We survived and thrived! We had some mistakes but I am here to tell you the do's of travel with kids.
1. Have low expectations. It keeps everything in perspective.
2. Planning where to drive is not necessary-I am not kidding-we thought we were going 45 miles away and we went 2400 miles over 13 days.
3. Lots of snacks.
4. Know where bathrooms are. Places like Washington D.C. cater to the elderly so we knew there would be plenty of free water fountains and bathrooms. Places like rural areas we had to stop and get into the camper to use the bathroom there. No there isn't any running water, but we can use a gallon of water to flush and when we get to the next stop then we hook up and are good. Plus we have all boys-so the side of the road would do if they really got to go.
So here is our trip...
Day 1: Left in 30mph winds to a highway pulling a camper. Stopped 45 miles away in a town with a city park that also doubles as campsites with electric hookups and clean bathrooms. Plus it boasts at least 2 major historic wineries. Home school field trip kids! Terms learned: Prohibition, Aging, Wood barrels, and a sampling of grape juices for kiddos and wine for parents at end. Everyone is happy.
Day 2: Let's drive to Lake Erie-Toledo Ohio here we come! We went through areas of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Maumee Bay State Park. "on the water". Except it was 50 degrees and there were signs of Blue/Green TOXIC algea-no playing in waves or drinking water. Bummer. So we set up camp and do what we do best, hit the welcome area/gift shop. *Tip-give the kids or have them save to bring their OWN money-you have $50 this whole trip to buy gum/bug catchers/tacky stuff* There is more thought put into their purchases by some kids, while others still grab the 1st thing they see. I digress. So we are checking out the place and riding push scooters and it is getting dark, Night Night. Then BOOM- a 747 lands on our head. Or it sounded like it. It was aweful. I frantically hold my phone to the window trying to get a signal and google "plane crash in Maumee Bay". No-its the new electric power company shutting down at midnight. There has been multiple complaints from the surrounding neighborhoods. No doubt. There was a bird count happening while were there. Lots of naturalists don't tend to like man made noises. I figured no need to complain-someone has it covered. I had coats, a hat and 3 pair gloves in the camper. My mantra-use what we have and rotate!
Day 3: Off to see the Museum of Maritime History-they have a teacher discount that applies to Home school moms and dads too! It was FREE for us and so we just had to pay for 4 kids. Not bad. We never realized how incredibly tall a Cargo ship is-you fall off that thing it is going to hurt! Lots of interesting facts about ALL the ships that have sank in Lake Erie-lots of them-they say the Great Lakes generates its own weather patterns.
Day 4: Off to Niagara Falls. I did not have our passports..boo because I didn't realize we were driving to Canada-silly me. More about that later. We loved the campsite-Branches Niagara Falls. How did I find it? Google camping near me. Then look at the star ratings and what sane and not so sane people post about the place. One of my favorites was 1 star-didn't see any wild life. Well Mister you haven't been around my family! I basically sort of use stars as a gage. This place had 2 heated pools, mini golf, a play ground, a fishing pond and kayaks, laundry and bath house and even cabins to stay in if you don't have a camper. All within 20 minutes of Niagara Falls. Grand Island also had the best little resturaunt called The Inn that is local and looks like a house. I wanted to knock and stand there-but there are a few tables and good food.
Day 5: Off to Niagara Falls-heard constantly, "Can we go back to the campsite?" Serious fun was happening at the campsite. The US side looked wonderful, but that Canadian side was like the pretty sister-there were ferris wheels and nice hotels. Sigh..no passports so we had to hang out with all the tourist buses from America (who are all from outside the U.S.mind you) and see the falls.
Day 6: Drive to Gettysberg! Through the mountains and over the hills. We drive into town from our GPS and look for a bathroom. We park with all the tour buses of kids and tourists and head inside. We do find many trails, and a cute town we wish we had more time to hang out in, and go to the Gettysberg Museum and Cyclorama (a huge picture). The picture show is about $10 a person and we eat at the museum as well so its wasn't a free day, but nice packed with history. Our youngest buys a replica gun and hat. He wore it the entire rest of the trip. Back into the car to the drive to Washington D.C. Cherry Hill Campground. I also looked at the bad reviews from the KOA D.C.about a grumpy old man yelling at all the kids and thought, nope, not for us. This campground also had pools, spray ground, playground, easy access to bus/subway system, wonderful gift shop with groceries and even a cafe to eat that wasn't expensive. Glamping at it's best. We also figured out that the baby of the family that just turned 7 has been in 25 states already! The older ones 26!
Day 7: : Driving and Driving and Driving
Day 9: Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. we have arrived! POTUS coffee cup in hand and ready to try the bus system that leads to the subway (they call it train) and into D.C. So far so good and we walk to all the monuments-WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Lincoln memorial (the exact spot where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I have a Dream speech), White House and then decide to walk to the Museum of Space. There are about 15 Smithsonian museums and we heard this loud noise. It was the Honor Flight arriving. Awesome-my dad and my husband's grandfather did it years ago. There are plenty of public bathrooms and water fountains and you can take in backpacks. They just check them like purses. We didn't think ahead, but if we had wanted to see inside the White House we would have to contact our Rep from Missouri 2 months in advance for a tour. Some people from the campsite had a 7am tour. We walked and walked and were amazed at the Docet's information at the Information of Space and Aeronautics. Mark Goldberg-this is a shout out to you whoever you are-Mr. Volunteer of the year. My son and I learned so much. Yes I said son, the others had wanted to A/ Get lost or B. go to the bathroom all day or C. wine to leave. So my husband was finding them ice cream or a McDonald's and my 13 year old and I took the tour-free!
Now to the not fun part-5pm. Starving. Rush hour. Let's go back to the subway to go back. My oldest gets on the wrong train going the wrong way-doors SHUT. Our cell phones are dead-bring back up batteries next time. He has no phone. We SCREAM-get off at the next stop and we will meet you there! We hope he hears us-these doors do not open. So we waiting for the next train and go to the next station-it is packed and 3 floors where 6 trains come in. We are screaming his name and find him. Nothing says tourist like screaming a kids name in an underground train station. Tomorrow my husband says we drive. Washington D.C. is nothing like driving in St Louis or Atlanta-we got this. Plus is was $10 a person for us to to into DC today. Safe and Sound I have a glass of wine held over from the educational winery tour and life is good again.
Day 10: DC again-this time, we drive! It took about 35 minutes and we go 1st to the Museum of Natural History (too much evolution for us but still very fun) and the Museum of American History-even better! So May in D.C. is field trips for kids. We could have stayed many more days-but we did get to see by accident a motorcar parade that we thought was the President himself! We went to our friend's from Kansas City days (15 years ago pre-kids) and hung out with them. We let the kids jump on the trampoline, play basketball and had a great night!
Day 11: Headed through Maryland, Pennsylvania and stopping in West Virginia for the night and a HOTEL! That's right-we couldn't find a campsite in the capital city of Charleston that wasn't flat out scary, so we sprung for a Springwood Suites-2 bedrooms, 2 bath, a kitchen and living. We felt like rock stars!
Day 13: Another night in Kentucky
Day 14: Drive home and realize that we just stayed 2 weeks in 125 square feet of space and survived. And want to go again! Our dog and 2 cats were happy to see us! Tomorrow clean up the camper, do laundry, have everyone get cleaned up and my husband wants to try Canadian Rockies!