We picked out a few places we wanted to go see, and made a list. David and I were excited about all the places we picked, but we wanted to get the kids excited too. So I gave the list to the kids for homeschool one morning and assigned them a writing task. Their daily journal assignment that day was to research 3 places on the list and pick out things they wanted to see or do there. They could use our National Parks book, or the internet. This really got the kids excited. They spent most of their morning reading about the places we were going, that I had to reassign the journal assignment to the end of homeschool, so they could get their other school work done in a reasonable time. I was excited to see them interested in the places we had picked out. In their research they came up with a few other places near our route that they wanted to see and since our route was flexible we were able to added in some of these places. So, if your planning a trip with your kids—assign them the task of finding out what to do at some of the places, this will get them very excited to go!
A big planning item was logistics – how were we going to go, what were we going to bring, how were we going to eat, all those questions needed to be answered. David was pro RV. I was anti RV. So after research on costs of renting and driving an RV, limitations of an RV, listing pros and cons, we decided to go with driving our minivan and doing half camping, half hoteling. We even looked a towing a tent trailer, but then we were still stuck towing something, and I didn’t like that. So we went with plain old tent camping. I did want a new tent though—one that came with the poles already in place and could be set up easily—there called instant tents, in case you were wondering. Our old tent had a gazillion poles that David had custom added to make it “extreme wind proof”. Because when we bought it David apparently had plans to camp in extreme wind? I don’t know. Anyway, the new tent is nice and super easy to set up and take down.
So now we had to figure out just how we were going to fit us and our new tent and all our stuff in our minivan. I didn’t think it would be too hard, but David was struggling to see it. I think he was envisioning the van bursting at the seems. A little more space probably wouldn’t hurt, so he started researching cargo carriers and decided that one attached to a hitch at the rear of the van would be better than a roof top. An enclosed one sounded good, everything stays dry and you can lock it. And if your going to get something, bigger is better right? He had this huge cargo carrier picked out, but there was no where in Idaho to buy it. And we didn’t have time to ship it to us. He was trying to figure out how he could change our route to Colorado Springs so we could pick up this cargo carrier, or maybe ship it to a large city on our route and we could get it later. Howe we were going to get all our stuff to that point in the trip who knows, David only knew that we NEEDED that cargo carrier. Finally I suggested—have you checked craigs list? Sure enough some one had a cargo carrier listed, not the mega one David had his eye on, but a carrier. Saved by craig’s list, we now had extra space in the carrier.
Another planning item was food. While I really appreciate yummy locally cooked food at a restaurant, we don’t eat out everyday. We didn’t want to make a habit of eating out, so we had to figure out how to provide healthy homemade meals while we traveled. This was a big reason why David wanted an RV (the other reason being the built in bathroom) David has a point. An RV has a kitchen, stove, fridge, and all you need to cook, and places to store all your food. We are no strangers to camping, and over the years I have become a big fan of homemade freezer meals. I freeze just about everything. This has worked excellently when camping in the past, and they will stay frozen for a few days.
So I spent one morning prepping 4 homemade one pot meals. Just in case you were wondering, I made Kielbasa, potatoes, and peppers, an Italian sausage soup, steak fajitas, my favorite chicken pot pie filling to be served over campstove biscuits. I also packed some frozen hotdogs, spaghetti sauce and noodles, and a couple of boxes of mac and cheese of course. This would give us a week of homestyle meals. The morning we left we pulled more than a dozen frozen water bottles from the freezer and lined the bottom of the cooler. Then went in the freezer meals, frozen shredded cheese for 2 of the meals, Milk for cereal, butter, frozen gogurts for snacks, and frozen sliced Ham for lunch meat. I had also made a batch of muffins and froze those. The kids baked a few batches of cookies, those went in the cooler too. The freezer meals and water bottles stayed frozen for 4 days. In a more reachable spot in the van, I filled a smaller cooler. In there I packed items I needed more specifically for that day, lunch meat and cheese, apples, carrots, mayo, mustard, and so on… things I need cold, but not frozen, and want more easy access to.
Over our first week we ate 3 of the freezer meals, remember they stayed frozen for 3 days and the last meal we kept was smoked kielbasa (that stuff can last a month in the fridge). By day 4 half of our water bottles were still completely frozen, and the remainder of our meals were half frozen. This was our first night in a hotel, so we added some ice to the cooler to keep the thawing process at a slow pace so they would stay good for the rest of the week. In my dry goods box I had some homemade trail mix, cereal, instant oatmeal, and lots of snacks so we wouldn’t have to visit a store soon and we’d have plenty for breakfast and lunch snacks.
All the meals cooked up well. I brought a bad pot with me. It is large enough to cook for our family, and was with our camping gear, but it had been a while since I had used it. It is a thin aluminum and had me wishing for my thick hard anodized pot I use at home. I think cooking would have been a little more easy with my home pot. The camp stove is just not like cooking at home. That said I picked good meals, and they all turned out yummy and were easy for camping. There were no complaints from the kids, it was just not as smooth cooking dinner due to the hardware I had brought.
I was really pleased with our meal planning. Sometimes when driving we’d grab a quick lunch out, but for the most part we had not spent much on eating out. While David is attending his conference in Tampa, after Disney World, I plan to stay somewhere with a kitchen so I can again put a few freezer meals together for the trip home.