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How We Simplified Our Packing for Our 14-Day Road Trip

Simplified Packing System

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas.

We had initially planned to go back to South Africa as a family this year, but we couldn’t figure out a two-week block of time when we could go (and have time to prep and recover) that also worked out with our South African friends’ schedules.

Instead of going to South Africa, we had decided we were going to go to London, but then our kids felt unsafe going because of the terrorist attacks there. So we all put our heads together and decided to go on a two-week road trip instead.

We all love to travel and our kids want to hit all 50 states before they turn 18, so we decided to plan a trip to a few of our favorite places + to hit a bunch of new states and places we’ve never visited before. We’ve never done a two-week family road trip before, but we decided it would be fun to try it and see how it goes… and maybe make this a summer tradition if it goes well!

packed clothes in bags

Since we were going to be gone for 14 days and were going to be staying in a lot of different places, I wanted to come up with a system for packing that would keep things simple, would encourage us to pack minimally, and would take up less space.

So I decided on 5 big bags that each had a ziptop bag in them with one complete outfit for each of us. Then, we’d just plan to do laundry every 5 days and then repeat the outfits.

We also have a bathroom bag (with all of our hygiene stuff, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair stuff, makeup, deodorant, etc.) and an extras bag (with sweatshirts, PJs, and flip flops).

This way, we only have to bring in one bag + the bathroom bag + the PJ bag for our overnight stays, instead of lugging in a suitcase for each of us.

packed clothing lined upclose-up of packed clothing in bags

My Thoughts On This System So Far

1. We Should Have Gotten Smaller Bags

I ran into Target the night before we left and looked for bags that would work for this idea. They only had the Jumbo Big bags so that’s what I grabbed. They are way too big for what we need and it’s hard to get the air pressed out of them since they are twice as big as what we need.

Next time around, I would choose the Ziploc Big Bags as I think those would be the perfect size and would make this idea work much better. You could also use tubs, but I felt like those would take up too much room.

Note: Packing this way also means that you don’t have to invest in suitcases so it can be a money-saver, too. However, it would only work for road trips, not plane trips. That said, you could pack the bags into a large suitcase for a plane trip.

2. You Need to Clearly Mark the Bags

It was kind of an after thought for us to mark Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5 on the bags. Next time around, I would do this in very bold lettering or use a bright label, because it’s kind of hard to see our writing on the bags late at night when we’re unloading the car.

packed clothing ready for a road trip

3. It Does Take Up a LOT Less Space

Our car was so much less packed for a 14-day road trip than it usually is for a 5-day road trip! That made it so nice for us to travel for hours without being cramped!

4. It Has Really Simplified Things

It was so much easier to only worry about packing for 5 days. It made packing a breeze for all of us! Plus, it has meant you only have one outfit choice each day so it eliminates decision fatigue.

5. It Has Kept Our Hotel Room Cleaner

This has been one big plus! We always seem to be able to wreck a hotel room in nothing flat! 5 people in a small space with all their stuff that they brought on the trip just equals a mess very quickly!

But since we are only bringing up one bag + the extras bag + the bathroom bag, it’s meant that it’s much easier to keep our hotel rooms clean!

welcome to Virginia sign

Day 1 Travel Update:

We left around 1 p.m. and drove to Blacksburg, VA. There was a lot of rain and a few accidents that slowed us down, so we didn’t make it to our destination until around 11 p.m.

The kids did really well in the car. We had purchased a few fun surprises from Dollar Tree for them to do while we traveled, they played the license plate game, I read aloud to them, and they listened to Adventures in Odyssey.

close-up photo of God's Whisper in a Mother's Chaos book close-up photo of The Praying Pond book

I got some blogging work done (it’s so fantastic that I have a job where I can work anywhere!), read aloud to the kids, and finished two books:God’s Whispers in a Mother’s Chaos and The Praying Pond (written by a reader).

True confession: I didn’t pack minimally when it came to books because I usually read 1-2 books/day on vacation and I’m old-fashioned and don’t have a Kindle because I adore real books. So I did bring a small suitcase packed with 20+ books. Yes, I did. (And that was my pared down stack. I may have issues… or an addiction to books! The first step to recovery is admitting I have a problem, right?? ;))

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow my personal Instagram account here where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.

East Coast Road Trip: Blacksburg, VA to Alexandria, VA (Frugal Family Fun)

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here.


