How To: drive 50 hours round trip and still love your children at the end

This is a how-to post.  It’s a post in which I tell you how awesome we are and how much we rocked our 3,000 mile roadtrip.  How we didn’t lose any of our kids EVER (seriously, this is amazing) in Disneyland and how we spent each day smiling.

And how it’s not as hard as you might think.

First, for the road trip portion.  I really dislike being in the car.  I hate road trips.  I get claustrophobic and antsy.  I get bored with our music and the constant questions and talking from the kids gets on my nerves.  So why would I want to take a ridiculous trip from Eastern Washington to Southern California with my 5 children ages newborn to 8?  Because plane tickets would have cost us an arm, a leg, and thousands of dollars.  We decided we were going to give it a go.  Suck it up and road trip it.

How to make a road trip bearable:

(1) make sure that the kids each have their own electronic device to play/watch at any given time.  We have 4 kids who care about that kind of thing so we packed an ipad, a portable dvd player and 2 Nintendo DS’s.  They all had an option to play a game or watch a video so there was no room to complain that the other had something they didn’t.

(2) pack headphones.  It is because of these wonderful little things that Danny and I were able to listen to David Sedaris and Snoop Dogg while the kids were completely lost in Barbie land and Lego Star Wars.  BUT…we only got a 2-way splitter for said headphones.  Which meant the 3 of them couldn’t watch a video together.  So go ahead and splurge on the 3-4 way splitter.  Worth it.

(3) Take a bathroom break each time you get gas and make everyone use the bathroom.  Even if they say they don’t have to.  Make them.

(4) don’t let your kids pack a bag.  They will pack it with their “favorite” bunny, 2 giant dinosaur figures and 3 board books.  None of this is anything they will use on the roadtrip and it will just be clutter and mess.  Pack their bag for them.  Actually, pack one bag and keep it up with you so that you can distribute activities and books for them along the way.  They won’t get bored as quickly if they know they have xx minutes with a certain toy or book before another will be given out.

(5) pack snacks.  pack a $&%^ load of snacks.

(6) know that your car will be trashed and will smell like chicken strips.  know that you will have to pull off on the side of the road once or twice  for an emergency bathroom break.  know that you will hear, “how many more minutes????” at least a dozen times an hour.  If you go into your trip knowing all of this, you’ll be more relaxed.  Also pack your anxiety medication.  Take often.

DISNEYLAND

Alright, so I’m not sure if this will surprise anyone (because it might) but I love Disneyland.  Naturally, I’ve forced my kids to love it, too.  We have gone many times.  I’ve gone pregnant, I’ve gone with a newborn, I’ve gone with one toddler and I’ve gone with 5 young children.  Each time, it’s magical.  Corny, but true.

We’ll continue the “know these things” with Disneyland:

(1) You will spend so much more money than you think you will.  Know this.  Figure out what you will spend, and add $100-200 on top of that each day.  Because sometimes, you absolutely need that ice cream break and a glow-in-the-dark balloon is sometimes necessary for each child.  But if you do this, you’ll be set.  You won’t be depressed when you realize how much you’ve spent.

(2) Waiting sucks.  Waiting is hard and no fun and sometimes it’s hot and crowded.  But if you go into the park knowing that you will have to wait in line, it won’t be so bad.  Bring your ipod and let the kids watch it in line.  Talk to your kids about waiting and why you have to wait and how it’s necessary if they want to go on the fun rides.  Then remind them of that little talk each time they let out a whine.  This usually reminds my kids that something fun is coming up.

(3) Your kids will whine.  Know that there will be a few meltdowns.  Know that your kids will whine a little bit in line and that there might be tears when you refuse to buy them a double-sided light saber for $50.  Take a deep breath and go with it.  I like to pretend I don’t hear them.  It drives people nuts, but it keeps me sane.

(4) People are rude. I don’t like people.  They are assholes.  They say things that are mean and rude and they are pushy and selfish.  I’ve managed to surround myself with some of the best people in the world who aren’t like this, but when I leave that circle, I am quickly reminded what it’s like on the outside.  Just smile.  And sometimes give the fakey, “I’m smiling but I know that you know it’s not sincere….” and usually people will get the hint that you aren’t a fan of cutting in line, being rude to waitresses who are trying their hardest, or horrible language in the presence of young children.  The “F” word isn’t okay to use in front of my 3 year old, you too-cool-for-school hipster highschooler.  (okay, that was more of a rant than I meant for it to be)

(5) It’s okay to just sit and eat ice cream.  Know that you dont’ have to go-go-go the entire time.  It’s okay to take a 30 minute ice cream break and let the kids make a sticky mess of themselves.  You’ve packed wipes.  It’s fine.

