Spring break is such a busy and chaotic time to travel. We have always avoided it. Now that our kids are in school, we have found it necessary to use designated school breaks to our advantage. This spring break we planned our first ever family road trip.
You see, I have grand dreams of unplugging our family and living on the road or internationally for a few months…maybe even a year. I don’t know how it will work, where we will go or even when, but it’s a dream I talk about frequently and I am determined to make it happen. I saw this road trip as a first step in practicing our traveling life. This will certainly be easier when I don’t have to drag car seats, booster seats, a stroller and a pack-n-play with us (insert relaxing exhale). For now, that all gets to tag along. This trip, I worked on minimizing our attire and toiletries in order to redefine how we pack and travel.
I was determined to fit everything in backpacks. Some day I intend to drag my family backpacking through Europe. I thought this would be good practice. However, I realized my kids were too young to carry these very full backpacks from the parking lot to the hotel room. So I know that we are still quite a few years away from our Europe trip.
The goal: 5 people, 1 car, 3 cities in 8 days.
I am a vacation planning nut job. I am known for diligently researching places to stay, things to do and things to avoid. To my husband it’s a borderline unhealthy obsession with the details. To me it’s the necessary due diligence and only irresponsible people don’t spend hours and hours planning their vacations. Just saying.
Although I was excited to head out on this road trip, I made some mistakes. I confused traveling minimally with spending less time planning. Maybe I will get there some day. Maybe I will be able to toss some things in a backpack the night before and head out. For this trip, packing required more forethought than I gave it and we paid the price. Literally…I had to go buy some things. In some areas I hit the nail on the head, but in other areas I flew too close to the sun with my laissez faire approach.
I somehow managed to only pack Raegan 1 pair of socks. I forgot Amelia’s swimmy AND bathing suit. I packed Amelia the same number of pants as the older 2 kids, which was an odorous mistake because she is in diapers. I’ll just leave it at that.
Even though I did forget a handful of necessities, we had easy access to stores and we did our best to just go without where we could. We also had access to a washer and dryer so I was able to wash our dirty clothes half way through the trip. Below are some photos of what I packed for my 2 older kids. These pictures include the clothes they wore the day we left.
I used to think that I had to pack each kid a different outfit for every day of the trip as well as a few extra outfits…just in case. Looking back, one of the reasons I found this necessary was because…brace yourselves…I did not want to have my kids wearing the same outfits in photos from different parts of my trip. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to change course! My kids were not the picky ones. I was!
I am quite proud of how little I packed for myself as well for these 8 days. I was able to fit it all into one backpack! The best tip I came across in regards to packing minimally for myself may be obvious to some, but was revolutionary to me. Whatever you pack should all fall within the same color family. Shoes are what take up the most space. In the past I used to pack all of my favorite shirts with the necessary correlating shoes. This time, I picked the shoe I wanted to wear the whole time first and then only choose outfits that matched. Mind blowing!
I only packed my Sperry’s and flip flops for the hotel pool, 1 pair of boot cut jeans (which are apparently mom jeans now…when did that happen?) 1 pair of skinny jeans, 1 pair of shorts, sweats that doubled as pajama pants, my favorite cardigan, approximately 4 short sleeved shirts and 2 tank tops, 4 underwear, 2 bras, bathing suit and pool shorts. After a mid week laundry session I was golden!
Another rookie mistake I made was poor meal planning. When my husband and I travel together we don’t usually eat breakfast or we may just have a coffee and split a pastry. Later we typically eat a big lunch or dinner and just lightly snack throughout the day. Pina Coladas at a caribbean resort can really fill a girl up ya know.
I did NOT take into consideration how much my children eat and giving your kid a latte or a pina colada to hold them over is frowned upon. They need breakfast, lunch and dinner. So we found ourselves out to eat a lot. It cost us a lot of money and they ate a lot of french fries. I tried to be laid back about it and take on the mind set of, “It’s vacation. Who cares?” It got old really fast. I intend to meal plan better next time by preparing our own picnic lunches and having healthy snack options on hand all the times.
Putting down my camera is something I have been working on at home as well as on this trip. Just a couple of days ago I came across a must read article on the subject of cataloging our motherhood. Dr. Denaye Barahona of Simple Families highlights a Walt Whitman quote that I just may make our families mission statement.
We were together. I forget the rest.
I find so much freedom in those words! I am always taking photos. For what? I mean, 100 years from now do my great great grandchildren want 150,000 photos of our family saved on multiple hard drives? Let’s look even sooner than that. When I am on my death bed do I want to flip through 100+ photo albums of my life? Or, will I just simply want to treasure the faces before me, spending those moments being present and take the time to invest in my loved ones? I know that may be hyperbole, but a significant portion of this minimalism thing is not missing the now. When our arms are full of the physical objects that represent our past there is less room for the now! Cameras and photo albums included.
Sure, I am still going to make the occasional photo album along the way, but I am also giving myself permission to not.
This, we did well. I dragged my kids on a 4 mile round trip walk from Germantown to Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee stopping for a cake pop, some water and run down the giant hill in front of the capital. We got popsicles at Las Paletas in 12 South and played at the park with wildly sticky hands. We used our reciprocal museum membership to spend a rainy day at the Nashville Adventure Science Museum. We spent a day deep inside the Mammoth Caves on a surprisingly anxiety provoking tour (I mean seriously, how is it safe to be down there?). We walked the Purple People Bridge in Cincinatti, strolled through the Creation Museum and spent a morning petting sharks at the Newport Aquarium. It was an adventure filled week.
I think my most favorite part of all was spending time in such close proximity to my husband and my little ones. Which is weird because I’m currently home with my kids full time in an 1800 square foot home. Sometimes that can feel like unbearably close proximity. For example, at this very moment while trying to type this thought, I have a toddler grabbing at my calf and 2 other kids arguing about whether or not one is tattling on the other. Just living the dream, am I right?
However, I do find it is easy to spread out in our own home and grow comfortable with the space between us. That isn’t a bad thing. We all need a little space, but bringing our family together like this for those 8 days was enlightening and precious. I got to learn new things about the way my kids love and learn. Even if I one day forget the details, I’ll know we were together.
So, was my first attempt at traveling minimally a success or failure? I certainly made some mistakes, but overall I am another step toward my goal and I can’t wait for our next family adventure.