We started Day 2 of our East Coast Road Trip in Blacksburg, VA and ended it in Alexandria, VA. It is SO beautiful in this state! I just can’t get over it!

Using Groupon to Save On Our Vacation

A few years ago, I used to post a lot of Groupon deals here with my referral link (which meant that I would earn referral credit every time someone purchased a deal).

Back in the beginning, Groupon had some really, really fantastic deals and, as a result, we collected a lot of Groupon referral credit. We used it to buy a number of Groupons and then, all of a sudden, the credit stopped working.

In fact, we just plain couldn’t order anything from Groupon at all with our account. It would try to place the order, it would spool forever on the order page, and then it would time out.

I contacted Groupon multiple times and they couldn’t help me. I figured they had just flagged our account because I had maxed out the referral credit (sadly, this has happened multiple times in the past with other companies and I have had thousands of dollars in honestly-earned referral credit taken away just because they said that too many people redeemed a deal through my blog).

As a result, we stopped ordering from Groupon (since our account wouldn’t work) and I kind of forgot about it and about the few thousand dollars in credit I still had on Groupon. And life went on.

But recently, I was on Groupon again and decided to try using the credit again and it WORKED! This was right when we were in the middle of planing our 14-Day Road Trip and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing!

So you’ll see that we are using Groupon for most of our deals on this trip — because not only does it mean we get in at a discount, but since we are buying the Groupons with referral credit, it actually means we’re technically getting in for FREE!

Before we head to a new area, I’m searching on Groupon to see what deals they have available. You have to look closely at the fine print because many area only good for two people or are only good during certain dates.

I’m specifically looking for places that will allow us to buy five passes and that will allow us to use them in one order. This narrows down the possibilities, but so far, there are still some great options that we’re finding!

The Smithfield Plantation House

The Smithfield Plantation House was one such option we found on Groupon. It’s usually $8 per ticket, but we bought the Groupon to get admission for 6 for just $18 (they were running a special to get an additional $6 off tickets through July 6, 2017).

We loved the tour. It was just an hour long, but I couldn’t believe how up close and personal they let you get with everything in the house — including furnishings that were really old and valuable.

Our guide was really fantastic and made the tour so interesting. You could tell she absolutely loves bringing history alive to people!

The grounds were so beautiful and peaceful and it was amazing to hear how much history went down right in this house and area. Our whole family enjoyed this tour and would recommend it — especially if you love American History like we do!

Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea

We left the Plantation with our sites set on making it to Alexandria. However, we only made it as far as Salem, VA before we were all really hungry. We decided to stop in Salem, VA and look for a local coffee shop.

So I googled “coffee shops” and we found this gem: Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea. We instantly fell in love! It was adorable, the food was really good, and the service was excellent.

(One downside: the bathrooms weren’t very clean. I’m not sure if they’d just had a rush of customers that morning or if the bathrooms usually aren’t very clean.)

The Rest of the Day

We then headed to Purcellville, VA to stop by Patrick Henry College, where Jesse went for one year before he moved back home to marry me. What memories!

We didn’t get out and walk around because it was getting late, but it was fun to show our kids the area where Jesse lived for awhile and to reminisce about when I came to visit him there with my dad and brother (my first time to go to DC!)

It was such a good day and we enjoyed so much laughter together, there was very little arguing, and I’m so glad we decided to go on this Two-Week East Coast Road Trip.

Books finished today: The Upstairs Room (read aloud to the kids, we really enjoyed it, but I had to edit out some crass language) and Design Your Day (great, quick read).

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow my personal Instagram account here where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.

East Coast Road Trip: Old Town Alexandria & Downtown D.C.

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here and Day 2 here.

Day 3 was a day full of lots and lots and lots of walking! I decided to skip my morning workouts on the days where I know we’ll be walking a TON because I figure I will be getting plenty of exercise! 🙂

Silas wanted to go on a morning walk with me, so we started the day by exploring Old Town Alexandria. It’s such an adorable area with so many cute shops, yummy looking restaurants, and just old town flair!

We found Payne Street so of course we had to take a picture! 🙂


We stayed a few blocks from the King St. Metro in Alexandria so that we could park our car in the gated parking garage the hotel had (we had to pay $20 per day for this, but it was worth it to not have to worry about our car getting broken into, etc.) and then take the metro into D.C.

