We just spent a night in Halifax, all of a three and a half hour drive away from us. We have done this many many times before, but this time, my focus was very different. I viewed this as a little practice for the big thing – a very tiny glimpse into what could be…Now, I know you can’t compare a 3 or 4 hour road trip with driving to Mexico (for example), but you can learn from it. And we did. On the way home, we asked the kids what they had learned from the experience, and they said “Be Prepared”. That about sums it up, and it’s really good advice. But here are a few more things we learned as the parents and planners of the upcoming trips:
- Having the right clothing, footwear, and “accessories” can make or break your day. We stopped in Truro at Victoria Park, a great park for hiking complete with waterfalls and streams (to play in, as it turned out). So, when we arrived, we got the kids to change from flip flops to sneakers for our little hike in the woods (sensible.), but then when they insisted on getting wet, turns out flip flops may have been more appropriate. So, now we know we need some all terrain sandals that will go in water and still be ok for hiking. Check. Also, naturally, one child “needed” to swim in the waterfall, but wouldn’t take off her pants out of modesty, so then we had the issue of wringing wet pants for the walk back to the van (I had brought towels, but they were in the trunk). So, we need a backpack of fresh clothing and a towel next time. Check. It was hot. Unexpectedly hot. Only one of us had a hat, and only one of us put on sunscreen prior to leaving the house. I brought sunscreen, but it was in the suitcase, buried under other toiletries, teddy bears and clothes. So, always have sunscreen readily available no matter what the weather when you set out. Check. And hats. We had to go back to the van a little earlier than we wanted to due to hot heads and the fear of uncomfortable scalp sunburn.
- Having some kind of system of organization in the vehicle can make things a lot more pleasant for everyone. After only a couple of hours in the van, the back looked like a bomb site. Books and notepads all over the floor. Bags everywhere, random shoes in the aisle, and snack-garbage strewn around the seats. Then nobody can find what they are looking for, or someone is constantly having to pass something to someone else, and there may even be fighting in the back. So, I have asked the kids to start thinking about how to organize the chaos, because if it’s like that after two hours, I dread to think what it will be like after twelve. I need to think about this too. There must be some good ideas on this out there, so I will look. Check.
- Everyone needs to be assigned an individual job when we stay in hotel rooms (or anywhere, really). Five people sharing a room is ok for a night, even if it is crowded and chaotic. But what about longer stays? In order for those to work, I think we need assigned jobs, and kind of an “order of operations”. What do we do immediately upon arrival? Unpack. Put stuff away. Basically, create space. What needs to be checked during the final sweep of the hotel room before leaving? Someone could do drawers, another person bathroom and shower, another can do plug outlets for chargers etc. And because Darragh’s pj top no longer lives with us, we now know someone also needs to check under the bedding! This could save us a lot of time, and a lot of repetition. It’s efficient, and I like efficiency. It will also teach responsibility and save us money on items we would have had to re-buy if we left them in the hotel room! Check.
- We need to determine what makes an educational experience into a home-schooling experience. We went to the Museum of Natural History, and of course, the girls loved it, and I’m sure they learned a lot. From how big a hummingbird’s egg is, and what fox poop looks like, to how igneous rock forms. So, as we sat there watching them count the mammals in one big display case, we looked at each other and said, “so, is this it, or do we have to do something?”. Yes, folks, that was our lesson plan. This was a great lesson for us, because clearly, that is not enough. What do we do prior to the visit to set it up? How does the focus need to differ for the three ages of our kids? Do we let them choose their own learning focus? What should they be doing while in the museum? After the visit? We need to do a little more thinking around these issues! Check.
- Hotel rooms for five people are ok, even without a cot. Turns out, Liah likes the floor. Awesome! And just while we are on the subject of hotels, the ones with the complimentary breakfast are definitely the way to go. Such a saving for us. And a pool. Because a pool makes everything ok.
- The 4G ipad rocks. Yes, this is the final thing we learned on our trip. When we said, “I’m not sure if we are going the right way – I think we may have missed the exit”, the ipad and its little flashing blue dot told us we were fine. When we were trying to decide where to eat supper, we spun the wheel-of-fortune-like spinner on the Urbanspoon app and it gave us plenty of suggestions to match our taste and budget. And it takes fabulous pictures. And it turns out, there is an app that can organize my life. I got it, but I can’t figure out how to use it.