiful and peaceful it was there. We only had a few days because we were going to meet Kristen in San Francisco and this seemed like an adventurous option to make our way to rendezvous with Kristen.

Tip #2: Start with a well packed car

Kristen will tell you that there are times that I can become really hyper-focused. In preparing for a road trip I want to make sure I've got as many things as I could possibly need to ensure a smooth ride. I loaded up the passenger seat of the minivan with an ice chest full of juice boxes, water bottles, string cheeses, and apples. Next to the ice chest, I had a bag of healthy snacks that I can easily grab and pass back to the kids.

Every child was buckled up in their seats with some device that played music, games, or story apps, a set of headphones, and a blanket, books, stuffed animal, or toy.

Once the kids were loaded, I had the most important road trip survival tool... my headphones the Serial podcast downloaded to my phone. I was good to go for a long time... and OMG did Adnon do it???

Tip #3: Stop by to visit your distant "rich uncle"... I mean Uncle Rich

Whenever I am on a trip, I love stopping to visit with friends along the way. Driving north, we had the opportunity to stop and visit some of our dearest friends who made a move from Orange County to Paso Robles.. It was so good to spend a little time with my old buddies. We had a great lunch overlooking the beautiful vineyard and when it was time to go, we not only left with a full tummies from lunch but he gave me a bottle of the wine from their vineyard and some the olive oil that he had pressed.

Tip #4: Let the kids drink (Sparkling cider... what kind of parent do you think I am!)

A few hours after lunch we arrived at Carmel. Once we checked in and got to the room we are greeted with a welcome basket that included wine cheese crackers and sparkling cider. And let me tell you, the kids felt so fancy drinking sparkling cider from wine glasses.

Tip #5: Find lodging that values family as much as you do

With the family are size it's not always easy to find hotels with rooms that can accommodate us. This was a score! We spent two nights in a wonderful hotel in the heart of Carmel called The Hofsas House. In many ways this hotel was built for families like us. We stayed at a large family suite with a cozy fire place, and enjoyed a complimentary breakfast in the mornings. 

The hotel has been family owned and operated for 60 years. As dad's traveling solo with four kids, I felt like I was arriving at some kind of family reunion. We were so wonderfully welcomed and made to feel comfortable, that it truly put all of us at ease... Not only because we had been on a long journey, but because some of us were kind of missing mommy.

Tip #6: Let them play with fire (safely of course!)

After we got settled into our room we went down to the beach and made a bonfire and s'mores in the sand. (Side note: this was really cool because there are such steep restrictions on bonfires on many southern California beaches that enjoying an evening at the beach with the fire was a rare treat)

The firewood and s'more supplies were part of a family package offered by The Hofsas House.

Tip #7: Always travel with swimsuits

Need I say more? Even though it was kind of chilly outside, the kids loved the heated pool.

Tip #8: Spend money on meaningful experiences
From Carmel it's only about a 20 minute drive to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This was a wonderful experience. I heard about this aquarium before and it definitely lived up to its reputation. It was beautiful. I can truly say that it was a day of wonder and amazement for the kids, and the inner child in me too.

Tip #9: Support local restaurants (that are close enough to your hotel so you don't have to drive so you can have a few beers with dinner walk the cute streets and window shop at the art galleries)

Whenever we travel we try to avoid chain restaurants in favor of new place that we couldn't experience at home. Dinner at Pepe's Little Napoli Bistro Italiano was a great family-friendly environment with a kids menu and several gluten free items on the menu.

Tip #10: Keep your comments to yourself when life's moments drip with irony

The Dennis the Menace park was a great place for the kids to run and play.

Tip #11: Whenever you can get a fresh English scone with homemade jam in quaint little restaurant that's this cute... you do it. 

We thought we were in Storybook Land. This place is called the Tuck Box in Carmel and the kids loved it.

Tip #12: When you go to a Mission, and they say "There's no charge today because it Ash Wednesday" say, "Yes, of course my children, I totally knew that today was Ash-Wednesday"

Tip #13: Let your children play with fire again... but this time it's playing with fire at church... and saying a prayer for mommy's safe traveling... so it's a really holy tip.

Oh, and this reminds, here's a bonus tip*... if you're not Catholic, head's up on the Holy Water... Protestant kids are just thinking "water table time!!!" (*Image associated with this bonus tip not available... But we may be banned from the Vatican)

Tip #14: Spend time in nature.

We grab sandwiches chips and drinks from the Fifth Avenue Deli in Carmel and made our way to the beautiful Los Lobos State Park.

Tip #15: Take more pictures! (maybe I should get a selfie-stick)
We had such a gracious host at the Hofsas House. Carrie, the general manager, was much more like a personal activities coordinator; her suggestions were perfect activities for my kids. She also was cognizant of details like the weather, and suggested our activities accordingly. The day we spent at Los Lobos State Park was perfect.

Tip #16: Be so grateful when the wife comes home (see, she's like an angel)

Tip #17: Just do it!

There are plenty of parts of parenting that can be challenging in themselves, and traveling with kids can be an added challenge, but the memory-making is so worth it.

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