A short and sweet post, as we spent practically the entire day at home packing, organizing, and just generally saving up energy for our long road trip week ahead.
Here is how we get ready for road trips within our big adventure.
Preparing for a Road Trip
1. Pick the cities we plan to visit, and plan out a loose itinerary. We really don't like to plan every detail of the trip, mainly just to get an idea where we'll be sleeping each night. Lonely Planet and Timeout a good site for getting some ideas about what there is to do in many cities.
2. Research and book hotels using various tools:
- Kayak - A good, broad search tool which compares most of the major travel sites
- www.hotels.com - They have a good program where you get 1 free night for every 10 nights you book through them. Sometimes, even if the room is a little cheaper somewhere else, we still book it with hotels.com just to get the rewards.
- Priceline - Bidding has landed us some great deals, but it is a little risky since they only guarantee you a room for two people. You have to contact the hotel separately to make sure they are setup to accommodate a family of four. So far the hotels have been accommodating, but since our kids are still little, in the worst case they can share our bed. For larger families or families with older kids, this may not be a good option.
Depending on how much we want to stick to an itinerary, we may not do this for every night of the trip up front. It's nice to be flexible on this kind of trip, since you really don't know what each day will bring. In Ireland, we never booked more than 1 night in advance, and that allowed us a lot more spontaneity.
3. Prepare your smartphone for the trip:
- TripIt - We use the TripIt app to automatically import all trip details from our email confirmations. We just need to double check to make sure all trips are organized correctly and important hotel details like the address are available. It is especially useful since all the travel information is available offline as well. If you don't know about this app, you should check it out, it really is a great app.
- Google Maps (offline) - The Google Maps app allows you to save offline maps, so they are always available. We save offline maps for each of the cities we plan to visit. This way, we can pull up the maps even if we have no cell service or wifi, and in some of the larger cities the GPS still works. You can't search offline, but it's great for wandering around.
- Dictionary Apps - Get some sort of a dictionary app for the languages you'll need to understand. The best app out there that we have found is Google Translate, but it requires internet connection for each translation. We have found free offline dictionary apps by VidaLingua for French, Italian, and Spanish. They do cost money if you want to get the full versions which have additional words and phrases, but in our experience, the free ones have been fine.
4. Relax the day before and do not have anything big planned.
5. Make sure our fridge is practically empty of all perishable foods before we leave town. We purposely plan our grocery shopping around the date of our departure and we try to avoid opening new things on the day before we leave.
6. Pack light. Don't forget the first aid kit!
Movie Date Night
We ended our evening with a "family movie date night" as we call them, and I thought it was perfect that the kids picked Aladdin. Though they are obviously too young to know Robin Williams or know what happened, it was a nice way for us grown ups to enjoy one of Robin's works.
Both kids loved the movie. It was Hannah's first time watching it, which made her love her Little People Jasmine and Aladdin even more. She also really loves the songs.
The plan is to leave after breakfast and head to Nice for our first night. We will stop in Cannes for a few hours on the way just to check out the town.
Here is a short version of our itinerary, or rather the cities we plan to visit (we do not plan to have an over night stay in each city):
Cannes - Nice - Monaco - Florence - Venice - Milan
We are really looking forward to visiting Italy and trying some delicious Pizzas! Italia, here we come.