I shove all the clean laundry in duffel bags, dump a dozen books in a box for the kids, buy the entire candy aisle at Target, and drive.
Somehow, we all arrive with most of our sanity in tact.
But today, as we finish up the last leg of our trip home from Tennessee, I realize I would not make it without a few essentials. Here they are, in no particle order:
10. A cute traveling outfit. Never underestimate the power of a good pair of cute sweats. You will sit and stare at your legs for hours, you might as well enjoy the view. On this trip I donned a scarf that Mr. Fantastic's cousin's wife left behind after we had dinner with them in Nashville. We texted them about it but they never texted back. It's beauty makes me feel less guilty. And when Boy 3 spilled chocolate milk in the car, I didn't mind so much, because I looked fancy.
9. Reading material. Magazines are my favorite. I spent this trip planning an imaginary total remodel of our home. It's fabulous. I'll invite you all over after the imaginary contractor comes and finishes. Pencil me in for an imaginary ribbon-cutting ceremony in about three weeks (pretend renovations take less time than real ones).
8. Candy. What's better than eating a little packet of peanut butter M&Ms and a box of red vines while watching the scenery whiz past the window? Nothing. Nothing is better than that.
7. Good music. We hooked up a speaker to our laptop and I laid down some fresh tunes for us. 80s power ballads and classic rock are staples, but this trip we have also indulged in some newer stuff.
6. Volundatory calisthenics at all pit stops. This physical activity is completely voluntary and unfortunately also mandatory. If you find it awkward to watch a family of six do jumping jacks outside the Shell gas station, or run laps around the picnic tables at a rest stop, then just look away. We get back in the car after everyone burns off a little steam. Then we eat more candy. Because we can.
5. Bags. There are two essential practical items I need in the car: trash bags and ziplock bags. The trash bags are for the eight hundred granola bar wrappers that my kids would otherwise shove in every nook and cranny of the car. The ziplock bags are multi-purpose. I use them to pass candy to the back row, to hold clothes that someone spilled milk on in Chick Fil A, to contain markers that fell out of the marker package, to collect apple cores from sticky hands, and lots of other things. Bags make life better on the road.
4. More candy. Because it's yummy, that's why.
3. Coffee. I'm not sure there is a day worth living without coffee. Road trips are no different.
2. A surprisingly low supply of water. I practically ban drinks in the car. If the kids drink too much, we have to stop too often. And if we stop too often, they freak out because it takes too long to get there. Water rationing is the way to go.
1. Fun distractions. We play 20 questions, iPad games, I Spy, the ABC game, read books for hours, color pictures of princesses, doodle pictures of Ninjas, tell silly jokes, and anything else we can think of. This trip we played Marco Polo, which was unbelievably boring for everyone except the Lady.
In the end, we make it to our destination. Then we cheer and avoid the car for a few days. Some of us us vow that we will never take a long trip again, but then a few months later we decide to go to the beach or the mountains, and so off to the candy aisle I go....