This worked out really well and meant that we could easily get around the city, but didn’t have to mess with driving in the traffic or finding places to park.

The International Spy Museum

Our first D.C. stop was the International Spy Museum. This was on our must-do list and, despite the long lines and crowds, it didn’t disappoint.

The kids had been here before with Jesse (when I was in South Africa) and had long talked about coming back so I could experience it.

A few things we learned:

  • It’s really crowded in the D.C. area around the 4th of July. And the Spy Museum was a hot attraction… which meant that there was a long line waiting out the door when we got there. You can book your tickets online and by-pass this line.
  • However, we got our tickets free from a 5-attraction Washington, D.C. Explorer Pass we purchased with credit on Groupon. Even though we had these tickets, we still had to stand in line.
  • Tickets are regularly priced at $21.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids (ages 7-11). Children 6 and under are free. If you are planning to do multiple things in D.C., I’d highly recommend checking out the D.C. Explorer Pass. Even if we hadn’t gotten it free with credit from Groupon, it would have saved us quite a bit of money.
  • You can bring food and drink into the museum, you just can’t eat or drink in the museum. For those who have babies and toddlers, note that you can’t bring strollers into the museum, but you can check them at the coat check area.

When you first enter the museum, you choose a cover identity and then you keep that identity throughout the whole museum. They have a few different kiosks where they ask you questions about your identity to see how well you’d do at remembering facts and dates as a spy.

The museum is not as interactive as I expected and I think it’s geared for older kids and adults. Our kids really enjoyed it, but they also are obsessed with spy stuff and history. I wouldn’t recommend it if your kids are younger (say 8 years or younger) or if they aren’t really interested in spies/history.

The museum covers a lot of ground: the history of spies through the ages, spies in different wars, cool spy equipment through the ages, James Bond, information and displays on what it takes to be a spy, and a large section on spies in World War II.

My favorite exhibit, by far, was Spies Among Us which traces the impact that deception and spies played in the success of D-Day and the atomic bomb.

One of the other cool things about the museum is that it has the “largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display. Spanning the history of espionage around the globe, many of these artifacts have never before been seen by the public.” Read more here.

 

CitySights Double-Decker Bus Night Tour

After we left the Spy Museum, we walked for blocks and blocks to get to Union Station where we got our tickets for the CitySights Double-Decker Bus Night Tour.

We got these tickets with our D.C. Explorer Pass, but you can also purchase tickets for the bus tour only from Groupon (it’s cheaper to get the 3-attraction or 5-attraction Explorer Pass, if you’re planning to use that, but it’s still quite a bit less to buy the Groupon for the bus tour only than to get it from CitySights).

There was a LONG line of people going on the bus tours, but they were able to accommodate everyone and their staff was very friendly and helpful.

We loved this tour and would definitely recommend it. Not only was our guide incredibly knowledgeable, you could tell he absolutely loved his job and loved inspiring others and sharing interesting stories.

The bus tour was around 3 hours long, with a stop about 2 hours in at the FDR Memorial/Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Iwo Jima Memorial.

The weather was perfect, the sky was stunning, and I got all sorts of amazingly beautiful pictures. It was really fun to get to have such a great view of so many of the historic sites in the DC area — and to get to see so many of them in such a short timeframe!

We finally made it back to our hotel at 11 pm. Day 3 of our 14-day road trip was a success!

Book I finished today: Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents (I know it’s a heavy title; I’m reading some books on this trip to help me as I walk with one of my kids who is struggling and am trying to think through what I can do now to help prevent issues down the road.)

East Coast Road Trip: Exploring DC (Newseum, Madame Tussauds, PRET, A Capitol 4th)

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 here, and Day 3 here.

Day 4 of our 14-Day East Coast Road Trip started out a little rough. I think we were all just tired and needed some quiet… and it resulted in bad attitudes and disagreements and overall grumpiness from most of us (me included!)

So we spent a few hours at the hotel just taking it easy, talking, working through our disagreements, and pressing the reset button. It was just what we needed!

I had promised Silas we’d go on a little morning Metro adventure, so we walked from our hotel in Alexandria to the Metro and rode it to the Reagan National Airport and got out and walked around a little. Then, we hopped back on the Metro and headed back to our hotel.

