We are leaving on Friday for a trip to Catholic Familyland. This is our first time attending, our first vacation to anywhere besides visiting family, our first trip with this long of a drive, and for this long a period of time away, our first long trip with five kids. We will have a two-day/15 hour car trip each way, and a week at the actual campgrounds. I have been searching online for tips and ideas to make this run as smoothly as possible. I really haven't come across much, not a whole lot of specific helps. So I'm going to share our trip in detail here...what worked, what did not work, what I can do better next time....maybe it'll help someone else. At the very least, it'll help ME if we are crazy enough to do this again. ;)
Why Familyland? Especially since it's so far away? Well, first of all, even with our limited vacationing experience, I can tell you it's hard to plan a trip and meet everyone's needs in a large family. We have little kids that need some downtime, Mom and Dad that want some good unplugged family time, big kids that want lots of fun, a teenager that wants to spend time with other kids...it's difficult to even plan a day trip that appeals to everyone. This place provides a little of everything. The kids will be with other kids in the morning, we can take our pick of family activities in the afternoon, and we get together with other families in the evening. The teenagers even go off for more fun late into the night each night. It doesn't hurt that it will be a great Catholic environment, that there will be plenty of other big families, some homeschooling families,,,,it'll just be a nice shot in the arm before our new school year starts. That's my hope anyway. So, back to the planning tips, starting with loading the van....
First, I am planning on paper. I have a notebook set aside for the sole purpose of planning the trip, and I am emptying my brain into it. I have a list of everything we need to take and where to put it all in our van. Our van, btw, is now full up. We have a seven passenger, and we now have seven passengers, three of them in carseats. It's a tight fit. We have had a trailer hitch installed and we borrowed this platform that attaches to it...I have no idea what this thing is called, but I will get pictures of it. But you basically stack everything on it and bungee cord it on there. We thought about renting a trailer, and I might wish we had by the time it's all over, but the platform thing-y was free, borrowed from friends...I'm all about free. Once this thing is packed up, we can't open the back of the van. Since we are staying at a hotel on the way there, some bags I will need access to during our drive. So placement is important. Things included in my list....
-drying rack for swimsuits and towels and such
-microwave, coffee maker, toaster ( we are staying in a cabin and we will have electricity but no water)
-bedrolls and towels, of both the pool and bath variety
-training potty, potty supplies, extra clothes and diapers
-two hotel bags, one for the trip there and one for the trip back
-car snacks, water bottles, toys and books, little goody bags to break out during the trip, dvd players and movies, car blankets, e-readers, maps, and my notebook all in easy reach.
-camping chairs, six of them
-stroller, ergo carrier
-clothes, diapers, and all that stuff for a week-long stay in the cabin
-large cooler full of car food, and also food for the cabin. Our dinners are provided. We will bring breakfast, lunches, snacks...
-pool stuff, board games, jackets and ponchos
On this list I have written where to put each thing in the car...what can go in the back, what needs to be in reach and where to put it so it will be in reach. Every small space is utilized. I am using those super-sized ziploc bags instead of suitcases...I realize that's probably not the classiest of travel bags, but 1., I don't have enough suitcases to pack up seven people for nine days, and 2., the ziploc bags will wedge under seats better, and they can be stacked in laundry hampers for loading onto the platform. Once we are fully loaded, I'm sure we will look like the Beverly Hillbillies on the move.
There are more lists--a list of food and kitchen items to pack, a list of meals for the week, a to-do list for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning...these include every detail I can think of, like washing out the cooler, returning library books before we leave, having clean pajamas at the ready for the night we return, and having food in the house enough for the first day or so after we return so we don't have to run immediately to the store. I have traveled enough to know that we will all be fried and cranky when we get home and need a day or so just to relax (and do laundry).
Our general plan is to leave Friday as early as we can and drive about 9 hours, stay in a hotel Friday night, and drive six hours on Saturday, arriving at a decent enough hour to settle into our cabin before orientation Saturday evening. We will leave the camp the following Friday afternoon, drive six hours that day, and arrive probably way too late Saturday evening, dirty, exhausted, and with lots of dirty laundry.
Next up...how to survive the road trip.
PS- For some reason I can't get that link to work. Go to familyland.org and click on the family fest link.