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Mommy Memoirs: I Met the President (and I Liked It)

Posted by Claire | Thursday April 25, 20136 comments

Roadtripping with Kids: A Survival Guide

Recently, the Mister and I had the harebrained idea to take our kids roadtripping for a weekend during Spring Break. We based this brilliant decision on years and years of horrible experiences. 

Because, obviously, it can only improve from here (and in fairness, it was only horrible about 50% of the time. Sleeping, eating, and visiting the hotel pool are generally positive experiences).

We were stuck between two equally compelling destinations: 
(1) Washington, D.C., unofficial capital of the free world, rich in historical and cultural attractions (or as my son sarcastically called it "you mean like, a learning vacation?")
(2) Atlanta, Georgia, unofficial capital of the South but more importantly, home to Coke World and its legendary taste-testing room.

You may well imagine that this decision was a really close call. As in, when Daddy & I announced we had chosen Washington, our ears were located really close to the calls of dismay. 

But before you think us cruel and heartless parents, the first thing I did was march the troops to the grocery store for road snacks (seriously, this is a good cooperation-building exercise plus an opportunity to score brownie points with the shorties).

Wholesome fruit and sensible drinks (V8 V-Fusion Pomegranate Blueberry is a personal fave) are an easier sell when there are lower-guilt snacks like Skinny Cow snacks, Sun Chips, and Trail Mix as rewards.

I will also admit, we bought a small pack of the mini Coke cans. It seemed like a situationally-appropriate compromise and a highly effective bribery tool.

Once we arrived in Washington, D.C. we immediately headed to the Smithsonian. Admission to most of the 19 museums and the National Zoo is free. Having carefully budgeted for this trip, this was a very welcome shock.

We only made it through Air & Space and Natural History that day. Even though it was Spring Break for many students, the crowds were very manageable.
The next day we walked to the White House from our hotel. We took extra time because there were a lot of security guards on the roof and on the lawn. My boys took many close-up pics of the guards. The House itself could wait until later, apparently. 

Thanks to this avid interest in the Secret Service, our delay caught us in a cordoned-off area just outside of the main gate. We were right next to the perimeter and had a front row seat when the President Obama's limo came through the driveway about 10 minutes later. A perfect view of a shadowed profile behind the darkened window! (See, I told you we met him.) 

Due to the Secret Service's unwillingness to brief us ahead of time, I was not ready with my camera to take a picture of this momentous occasion. My son was using it to record video of ants trying to carry off someone's discarded wad of gum.

Daughter too cool to be photographed with Mother. Nothing new there.

After lunch, we did the monuments (also free). Somehow almost all of the pictures my kids took at the Lincoln memorial were of Honest Abe's crotch (plus fingers covering half the lens). I need to train them to use the camera's zoom function properly.

We crashed that night at the hotel and then it was time to head back home. Two days of walking around town tuckered my munchkins right out and made for a very quiet trip home.

So here's what I learned:

1. Washington D.C. is a wonderful destination. Many of the attractions are very accessible and relevant to families of all ages - and free admission! We found the metro system confusing, but if your hotel is in the city center most of the best attractions are within comfortable walking distance.

2. Travel during the night or very early morning when traffic is light and children are groggy. This saves time, but more importantly reduces the amount of back seat squabbling.

3. Keep a stash of garbage bags for trash and organization. I really like the scented bags especially for when everyone pulls off their shoes after a long day of walking.

4. Give your kids a reasonably generous allowance for the trip to buy a few souvenirs. You will be pestered anyway and this is a good opportunity to teach them about budgeting.

5. The internet lies about when the cherry blossoms peak in Washington. Loudly proclaiming to your children that their eyes are beholding a cherry tree in full bloom does not make it so. It makes it a magnolia, as a friendly passer-by kindly informed us.

(l) Magnolia, (r) Cherry. In my defense, they are both pink. 

Have any helpful tips for roadtripping with kids? Share them in the comments!

Cherry tree image credit: the lying internet. The cherry trees blossomed one week after we left. 
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on April 26, 2013  spotty  4,021 said:

Glad you enjoyed your trip, mama! My husband and I now reside in MD, about 10 miles due East of the DC Capitol attractions. We have one of those Jane Magnolia trees in our backyard, and 2 straggly Cherry Blossom trees. All of the blooming schedules were screwed up this year. Unfortunately Mother Nature gives squat about who might be in town to see the pretty blooms.

on April 26, 2013  flower  4,433 said:

look for wildlife

on April 25, 2013  Ali de Bold  STAFF said:

Your boys are so hilarious! Love their perspective on life.

on April 25, 2013  takoda  28,648 said:

I love your tip for traveling at night. That's a great way to keep the car a little more peaceful and tempers lowered. We never seemed to have any problems when we traveled with our boys when they were younger. Now all we hear is can I drive, witch of course the answer is always ways NO.LOL

on April 25, 2013  fredamans  12,209 said:

Lovely photos.... well, for the most part. ;-)

on April 25, 2013  KatelynRose1984  20,704 said:


Oh my.. This is absolutely hilarious. You're a fabulous story teller Claire!

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