(I hadn’t even fixed my hair or put on makeup/my contacts before I left on the Metro Adventure with Silas. We just walked out the door and went!! I am learning more and more to jump on these opportunities with my kids. They won’t care that mom had bed hair and bags under her eyes. They will only remember the fun times we had together!)

The Newseum

Our first stop in DC was the Newseum. I hadn’t heard of this museum before, but since it was one of the options we had as part of our D.C. Explorer Pass, we looked it up and realized it would likely be something we’d all enjoy since we love politics, media, and the internet.

You guys! We LOVED this museum and I would highly, highly recommend it if you are news/current events/political junkies and/or if you are a blogger. It was absolutely fascinating to see how the media impacts our culture and how news has played such an important role in major events through the years.

Some Things to Know Before Visiting the Newseum:

  • You can bring food and drinks in, but you can’t eat it inside the museum. We had snacks and water bottles in our backpack and it went through security without any issues.
  • The Newseum is 6 floors and there is a LOT to see. I would recommend planning to be there for at least 3-4 hours. I think you could easily spend a whole day there if you are really into reading the signs/watching the videos and fully experiencing the museum and the interactive exhibits.
  • Tickets are $24.95 for adults. Kids ages 0-18 get in free until Labor Day. We got discounted tickets with our D.C. Explorer Passes.
  • Your ticket is good for two days. We stayed the first day until they closed (5 p.m.) and went back the next day because there was so much more to see. We could have spent quite a few more hours there! But we’re also news junkies! 😉
  • Some of the content of the museum might not be appropriate for younger kids. There is some graphic stuff when it comes to news events. Nothing I saw would be more than PG rated, but just know that some of the exhibits are definitely ones you’d want to go through with your kids and have discussions about. And there may be at least a few things you wouldn’t feel comfortable having younger kids see, depending upon their sensitivity/what they’ve been exposed to.

At the very beginning of the Newseum, they have this amazing Berlin Wall exhibit. We stayed there for quite awhile because our kids asked so many questions about it and were just pretty overwhelmed by thinking about how it would have been to live on either side of that wall.

At the top of the Newseum, they have this amazing observation deck where you can look out and get incredible views of the city. We spend quite a bit of time up there, too!

One of the cool parts of the museum is that they have the front page for that day of a newspaper from every state. We had to find the Wichita, KS newspaper, of course (we lived in Wichita, KS for most of our lives)!

We stayed until they closed and then we headed (in the rain) to the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. (We made a quick stop by Ford’s Theatre on the way.)

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

We wouldn’t recommend paying for the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum as we went through it really quickly and we thought it was WAY overpriced for the experience.

It was fun to take pictures with the presidents (including my favorite president, Teddy Roosevelt!), but we would have been super disappointed had we paid the actual admission fee (it was one of the attractions we got into with our D.C. Explorer Pass.)

PRET

We splurged on an amazing dinner at PRET. We’d never heard of this restaurant before and fell in love instantly. We’ve seen a lot more of them in the following days as we’ve been in NYC and Boston.

If you are not familiar with this restaurant, it’s a fantastic, casual restaurant with organic and healthy food options. I was especially excited they had Rooibos Cacao tea!

We were very impressed with their high quality ingredients, how fresh everything was, and the many healthy options they offered. From what we could tell, they make everything fresh every single day!

The prices are a little higher than you’d typically pay at some place like Panera, but the food is much better, much fresher, and they have so many organic options that I think the prices weren’t unreasonable at all.

A Capitol Fourth

And then we walked for blocks and blocks and blocks to see the White House and experience a little bit of the Capitol 4th of July celebration — along with thousands of others. The crowds were pretty insane!

Though Day 4 of our 14-day East Coast Road Trip started in a rocky way, it ended well and I’m grateful!

Book finished today: Chop Wood, Carry Water. (A great, quick read with lots of insightful nuggets of truth!)

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow my personal Instagram account here where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.

East Coast Road Trip: Exploring D.C. (Holocaust Museum, Newseum, Chopt, & Arlington Cemetery)

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 here, and Day 4 here.

Y’all. On Day 5 of our trip, I realized just how much I’ve changed in the past year, thanks to my Year of Rest and so much heart work.

