Thriving In Motherhood Podcast | Productivity, Planning, Family Systems, Time Management, Survival Mode, Mental Health, Vision podcast

Reflection and Travel Tips From a Family Road Trip + 5 Day Hotel Stay [Episode 309]

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Last week, we spent a week in Memphis, Tennessee, as a family while Andrew attended a conference. It was a great trip with lots of amazing moments and some really hard ones, too. In this week’s episode, I’m sharing the reflection process that I did after this trip so that we can take in all the data, evaluate the wins, what we loved, and what we would do to make things a little bit better next time.


Some of the specific tips might be applicable to your family and travel situation, and some of them won’t, but either way, I hope that you will use this process after you have an adventure—big or small—with your family.


It takes a lot of effort to pull off family adventures, and reflection is the essential step that allows us to do it again as we figure out what worked and what didn’t.


Here are some things we reflected on that went well, didn’t go well, and what we would do differently next time:


  1. Mindset: This is a grand experiment, and I’m just here to collect data about what is going well and what’s not going well so we can make changes. If I go in with expectations other than these, my hopes will usually be dashed.

  2. Food: We stuck to our usual road trip staples on the way out (bagel sandwiches, fruits, veggies, something special - goldfish and veggie straws - and stopped for dinner at Chipotle). The rest of the trip was a little bit rocky. Hotel breakfast takes an hour, which means it is both an activity and a lot to manage, but that is just the new expectation. We packed lunches (sandwiches, fruits, and veggies) and grabbed dinner at a restaurant, but we were all just a little bit hungry. Next time we are going to be in a hotel for a long period of time, we think we’ll bring an Instapot so we can have more food that we are used to that is more filling.

  3. Quiet Time: I got some activities at the dollar store (coloring book, sticker book, playdough, standup) as an experiment to see if having a little novelty could get me a short nap in the middle of the day. It worked about 50% of the time, but the activities were a big hit and did get me about 20 minutes of rest. It also gave the kids something to do while we were waiting around in the morning for everyone to get ready with one bathroom. This was something that went well, and I would add more intentional effort into it next time because it was a budding success.

  4. Activities: I started by looking at the weather to get a general idea of what we were facing and saw some rainy days and clear days with generally cooler weather. My conclusion was we needed a mix of indoor and outdoor activities, leaning heavily on indoor options. We went to a few paid museums (National Civil Rights Museum, Cotton Museum, Flight Museum, and Children's Museum), and a few of those had groupons with huge discounts. We took advantage of local parks and found some awesome gems, and it also gave us outside time in spaces where the kids could just run and play and not be corrected by us. We also found things we would do things in our town anyway, like going to the public library.

  5. Took me off guard: I had zero moments without the kids. In the past, when the kids were little I would be awake an hour or two before them and work in the bathroom in the morning, but this trip, we went to bed together, woke up together, and spent every waking moment together (except for my 20 minutes of quiet time when they were one bed away). On the last night, Andrew took the kids after he finished working so I could go on a walk by myself (and then I found something fun and invited them to join me because it was too good not to share), but even that 15 minutes really rejuvenated me and is something we will be more strategic about next time we join Andrew on a work trip.

  6. Public Transportation was a huge hit: It saved a lot of hassle with parking. It was a fun activity that the kids enjoyed, and it helped them build some confidence in navigating a new place. We got a day pass for a few dollars each, so it was very economical.

  7. Include your kids in the entire process. Instead of adventures being all on mom's shoulders, use trips to build family unity and help the kids learn from and own the effort and the joy of adventures. My oldest created the packing list a few days before the trip. Everyone helped clean out the car, gather activities, shop and prepare food, and pack clothes. We might have gone a little slower, but it kept everyone doing the same thing, and there were fewer messes in other spaces around the house. When I started to get a little frazzled at the end of the trip packing things up to go home and everyone running around, I remembered I could ask the kids for help, and they did - with joy. Involving the children in the process of family adventures is something I want to get better at with future trips.

  8. Keep Similar Rhythms to What We Do At Home: Friday night was still pizza and movie night (with Papa Johns Pizza). At night, we had the same bedtime routine and morning routine. Every day, we came back to the hotel in the middle of the day for quiet time. We kept the basic anchors in our day and week so everyone knew what to expect and didn't start from scratch. We could have brought in a few more daily habits 

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