So now that you know these things, how do you make Disneyland happen?  How do you make it fun with a bunch of (young) kids and still be happy at the end?

– save $.  Don’t go to Disneyland until you have saved up enough money.  I PROMISE you will want to buy each  of your kids a set of Mickey ears with their names on the back.  The churros will be calling your name and that ice cream break I talked about?  It will set you back $30 a pop.  When you’re waiting for Fantasmic to start and your kids are being good as gold but really want a glow in the dark necklace, you will want to buy it, even if it’s $12.  You can’t leave Disney without a souvenir and that can get expensive.  You don’t have to spend money to have fun, this is true.  But sometimes, it is a little more fun if you can.

– strollers are your friends.  We packed a double stroller and an umbrella stroller.  Olive occupied the front of the double and the next oldest 3 took turns in the other spots.  Little legs get tired and I don’t blame them.  Disneyland involves a LOT of walking and standing and it makes for much happier kids when they can hitch a ride.

– pack a backpack.  Pack more diapers and wipes than you think you’ll need.  Pack goldfish crackers and juice.  Whatever is an essential in your family, pack it.  And for the love of god, don’t forget your almost-2-year-old’s blanket in the hotel room.

– once you’re in the park, send one person to go get fastpasses for any popular rides you wanna go on, but don’t want to have to stand in a long line for.  Danny went to get fastpasses for the new Cars ride and it saved us 3 hours of waiting time.  I’m not kidding.  3 hours.

– make reservations.  You can call 60 days before you’re there to get ‘preferred seating’ at restaurants, bippidi boppidi boutique, and a couple shows.  DO IT.  You don’t have to keep your reservations if you don’t want to, but you will be sorry if you decide you want to eat at a sit-down restaurant and the wait time is an hour.  It takes 5 minutes to call and make reservations and it is worth it.  Even if you’re afraid of talking on the phone like I am.

– don’t let your kids make the decisions.  We have 3 kids who would have liked to have decided what rides to do and when.  They all would have had different plans and if we tried to accommodate all of them it would have been a nightmare.  Instead, before our trip, we spent a lot of time listening to what they wanted to do.  When we were there, we pretty much decided what we would do without much input from the kids.  There was whining and maybe a few tears, but they got over it.  If we had asked, “Okay, now what do you guys wanna do?” we would have spent way too long listening to opinions and plans and that sorta thing drives me nuts.

-don’t let your kids buy any toys until the end of the day/trip.  There are shops at the end of every major ride and kids get sucked in.  If you let them choose their souvenir at one of the first stops, it will not only take you forever, but the chance of them finding something they’d rather have later on is pretty high.  We let them look for about 5 minutes and then told them to remember that toy they wanted so that when we went to the big Disney store (in Downtown Disney) they could try and find it there and that could be their souvenir.  This changed at each shop, so I’m glad we waited.  They each got to choose 1 toy to take home, so they knew they had to choose wisely.

– split up.  Dan and I hardly spent time together in Disneyland.  We were always split up.  We knew that Jamie and Maria probably would rather go on Splash Mountain than Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree so we split up.  Sometimes we were in different parks.  Sometimes one of us stayed with the babies while the other waited in line with the big kids.  It worked out really well.  We took turns having ‘fun’ and didn’t get cranky.

– safety first.  I have nightmares of my children getting lost and us never being able to find them.  With 5 kids, I thought for sure there would be a couple moments of panic.  There wasn’t, but we were ready if any of them happened to get separated from us.  First, we talked to the 3 big kids about what to do if they couldn’t find us.  They were to go to a Disney worker who had on a nametag and say, “I can’t find my mom and dad, can you help me?” We reminded them of this probably every couple of hours.  We’d make them practice with us what they’d say.  Then you wonder how the hell anyone would find you in a crowd of thousands of people.  I wrote my phone number on their forearms in marker.  It’s true, I did this.  Not huge, just big enough so someone could read it if they needed to.  I wish I would have ordered tattoos with my number on them (they are awesome and totally worth it) but I didn’t remember it in time.

