Road trips are the best. You have the opportunity to taste great local food, visit distant family, witness amazing cultural and geographic wonders, and incorporate all of these experiences into home schooling. Our oldest at 17 years has been to 44 states. Our youngest at 5 years has already been to 26 states. Over their short years they have traveled ocean to ocean experiencing some breathtaking states and national parks such as the Smokey, Blue Ridge, and Appalachian Mountain ranges, Zion, Sequoia, and Grand Canyon National Parks, as well as the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, the Badlands, and dozens of places in between. For them, it is sitting in the car listening to music and podcasts, while food and lodging appears as needed. For us parents, it is a ton of work that starts months in advance. Our success with these trips is based on planning. Lots of planning. We start months in advance and the whole family actively participates. I could share all the details on how the trips come together, but you would be reading for an hour. So, here are some of the must haves that help make the trip successful.
1. QR Cards: For identification we have QR cards on each kid's shoe. The QR code is loaded with their personalized medical information. All three kids also have state-issued photo IDs. Part of being a sensory success is reducing anxiety for everyone. Having medical information and sensory needs laid out for medical emergencies reduces stress and keeps everyone safer.
2. Elopement (wandering) and Mobility: For elopement (wandering) we have a medical stroller for the youngest. We also have a bluetooth Buddy Tag that she can wear. I can then track her on my phone. For mobility we have the stroller, as well as, a wheelchair for the middle child. Accessories include light weight breathable blankets for the stroller to block sound and light, our Firefly Weighted Textured Lap Pad for weighted sensory input that can reduce anxiety (pictured.) our Firefly Portable Pocket Fidget for restless fingers and anxiety (as well as the teen's phone,) soft ear muffs to block out sound, and a bag for water bottles, etc. My youngest also likes knit hats for the head pressure they provide. In our climate, most of the year that is doable. It would depend on where you are visiting.
3. Homemade Creams: I hand make pain, itch, calming, anti-nausea, and suntan/sunburn creams with essential oils.. My favorite is copaiba, lavender, frankincense, rosemary, and peppermint mixed with bees wax, shea butter, and sunflower oil for pain. I make it in empty deodorant sticks that you can buy on Amazon. I also bring an essential oil diffuser for the hotel room. I do not use a diffuser in the car. Too many people packed too tightly together. Instead, I make inhalers for each person based on their needs and preferences.
4. Firefly Heat Pads: These are probably the most used item in our home. Their length and equally distributed weight creates consistent heat and pressure. We use them for pain management, sleep, and relaxation. When we do not have access to a microwave on the road, we use disposable heat packs. End of season hand warmers are the best.
5. First Aid Kit: The traditional first kit but with chapstick, aloe vera, tweezers, nail clippers, thermometer, and scissors. In addition, car first aid such as blankets, water, etc. We also carry all medications in labeled bottles and bring extra in case something happens. I also have the medications, dosages, and times written down so that we have a quick reference sheet on who is taking what. For liquid medications, I bring extra syringes and disposable cups.
6. Electronics: We bring music devices for the kids, whether it be an ipod or phone, and a lot of head phones. We bring every single charging cord that we can find around the house. Sometimes. electronics are the best tool, even if not the favored, for helping with a sensory meltdown. Prior to the trips music lists are made.
7. Food: We stock pile the car at the start of the trip with foods that our picky kids will eat. We also bring a large and small cooler, plastic silverware, plastic cups, and plates. It is a lot of work to bring food along. However, it saves money and it guarantees that the kids will have something that they feel ok eating.
7. Custom Totes: This is probably one of the biggest reasons for our success. Everything is planned down to a tote. There is an overnight tote that I restock along the trip. It is stocked with supplies from the medicine tote, the healthcare tote,and the clothing totes (one for each person.) I fill it the morning we leave for each destination. Then, that night, I just have to grab it and go.There is a food tote and electronic tote. There is also a tote for each person with things to do. Every single one looks different. Everything is labeled. I also bring empty trash bags for dirty clothes.
8. Keep Lists: Everything has a tote... and every tote has a list. Thanks to Google Keep, those lists can be shared and organized amongst the family. Organization, again, reduces anxiety. A lot of sensory challenges can be agitated by a lack of planning. By really taking the time to plan out not just the route and lodging, but the supplies, you can reduce that anxiety for everyone.