Not only did I wear yellow shoes to walk all over D.C. (who knew that the color yellow would make me so happy??), but I randomly stopped into a little shop called Teaism and bought some Heart of Africa tea (Me? Spontaneously purchasing something? Just for fun?? And loving it? Who am I?), and then it poured rain and we got soaked to the bone at the Arlington Cemetery and I just laughed and took in the moment.

This road trip has had its hard moments, of course, but it’s been such a wonderful experience! I am so grateful that I’m so much less high-strung these days so that I can actually enjoy life — even when it’s pouring rain, I’m freezing, we have blocks to walk, and we didn’t bring an umbrella.

Today’s highlights…

The Holocaust Museum

Wow! I have long been interested in World War II and have read many, many books on the topic. So I was really wanting to go to the Holocaust Museum on this trip. I am so glad we went. However, I wish I had been better prepared for it.

Here are some pointers and things to know if you are considering visiting:

  • I didn’t realize that it was so big and would realistically take at least 3 hours to go through. I probably could have spent 5 hours if I had stopped to read most of the signs/watch the videos, etc. We had only planned to be there for an hour and a half because we’d reserved our tickets online ahead of time and had been given an hour time slot. Jesse and I just assumed that this meant we should allow an hour. We allowed some extra time just in case. Well, when we got there, we were shocked at how huge it was and were sad that we hadn’t planned to spend more time there.
  • I also didn’t expect that it would be so crowded. Gratefully, we’d been tipped off by a reader that you need to reserve tickets online in order to actually get to go through the museum. So I’m grateful that we did that because, otherwise, there’s NO way we would have gotten in just by walking in that day. (Read here more about how to get tickets to the museum. It’s free to go to the museum, but it costs $1 per ticket to reserve them online.)
  • The museum definitely covers some topics that might be unsettling or upsetting for kids who are sensitive (or anyone who is sensitive to these types of things). However, I went through the museum with Silas (8) and explained things to him at the level I felt he could understand and take in. We read the signs together and I was there to answer all of his questions. We had many good discussions as a result.
  • There are some pictures that might be disturbing, but the museum did a good job of having any really disturbing videos blocked off with a warning sign so you’d know and could choose whether to watch/look.

In the atrium, they have an area where you can sit down and talk to a Holocaust survivor. I thought this was such an amazing idea!

Like I said, there were a LOT of people there and it was pretty packed, especially in the first parts of the museum. We had to wait in line to be able to see things/wait for people so we could see certain exhibits.

Before you go into the museum, they have you choose an identification card from one of the victims of the Holocaust. I thought this was a beautiful way to make it much more personal and real — and to share the stories of some of the victims.

One of the areas that really impacted our kids was the section where they show the living conditions in the concentration camp barracks — including the bunks they slept on.

No words.

Newseum

I told you in my last post all about the Newseum and how much we enjoyed it. Since our tickets were good for two days and we hadn’t gotten through all of the museum the day before, we went back because we loved it so much!

(I can’t recommend this Museum highly enough if you love current events, news, and/or politics!)

We spent most of our time at the 9/11 section. They did an incredible job of honor the media members who did the reporting of this horrific event — including the photographer who died.

The girls also loved getting to pretend they were reporters — reading from a teleprompter and reporting “live” on different new segments!

Chopt

When dinner time rolled around, we started looking for some place to eat and we randomly found Chopt and stopped for dinner. We’d never heard of it before, but after just 10 minutes of being there, we promptly decided it was our new favorite restaurant.

(It’s so yummy and healthful and pretty reasonably priced, too! Highly recommended!)

Arlington National Cemetery

We got to Arlington after dinner and made our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which our kids were fascinated with. It’s so sobering to be there and to think of all the lives lost in order for us to enjoy the many freedoms we do.

We stayed for the final Changing of the Guards. In the middle of it, it started raining and didn’t stop. Which was just about the time we realized that we had forgotten something very important on this trip — umbrellas and/or ponchos.

Since the cemetery was closed after the final Changing of the Guards, we had to quickly walk the long way back to the entrance and back to the metro. By the time we got there, we were thoroughly soaked. But we just laughed and danced in the rain, because it was certainly a memory!

Plus, after spending the morning at the Holocaust Museum, how could we complain about a little rain? It really changes your perspective on life and the many, many blessings we have that we take for granted every single day.

Book read today: The Sacrament of Happy (beautifully written and inspiring to me!)

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow my personal Instagram account here where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.