-if you can swing the Grand Californian, do it.  it’s connected to the park and has its own entry.  the rooms (some of them) have bunk beds and trundles.  Everything is as clean as can be and extremely comfortable.  The pool is amazing (there are 3 of them) and it’s very convenient.

– take lots of pictures.  duh.

– go back to your room and go to the pool.  order a cocktail.  the poolside plunge is delicious.  order poolside lunch and relax.  text your friends.  instagram.  It’s okay to do these things.  I’m a little sick of the articles online that try to sound so wise and holier than thou — “put your cellphone away and enjoy your children.”  Blah blah blah.  Let me tell you something.  If I didn’t talk to my friends frequently (and we all know that by “talk” I mean “text”) I would go crazy.  Being with your kids, literally, 24/7 is high stress. Going on a freaking road trip to Disneyland is even higher stress.  I promise my kids weren’t traumatized by my phone usage when I wasn’t eating ice cream with them, riding rides, and splashing in the pool.  It’s okay to take a break every once in a while.  Do this, and you’ll be the happy mom, I promise.  Everyone knows that a happy mom = happy kids.

– finally, if you’re waiting until your kids are older because you think they’ll like it more…don’t.  Someone once made a dig at me that went something like this, “Well I’m just waiting until my kids are old enough to actually appreciate it.”  This was said when Maria was 6, Jamie was 4, Alice was 2, and Charlotte was an infant.  Fact: no one appreciates or loves Disneyland more than a young child.  The sparkle in Alice’s eyes was almost enough to make me cry.  If I cried.  When Charlotte spotted Mickey, she flipped out.  Watching her smile and point at everything on the Ariel ride made the whole trip worth it.  If you are waiting until your kids are old enough to appreciate it, good luck.

Now let me just say that I KNOW not everyone is a Disney fan.  If you could take it or leave it and if the same goes for your kids, then I can see why you wouldn’t really want to spend the money to go.  That’s totally okay.  But if your kids love Disney like mine, it’s worth it.

Now let’s talk about my kids.  They were amazing.  I hate to brag (hahaha…why else do I have this blog, really? I’m kidding.  Really.) but my kids were awesome.  It helps that they really, truly enjoy each other.  They are each others’ best friends (even though Jamie would argue that Noah is actually his best friend) and don’t really fight.  They might get upset with each other, but it doesn’t last long.  The big kids know that Alice is bossy and don’t really pay attention when she’s acting up.  Jamie can be whiney and the girls know this and go with it.  Maria reminds both of them they if they want they need to act accordingly.  They still think of Charlotte as a baby and usually laugh when she’s being naughty (which doesn’t really help…) I’m not going to pretend that there weren’t meltdowns.  There were.  Charlotte cried for 1/2 of the 60 minute Toy Story waiting time.  But she’s 2.  It happens.  Jamie wasn’t happy when he decided he’d rather have ice cream than wait in line for a ride.  There were tears.  But they went away.  I got cranky a few times and the kids got tired, but overall, the kids were really, really good.

Dan and I?  We definitely would have rather been in Mexico or Hawaii, but we decided before we left that we were going to make this fun for everyone.  We decided we’d let things roll off our shoulders and instead of getting stressed out and worked up over mini-tantrums and snafus, we’d laugh them off.  Dan grabbed a beer when he could (how awesome is it that California Adventures serves alcohol?!) and we tried really hard to stay calm and relaxed.  I think this was key.  Staying go-with-the-flow.  This is easier for Dan than it is for me (by far) but I tried and it paid off.  This trip, honestly, was relatively stress free.

Sure, our kids won’t be able to go to college and we aren’t eating for the next 2 weeks, but it was worth it.

(i kid.)

Now for a giveaway!!  Who wants a trip to Disneyland??

bahahahahahahaha just kidding. I’m so hilarious. 

If you are going to Disneyland soon, don’t miss:  Cars Land (the new Cars ride is so much fun), Carthay Circle Restaurant (mmm, the risotto is so good and Dan says the Manhattan was pretty tasty), Fantasmic, Bugs Land and Toon Town for toddlers, Ariel (so cute), fireworks, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, World of Color.

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