Roadtripping as a Single Mom

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Hi Mamas!

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say or imply that you can travel more if you don’t have kids. This implies that once you have kids, you are extremely limited or you have lost your freedom to travel.

That is false. You can travel as a single mom, you just need to approach traveling with a little creativity and flexibility!

Many of you may be preparing to travel for the holidays over the next two weekends. If you do not live near family, traveling can become somewhat of a necessity (especially when grandparents haven’t seen their grandkids in a while). However, it can get pricey when trying to make arrangements!

For me, my traveling default is roadtripping!

My daughter and I used to drive from the Midwest to the East Coast during the first few months of her life. Then, we drove up and down the East Coast while I was in law school, since my family stayed 10-12 hours away (depending on traffic). I would guess that I drove about 50,000 miles during road trips home for me and Raegan from the time she was an infant until about age 3  1/2 (Raegan’s first road trip was at 2  1/2 months old for 6 hours). Now that I am out of school and practicing law, I have work trips to consider.

Below are some considerations for your next mommy and me road trip.

Drive or Fly?

  • Driving was/is often cheaper than flying for me and Raegan. A round trip home could cost me about $500 to $600 for both me and Raegan to fly. I could not afford to fly home if one trip would cost me a good deal of my rent money. I was in school at the time, so that just wasn’t feasible. Driving, by contrast, was cheaper, even when gas was more expensive a few years ago. Now, it costs about $25 to fill my car up from empty to full. It takes about 2 tanks to get home- so $100 round trip. Driving is more often the winner, but it means I will be spending a good deal of time in the car.
  •  If you cannot picture yourself driving that long with your kids by yourself, then I would recommend checking out this blog by my friend Heather. When I buy plane tickets,  I usually stalk Southwest for a sale!
  • Driving also wins out because I prefer packing for a road trip rather than dealing with luggage restrictions for flying. I can put what I want in my bag and don’t have to worry about carrying my bags, her bag, and her car seat by myself  around an airport (I strained a back muscle from carrying so much last time I flew!).
  • Makes sure you take care of your car to avoid headaches! There are coupons galore for basic things like oil changes, and I have saved money learning how to do stuff like change wipers, air filters, and head lamps. Also, I have learned that I like a clean car for traveling, so I usually detail my car myself. That saves me a couple of dollars!!

Fuel Costs

  • When roadtripping, keep in mind that gas is cheaper outside of larger cities, and certain states are cheaper. For example, I often traveled from Georgia to Virginia. Gas was cheapest in South Carolina, the most expensive in North Carolina, and cheaper in Virginia (excluding Northern Virginia). If I was traveling from Georgia across the Southern states, I found that gas was cheaper outside of Georgia in states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
  • Choose exits that have a couple of gas stations. This makes for competitor fuel pricing, versus an exit with one gas station is more often expensive AND not safe. See  “Safety Considerations” below.
  • Sign up for gas rewards through a grocery store savings card (Kroger’s savings cards allows you to earn cents off per gallon of gas)!

Efficiency 

  • Set time for stops. I know a full tank of gas lasts 5.5 hours. So, if I started the trip with a full tank,  a trip home meant one stop for gas at some point. During that one stop I would use also grab food and take a restroom break/change Rae.
  • Travel around traffic–larger cities have rush hour, so plan your travel time arund rush hours. For example, I knew that I would have to pass Charlotte on my way to Virginia before 7:00 a.m., between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and after 7:00 p.m.
  • If we had to stop for food, I would place the food on her tray. 
  • Pack a change of clothes, paper towels, towels, baby wipes for blow outs/big spills. This kept me from wasing time stopping at Wal-Mart or some other place.
  • Keep in mind that efficiency NEVER TRUMPS SAFETY. The destination will still be there, so make a schedule but realize life happens with kids and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Food

  • I would rely heavily on my EBT card to pick up food at gas stations that accepted EBT.
  • I would also use my EBT card to buy foods at Walmart and then pack foods for me and Raegan.
  • Speaking of food for Rae, I traveled when she was quite young. I would pack her bottles and baby food in car cooler made for bottles. I also had a bottle warmer for my car.

