LA or bust: traveling on I-5 with the kids (and no husband)
Last month's road trip to Disneyland was a trip of many firsts: our first time attending Mickey's Halloween party, our first time in a Kia Sorento, the first time the kids have been to Disneyland without Alfie... and the first time i've driven with the kids to LA without Alfie. He had tickets to a motorcycle race in Laguna Seca which he didn't want to miss, but when Mickey Mouse invites me to a party, I don't say no. I'm wasn't about to let 400 miles get between me and the Happiest Place on Earth! So I drove all by myself.
I've driven the Bay Area-LA trip the whole way before, but I did have my mom with me as a backup driver. Much as the boys would have loved to drive the Kia Sorento, and even though The Pea is big enough to sit in the front seat and act as my navigator, I was essentially alone. So I planned our road trip like I was planning a military campaign: thoroughly and obsessively.
I decided to break up our 400-mile journey into 4 shorter ones, stopping every 100-125 miles. Making frequent stops let us stretch our legs, take potty breaks, grab lunch, and refuel. More importantly, it helped make the trip seem less endless. I didn't want to decide which exits to take while driving, juggling the steering wheel and my phone, so I decided on the exits in advance. I found a great site listing each and every exit on I5, along with the services (dining, gas, lodging) at each exit, so I showed the site to the kids and asked them where they wanted to eat. My resulting trip plan worked so well that I have to write it down for future reference:
Stop 1: Exit 368, Panoche Road (Firebaugh, CA, approx. 125 miles from home)
The first leg is always the easiest, so we only made a brief bathroom stop.
Stop 2: Exit 278, Lost Hills (Lost Hills, CA, approx. 216 miles from home)
I must admit that the prime reason I chose this exit was the Wendy's fast food restaurant. I had coupons for free Frosties, and this was the most convenient Wendy's to get to between San Jose and LA. It turned out that the coupons weren't even valid that day.. but I bought the Frosties anyway :)
Stop 3: Exit 176B, Lake Huges Road (Castaic, CA, approx. 317 miles from home)
Not only does this exit have lots of restaurants and gas stations, it also has a Walgreen's, so you can stock up on bottled water, snacks and anything you forgot to pack.
Destination: The Disneyland Hotel (Anaheim, CA, approx. 383 miles from home)
Home, sweet home -- for the next 2 nights, that is! Then we had to turn around and do it all over again.
After all the LA traffic, you cannot imagine how HAPPY I was to see that exit sign saying "Disneyland Drive"! We were all tired, but we survived. Actually, the kids all said the trip seemed shorter than the last time we drove to Disneyland -- probably because The Pea and Jammy ended up playing with Monster High dolls half the time, and 3Po had his nose buried in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince almost the whole way. I wish we could have stayed another night or two to space out the driving, but I didn't want the kids to miss another day of school. But I would totally do it again -- I just need half a year to recover.
For my full list of tips on surviving a long road trip with kids, head over to my post on Silicon Valley Mamas!