The 813 Mile Car Trip by Alysia

It’s that time of year again.  Thanksgiving.  It’s a tradition in my family that we all go to my mother’s house in Vermont for the holiday.  In the past 30 years, there have only been three times when she didn’t host the big turkey dinner.  Usually, there’s about 30-35 people there – my immediate family, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, friends of second cousins…you have a connection to our family and you’re welcome at the house. 

Making 250 mile car trip is always somewhat of an adventure for us.  It’s hard for any kid to sit that long, but a four year old with sensory issues can make the car ride incredibly hard.  One year, he asked for a “hug” for an hour straight.  Factor in food breaks, toilet breaks, coffee breaks and sensory breaks and a four hour ride can sometimes turn into six.   Oh yeah, and diaper changing breaks for the two year old too.

Leaving the comforts of our house is somewhat of a challenge.  Besides my son’s sensory issues, he has a food intolerance to all products with corn in them (corn syrup, corn starch, dextrose, etc.) so we travel with our own food.  Additionally, my husband is a vegan so we need to make sure we have things that he can eat as well.  All this makes eating anywhere but home a little dicey. 

However, we’ve made the trip enough now that I know what to do ahead of time to get us ready, and what to pack to make the journey successful.  I thought I’d share our packing list with you, in case you are also getting ready for a big holiday adventure.  I’ve based our list on the car game “I’m packing my grandmother’s trunk and I’m bringing…” something based on each letter of the alphabet. 

I’m packing my family’s trunk and I’m bringing:

A – All the toys in the house (ok, not really, but it seems that way)
B – Bread, special vegan and corn-free bread for stuffing.  Not easy to find.
C – Corn-free crackers and cookies for car snacks and while waiting for dinner
D – DVDs.  Don’t leave home without them.
E – Extra clothes.  For Everyone.  Because someone will spill, pee, or drip on their brother, father or mother. It can’t be helped.
F – Fidgits.  We like koosh balls and Hot Wheels cars.  Until they get thrown at someone.
G – Green straws.  My son will only drink out of green straws.
H – Headphones in case dinner/car gets noisy.  Also good for the adults to have around.
I – Ice packs to keep all our travel food cold.
J – Juice.  My son will only drink one brand of white grape juice.  Other flavors give him a stomach ache.
K – Kid-friendly list of bathroom stops along the way.  Ones that aren’t too smelly or flush too loudly.  Of course, with three boys, the side of the road is acceptable too.
L – Lactaid Milk.  (See Juice.  Same reason.)
M – Melatonin.  Sleep problems are magnified when we aren’t home.  My son takes 2mg every night and that has to continue when we travel.
N – Notebooks to track behavior or food reactions.  I enter them into my spreadsheet when I get home so I can figure out what triggered the issues when we return.
O – Orange crunchy veggie sticks.  The only kind my son will eat.
P – Pillows and pacifiers.  My son sleeps better when the pillow smell is familiar, and my two year old has a special pillow that he needs as well.  And if we forget the two year olds’s pacifiers?  We might as well go home.
Q – “Quiet please” sign.  (I don’t really have one, but I’m thinking of making it)
R – Red wine.  That one is for me.
S – Sippy cups for milk and for juice.  Because they can’t mix.  My son will only drink juice out of one kind of cup and milk out of another.
T – Toilet seat.  So we don’t fall in at Grandma’s.
U – Umbrellas.  The weather could be rain, sleet, snow or ice.  Getting wet = meltdowns.
V – Vegan recipes for Thanksgiving.  My husband will not eat Tofurkey.
W – Weighted blanket.  Along with the melatonin, it’s the only way we get our son to sleep.  Even at home.
X – X-ray vision.  This is what I tell my kids I have so they behave when I’m not watching.
Y – “Yogurt Straws”.  What we call smoothies.  My kids don’t eat turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, gravy, or anything else traditional for Thanksgiving.  So we’re bringing our own smoothies.
Z – Ziploc bags with all the kids’ clothes packed in them marked with their name.  Best way to pull out exactly what each one needs on each day, and a handy way to re-pack dirty laundry.

Luckily we have a mini-van otherwise I don’t think we’d ever leave the house for more than an hour. 

The house sitter is all set and the kids are ready to go.  Now I just need two days to pack everything up…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

"Eight hundred and thirteen mile car trip
Four hundred and seventeen miles to go
Three thousand trees
Fourteen hundred buildings
One spilt cup of orange juice
Nineteen pit stops
One hundred and fifteen pick-up trucks
Eight hundred and thirteen mile car trip"
- 813 Mile Car Trip by They Might Be Giants


spectrummymummy said...

Oh, I feel your pain. Next week we are driving to Florida again. Yes, I said DRIVING. It is a vacation. It is fun. It is. Nope, don't believe it myself. Let's commiserate with one another.

Pierrette and Lorna dEntremont said...

Hartley, thank you ~ absolutely love your post! I have had a smile on my face from the title to the Z for ziplock bags...This is precious and all parents of children with SPD can relate to every word. Happy Thanksgiving and Bon VOYAGE! Lorna d'Entremont

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Jaimee said...

Alysia, as always I can so relate to this post. We have a 14hr trip to visit family, but thankfully this year we are staying HERE. UGH I cannot do that trip right now! Your post was excellently written and made me smile. Love it!

adiaryofamom said...

precisely why we try so hard NOT to go anywhere on thanksgiving! unfortunately, we're breaking our own rule this year and heading to long island. or not, cause after just reading your list i think i need a nap. :)

Jenn said...

I hear that. Our family was also on a trip away this weekend. There are always those certain things you can't leave the house without! Our adventure is at We are in Canada and it's not our Thanksgiving, but hope you all have a good one!

Patty O. said...

Cool post. This comes at a great time as we will be driving almost 300 miles to my family's house for Thanksgiving--and Christmas, for that matter.

Good luck!