Entertainment

  • This is a big one. People usually picture a screaming child. I usually ask, “Where they do that at?” I usually had zero drama from Raegan, and that was largely because I spent a great deal of time talking from time she was born until now, which helped her vocabulary (I really think this contributes to her vocabulary being at the 6-7 year old level based on evaluations done by her teacher).
  • Driving gives you teaching moments galore– we talked about colors, animals, plants, sky, and vehicles.
  • Time for family worship–we sang worship songs together! Raegan will usually make a request and I get to be a Bethel music, Jesus Culture-slinging DJ.
  • A time to minister– we talked about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, you name it. I have preached whole sermons to my child.
  • NAPS. NAPS. NAPS. I keep Raegan’s nap schedules by turning down music, laying a blanket across her, and telling her “it’s time to go to sleep so lay back.” I then used that time to listen to sermons.
  • Buy a Travel Tray for your car seat!! This is what it looks like. I used it for her meals and it allowed her to color, do puzzles, you name it. IT WAS A REAL LIFESAVER. I bought mine for maybe $5 on Groupon. They also have pockets for sippy cups, crayons, juice boxes, and snacks.
  • Consider electronics. A family member bought Raegan the Nabi tablet when she was just under 2. I  use it only for small spurts of time on road trips so as to reduce screen time/turning her into the kid that’s always asking for somebody’s phone to play games.
  • Let your kids out of the car once in a while! I let her stretch her legs when I stopped for gas.
  • Consider your child’s disposition! I generally didn’t experience screaming and hollering and all of that. The only time Raegan was fussy was if she had ear infection. Other than that, Raegan wasn’t really a crier–when she cried it was for a purpose. I really believed God blessed me with a child that just went with the flow. Her presence really confirmed the calling on my life–it was as if God saw that I would be in school far from home and thus blessed me with a child that could handle long car rides. That being said, again, think about your child’s disposition. If your child tends to get fussy in the car, don’t do it.

Safety Considerations

  • Pack your car in the morning while your kids sleep. That way,  you stuff is not in the car overnight and thus an attractive target for theft.
  • If possible, choose driving in the day versus the night. For me, it was often inevitable for me to drive at night if I left after classes on a given day. But, trying to drive overnight means you are tired and puts you at risk. If you have car troubles over night, you are now stranded at night on the side of the road somewhere with your child.
  • Stop at exits that have more than one gas station, with many gas stations close to the highway. I do not stop at exits that have gas stations that are too far from the highway. I want as many people to see me and my child as possible. Being near people is good.
  • Keep a pack of water and blankets in your trunk, along with a spare tire.
  • Get good car insurance!  This cannot be stressed  enough. DON’T SKIMP ON THIS. I do not cut corners on my car insurance– I want roadside assistance, towing, you name it.
  • Inclement weather happens so use wisdom!

Potty Training

  • Potty training and traveling is TOUGH. I brought her little potty with us in the car for her to use. I would pull over and let her use it, as I didn’t like to use the seat you buy for public restrooms (DISGUSTING). 
  • They sell pads for covering the car seat in case your child has an accident while potty training. I haven’t tried it but wanted to!
  • Pull-ups are your friend during this time.
  • Don’t go so long that you have them sitting in a diaper. Think rashes and the like.
  • Sometimes blow outs happen! Be prepared with extra clothes, paper towels, and cleaners and towels!

Work Trips

  • For moms who work outside the house (like moi!), this can be tough, but it’s not insurmountable. My job will require me to travel and other times it’s a good idea to do so. I just moved to a new state, so I’m in the process of establishing good community. In the meantime, I needed to go out of town for a work trip but my family is 11 hours away.
  • So, I asked folks up in our firm’s Nashville office to see if they knew of drop-in care. I researched the recommended places HEAVILY! Google earth map them. Search to see if they ever had eviction or landlord tenant issues (indicating financial issues, which means they may not have the resources that I like). Keep in mind that I did this because of good recommendations from other attorneys I trusted. More importantly, I prayed and felt peace. All in all, it was a good opportunity for Rae to experience a new city, and I treated like a mini vacation even though I was working.
  • If you are near family and friends, then you know the drill–ask family or a trusted friend to come with you or to keep your child.

 

Roadtripping is a great bonding experience when it is  viewed as an adventure rather than a chore or a “necessary evil.” For me, there was nothing evil about it–me and my kid were down to ride out across the country together.We have driven to about 17 states or so together between necessary road trips to see family and just traveling to see friends. It’s His grace, and experience along the way, that carried us through.

Hope this helps!

Love,

Melonie

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