Last weekend Chris, Henry and I went on a last minute road trip down to Watertown NY to do some cross border shopping. We had been talking about it for a few weeks and decided to just go. We knew going there and back in one day would not be a great idea for Henry and it wouldn’t give us our duty allowance of $200 each for over 24 hours so we decided to overnight there.
Now if you don’t know me well, let me fill you in on something about my personality. When it comes to travel, I’m an overplanner. I try and anticipate everything. I’ll write up lists and then more lists of things to pack, places to go, how to break up the day/handle the travel. I get a kick out of it. You can imagine how crazy I go for planning travels with Henry. I even have a board on pinterest for family travel tips. I’m obssessed with making things go smoothly. Heck, I’m already planning Henry and the baby’s packing list for a family trip we’re taking on my mom’s side in December 2013. I’ll email Chris with new tips or packing items and I’ll get a “woah there!!!” response.
Anyways, I was a bit under my comfort level when we decided at the last minute to go to Watertown. Everything turned out great but we learned some tips on the trip that I thought I’d share with you.
1. Drive around nap time. Sure Watertown is just 2 hours away but that last 20-30 minutes was tough on the little guy. He cried from the border until Watertown, just tired of being in the car. We had planned the trip around his nap time. We took Henry to his gymnastics class at 8:30 and usually all the energy he spends there just wipes him out that he’s asleep by 10am. Well my little guy likes to be contrarian so of course he stayed up and chit chatted with us for as long as possible. Eventually sleep won, but it was definitely not long enough. I can just imagine how rough a drive it would have been had we gone during his “awake” time. I’d also suggest here that if you’re travelling during awake time, try and stop every hour-ish so your kid can just run around. It’s good for you to stretch your legs as well, especially if pregnant.
2 . Splurge more on a suite and bring duct tape (ok, so this is my friend Courtenay’s suggestion, the one of Price Matching fame, but it was such a good tip, I have to share it). Henry goes to bed early. Usually by 7pm he’s out. We didn’t want to have to hide out in a hotel bathroom from 7pm onwards, whispering because our little guy was sleeping in the room. So we did a bit of research and Courtenay actually suggested that we check out the Hilton Garden Inn, since their suite description said “separate bedroom” . When we got there, they told us that there is a separate bedroom area but no door. It’s basically a living room, then mini hallway with a kitchenette and bathroom then the bedroom. We decided to take it anyways since it was the last suite and we didn’t want to drive around looking for something else. We also got lucky and got a rebate simply because we work for the government. We didn’t even have to be on official business, she just said if we have a card saying we worked for the government, she’d knock $20 off the room. Score! So the duct tape part comes into play if you still want to cordone off an area. Given there was no door, we duct taped a blanket to the living room entrance and voila! Instant seperator. When Henry went down for good, we still had access to the bathroom, fridge and bedroom without having to tip toe around. It also helps that we brought our sound machine to help him sleep as well.
3. Shop in stages. Basically, make sure that one person can devote their energy to your kid while the other one shops. Chris wanted to find shoes so I made sure Henry was distracted enough so that Chris could focus on his quest for the elusive size 14. And then when it came time for stuff I wanted, Chris took care of Henry. I wouldn’t have been able to take care of Henry the entire time on my own, as the day progressed, that short nap was becoming more and more apparent as Henry got crazy manic in a few department stores. Chris ended up letting him run around in aisles just to burn off some energy.
4. Sometimes it’s best to order room service at the end of a long day. This is a lesson Chris knew ahead of time but I needed to learn the hard way. He suggested that we stay in after our long day of travel and shopping and just order room service. I had wanted to go out for dinner. We compromised and went down to the hotel restaurant. BIG MISTAKE! Henry was too far gone by then. He wouldn’t sit still, wanted to run around, he just was at the end of his energy rope. I had to go ask our waitress if we could actually take our order in our bedroom. Luckily the staff there was very understanding and brought up our meals right away. We ended up eating in our room watching Aladdin and Henry settled down quickly. Then Chris and I spent the rest of the evening glued to cable tv watching Storage Wars. Ahh the perks of cable! (something we don’t have).
5. Plan an activity for your child. This is something we didn’t really do, unless you count running around like a maniac in Target an activity. I think it would have been good to bring Henry’s bathing suit for the hotel pool, just to get him to do something exclusively for him. Well, next time we’ll know. I’d add plan quiet times as well. We were in go-go-go shopping mode at one point and it got to be too much, so having just some one on one quiet time to unwind for Henry would also have been good for him.
6. Pack snacks, drinks and perhaps a toy or two. We never bring a bag full of toys for Henry. He’ll always find something to play with. This time he played mostly with the hotel stationary, his new hat and a pen. But occasionally he got bored with these so I brought a train and a ball for him to have fun with. I imagine as he gets older, I’ll have to put a bit more thought in the toys we bring but for now, anything he can get his hands on is interesting to him. As for the snacks, well, Henry can be pretty difficult food wise, so having a variety of foods was good for us since he seems to be off Shreddies and back on cheerios.
Both Chris and I forgot to bring our cameras. I took one picture with my blackberry of Henry and the hat he chose (and refused to take off for the entire weekend) but then had to turn it off since the battery was dying. Highlights of the trip, Chris got two pairs of shoes and a kindle for pretty cheap. I got some shoes as well and some maternity clothes. We got a bunch of spring/summer clothes for Henry for uber cheap at Kohls. Got some fabric even though Chris said I couldn’t buy anymore until I got rid of my current stash. Chris got some beer and when we crossed the border and he declared he had 7 beers, they let us go through without paying duty which was pretty sweet since Henry was fast asleep and having to be referred to secondary would have definitely woken him up. We ate at Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans while there and got to sample the deliciousness of buttermilk biscuits. I wish more restaurants in Canada offered those. They’re like crack! I also kind of fell in love with Target and can’t wait for it to get to Canada. At first I was unimpressed but as we progressed through the store, I warmed up to it more and more. They have such nice things!
Anywho, a bit of a long post. But thought we’d share those tips for others planning a road trip.