East Coast Road Trip: Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey (+ yikes! The tolls!)

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 hereDay 4 here, and Day 5 here.

How is it already Day 6 of our 14-day trip?!? I’m sad that time is going by so quickly!

This trip has been so good for us. We’re spending so much quality time together, we’re experiencing so many memories together, we’re having so many good conversations, we’re learning so much about history, and it’s just drawing us close together as a family.

There’s part of me who wishes we travelled full-time. But I’ll be quick to say that the other part of me loves our community in TN, the routine and rhythm of our simple life, and yes, and our own bedroom with a door that shuts! 😉

After a few full days in D.C., Day 6 was a laundry and travel day.

The Laundromat

The 5-day clothes packing system is working really well! Today, we stopped by a laundromat in Alexandria to do our laundry and now have fresh, clean clothes for the next 5 days.

(Note: While we were really happy with how simple it was to use the laundromat and how clean the place was — we had looked up reviews online ahead of time — it took us quite a bit of extra time to go to the laundromat and wait for the laundry to get done. Next time, we’re going to try to plan it so we choose a hotel with laundry facilities as I think that will make it much easier and less time-consuming.)

Fitting in Work on the Road

While we were waiting for the laundry to run, I got in some blogging time. 🙂 I love that I can take my laptop with me and work pretty much anywhere.

Some of you have asked when I’m fitting in work on this trip. Well, I had initially thought that I’d work in the mornings and then we’d go explore and play in the afternoons. But I quickly realized that plan just wasn’t going to work without it meaning that my family was waiting around on me and I was feeling stressed that I needed to hurry up and get done.

So, for the most part, I’ve just been fitting in work where I can — which is usually when Jesse is driving or at night after the kids go to bed. And sometimes, like today, it was at the laundromat.

Before I left on this trip, I worked hard to make sure things were in good shape business-wise, we cleared my schedule so that I didn’t have any extra tasks while I was gone, and I decided to only focus on doing the basics + blogging/posting on social media about our trip while I was gone. This meant that I was able to cut back to only needing to work about 4 hours per day, instead of my usual 7-8 hours.

(I’m so blessed to have a team in place who works so hard behind the scenes so that I can take a two-week vacation and be offline for half the day — or more! — every day without me having to stress that things are falling apart or the work is piling up in my absence. For years, I tried to do so much of the work myself because I just didn’t have the courage to delegate and trust other people. The more than I’ve delegated and trusted people and focused on doing only those things that I can do/am good at, the more I’ve enjoyed life. Plus, I’ve been able to empower other people to use their gifts and skills to not only earn an income but to also make a difference through this blog/business.)

Our Car Ticketing System

The kids made notebooks for themselves with travel games in them printed from MomsMinivan.com (yes, when your kids get older, they instigate this kind of stuff all on their own and just ask you for permission to do it!!).

They also came up with the idea — 100% on their own! — to implement a ticketing system. They printed these tickets here and then made one baggie for each child.

I set the timer for 30 mins and then hand out a ticket when the timer goes off to everyone who has had a good attitude. At the end of the day, whoever has the most tickets, gets to choose which show we watch as a family when we’re at the hotel.

This system has been very effective — especially on our longer traveling days!

The Tolls

The tolls from D.C. to New Jersey are pretty crazy. We spent about $30 just in tolls today! We were definitely not prepared for that and it shocked us that about every few miles (it felt like!), we had to hand over more cash!

A Stop at Barnes & Noble

The traffic was also really bad in Maryland, so we ended up stopping at Barnes & Noble to take a break since some of us were really car sick. I had a $50 gift card I’d been saving and I whipped that out and we used it for special treats at the cafe plus letting the kids each pick one thing out to do while driving.

Delaware

We passed through Delaware — my first time in the state, if I’m remembering correctly! We didn’t stop anywhere, but at least I can now say I’ve been to the state!

New Jersey!

We made it to New Jersey and are headed to spend the day in NYC tomorrow! I can’t wait for our kids to experience it! (This was my top pick for where we’d stop on the trip!)

What I Read Today

I read this fascinating book by Obama’s deputy chief of staff, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? (It has a lot of crass language in it and it has very mixed reviews on Amazon, but I personally found it to be a really interesting look at what it’s really like to work in the White House and the stress that comes with the responsibility riding on your shoulders.)

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow my personal Instagram account here where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.