The night was interesting. The window in our room was above the ice and vending area. People were out there late partying and a couple got in a loud argument. Unsurprisingly, my kids slept through most of it. We got up early and hit the road to drive to Sweetwater, TN. We were happy to leave those accommodations behinds. We stopped for donuts and juice for breakfast. We chose to eat in the car so we could get there faster. We had heard that finding a parking spot was going to be difficult. We had a bit of a drive so we didn’t want to waste anytime.
We made good time and got there early. We drove around a little bit and decided to park in a field next to a hardware store that was away from the big festival that was going on in downtown. We were there to see the eclipse and spend the day together. We were not there to spend the day surrounded by tons of people at a big festival. They parked us at the very edge because they were thinking that there were going to be a lot more people coming. A few other people did park there but not many. It turned out to be an amazingly intimate moment with a handful of like-minded strangers.
We explored our little area to help pass the time. There was an A&W within easy walking distance. The little girls had never been to A&W and Ivy doesn’t remember going when she was little. Octavia enjoyed sharing her first root beer float with Ivy. We checked out the hardware store we were next to. They had some really cute suckers. The big girls each got one.
We went back to the field by our car. The kids played around outside in the grass for a while. We went for another walk. They had horseback rides in the hardware store parking lot. Isabella rode the horse. We decided to have lunch at Sonic before heading back to our car. We shared a large order of chicken tenders and cheese sticks. It was miserably hot so we each got large slush to go, except Octavia who got an ice water to fill up her sippy cup.
We met the nicest people who happened to be parked next to us. They were from Connecticut. We waited for the eclipse with them. We were not able to find enough glasses and they graciously gifted us with a couple extra pairs that they had. They also shared some experiments with my girls. This is one of the reasons I travel with my children. I want to show them that there are some really good people out there in the world.
I have no photographs of the eclipse but I do have a memory that I will cherish forever. Sitting there with my girls as the day became night was a treasure. Isabella’s awe of the moment as what we had been telling her all finally made sense. It was well worth the drive. Road trips are some of my favorite times. This one was so different because Michael couldn’t make it. We made some amazing memories and had some hilarious conversations that you can only have while there are miles of road ahead of you. There is pure magic in road tripping with kids. You suddenly have time for all those conversations that you simply don’t have time to properly engage in at home when everything needs to get done. I’m not talking about the big important talks but that sometimes happens too. I’m talking about hearing about favorite new games, the last book they read, what their school friends are like, and their favorite thing about their new teachers. In the end, all these little things are all that really matter. These little things are shaping our children into the people they will be.
The trip back home was none eventful. There was loads of traffic which we all expected considering how many people came to watch the eclipse. It started to clear out eventually as we got farther away from Sweetwater. I’m going to leave you with this final photograph taken somewhere on the road out of my dirty windshield. It’s beautiful but a little messy which is just like taking a road trip alone with three kids.
Packing for children can be quite tedious and leave you questioning every choice. You don’t want to be bogged down by heavy luggage but you also do not want to be stuck without a spare outfit when you need it most. The first step to deciding how many outfits your child needs is to figure out what their normal daily needs are at home. Do they get dirty a lot? Are they toilet trained? Then consider where you are going and what your activities will be. Will you be outside? Any special outings that require a nicer option? What will the weather be like? Do you need to layer to accommodate changes throughout the day?
My oldest child is 15 so her needs are similar to an adult. I tell her if there is weight/space limitations. She typically brings an outfit for each day of a short trip plus a couple extra options. She may wear jeans or shorts more than once if it’s a city or mostly indoor trip. She will bring one nicer outfit to change into before a nicer dinner or outing. She will bring an extra swimsuit and sundress. Teens are capable of packing their own bags with little to no guidance. Travel is a learning experience. Packing and planning ahead is part of that learning. Make sure to give your teen ample time. When a teen makes poor choices, fails to plan, or waits until the last-minute, you must decide if you are going to bail them out or use it as a learning experience.
Children between 5 and 12 need more guidance. They can and should help with planning and packing for their personal needs. I tell my 6-year-old where we will be going and what type of outfit that requires for each day. She lays out her choices and I check to see if they are appropriate. I pack the good choices. I explain why inappropriate choices will not work and give her a chance to try again. Set very clear limits on toys. This may include the number of items, the size/weight of the toy, if it’s an electronic toy, if it needs to be quiet, and the space within the bag that can be allocated to toys. You may need to offer guidance and supervision depending on your child’s personality, age, and level of experience with these sort of tasks.
Babies through preschool age children require more thought into what to pack. How much to take will really be child dependent. A baby with reflux or frequent diaper blowouts will take extra planning. Can extra bibs help offset some of the need? Do not forget to take this into consideration when packing for yourself. I carry an old shirt for myself in the diaper bag at all times since I had the pleasure of driving home in a sports bra after a diaper blowout in a baby carrier at a park. Assume that a toddler and preschooler will get dirty or wet if the opportunity presents itself. You can let toddlers and preschoolers help by choosing between two items or by handing you things. You can also give preschoolers the ability to pick out favorite clothing pieces to build an outfit around. The more involved they are at this age the more independently they can pack later.
We aim for a couple extra outfits per week/trip for school age children and 1-2 extra outfits per day for babies through preschoolers. There are ways to work these extra items in without feeling like you have majorly over-packed. I typically pack 1-2 extra sundresses for my girls when going someplace warm because they are lightweight options. A swimsuit top can be worn in a pinch. I pack comfortable clothing to use as pajamas that can double as regular clothing in case of emergency. This is my go to for short trips and camping. Do you need your kids to be clean for dinner but don’t want to pack a ton of extra clothing? Consider having them wear the next days clothing to dinner. This has worked for us for normal dining options many times. Casual dresses and button downs with khakis can work on a child at nicer restaurants and still be comfortably worn for sightseeing. A clean onesie is all that’s needed for a baby in warm areas and a sleeper is acceptable in cooler ones. Babies are cute no matter what they are wearing so no need to stress over the perfect outfit for everything.
Beware of buying new clothing for little kids for a trip. It’s a lot of extra pressure. They may not like the way it feels. It may get dirty or even ruined. It may get lost. Remember that this is supposed to be enjoyable. Relax your standards a little. A stained shirt is not the end of the world. Let the kids be kids. Let things go so that you can enjoy yourself.