PCS Road Trip Tips when traveling with kids & pets
Our family has a few road trips under our belt now due to PCS'ing, our most recent being a hefty drive from Florida to New Mexico. This drive included 3 kids, 2 furry dogs, 2 *tired from PCS stress* parents & a million snacks & caffeinated beverages.
Needless to say I feel like I learned a bit from these PCS road trips and thought I might pass along some wisdom to any military spouses with an upcoming PCS that includes driving! Don't come to me asking for advice on PCS'ing/flying overseas because the military has yet to allow us this experience (I'm not bitter at all!.... LOL)
So now for the tips!:
Map out your trip
Especially if you have more than a days worth of driving it’s so so helpful ahead of time to map out stops & where you want to stay the night. There are several websites/apps you can use to help with this, we used Roadtrippers.com which allowed us to add in our stops along the way, see how long each day of driving would be, and the best route to take.
Plan ahead for hotels/ TLF
I highly suggest as soon as you know your route and find where you want to stop (hopefully weeks before leaving) to call hotels and book rooms ahead of time ESPECIALLY if you have pets to ensure you can book pet friendly hotels/rooms. We really liked staying at military bases when we could because TLF/military lodges are often cheaper, roomier and don’t add a lot of extra costs for pets.
Make a travel folder with important documents
We made sure to have my husbands PCS orders, our dogs vaccine records (many hotels wanted these when we checked in) kids vaccine records & copy of birth certificates (to enroll in school as soon as we arrived). If you are a spouse having to PCS without your active duty partner having the power of attorney can also be important!
Necessities to have in the car
For parents/adults: water, snacks, charging chords, kindle/book, garbage bag, downloaded music/podcasts, needed medications
For kids: SNACKS, drinks (but also recommend limiting liquids a tiny bit to prevent frequent potty breaks), magic marker coloring books, dvd player/tablet & HEADPHONES (because parents might not love hearing the Encanto soundtrack 7,000 times in a row), chargers, wet wipes, extra panties/clothes, medications
For pets: collapsible food & water bowls, small ziploc bag of food/treats, sedatives/meds if needed/prescribed, leashes, air freshener, lint roller, kennel for hotel if needed, poop bags
These are all things that helped us a lot and I found were really important to have/know ahead of a long road trip. Obviously make sure to see what your spouse & kids might want to have and what makes the most sense for your family!
My last tip would be MAKE THE MOST OF IT!!! A long road trip PCS can be exhausting & stressful but it also can have sprinkles of fun. We made sure that each stop/night that we had a few hours to relax, eat and maybe have a little of fun. Going on a nice evening walk, hanging at the hotel pool or hot tub, and eating fun local food were all a few easy things that made the road trip a little more enjoyable.