Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How we prepared for our Cross-Country Road Trip

A Thomas family picture we took a couple days before we left

Well, we are currently on our way across the country to reach our new house in North Carolina! Today was both long and fun and hard, and I'm posting a recap of it tomorrow. But what I want to talk to you about right now is how we prepared for this road trip!

So, in getting ready for this trip we were preparing for both 1. moving all of our stuff across the country and 2. getting ourselves and the girls across the country. And we wanted to do it for the cheapest way possible.

We looked into all our options for moving our stuff - hiring professional movers, doing moving pods, or renting a self-moving truck - and figured out that renting and driving a truck ourselves was by far the cheapest option (by several thousand dollars). Jason's parents (amazingly)(seriously, they are awesome) volunteered to drive across country for us, and that settled it. We'd do the self-moving truck.

We then had to figure out about our car - did we rent a tow on the moving truck and tow it? Ship it? Or drive it ourselves? Well, it turns out that shipping it and driving it ourselves would cost about the same amount of money. And the stuff we read about shipping cars - cars being damaged, cars showing up weeks after they were supposed to - made us really leery about shipping it. So it was between driving it ourselves and renting a tow bed from the moving truck company and towing it behind the moving truck.

Well, there were two big moving truck companies to choose between - Uhaul and Penske. And Penske didn't have a big enough tow for our car. But Uhaul was a lot (like $1000) more expensive, even before you added the tow cost. And if we towed it, you'd have to add airfare costs for me and the girls as well. So, it was lot cheaper to rent a Penske moving truck and drive our car ourselves. So that was how we decided ended up doing what we're doing.

Us with Tyler and Sarah
Now, here's how we saved on the Penske truck. Just by reserving the truck online, Penske gives you an automatic "discount" of a couple hundred dollars. (Does it really count as a discount if everyone gets it automatically?) But how we really saved money was by buying a AAA membership. If you had a AAA membership, you got a big discount on the truck. We made our truck reservation, and then a couple days later purchased a AAA membership online. The AAA membership was going to be $59, but we did a quick google search for promo codes and found a discount for $34.50. So the AAA membership only ended up costing us $24.50.

So, now that we had our $24.50 AAA membership, we called Penske and added that discount onto our truck reservation - and it dropped the cost of the truck by $255! So a $25 membership saved us $255. We basically "made" $230 by buying AAA. Obviously absolutely worth it.

Everett :)

Some of the things we've done in the last couple weeks to prepare for this road trip are:

  • Cleaned the car
  • Washed and adjusted the carseats
  • Got an oil change
  • Got our brake rotors fixed (the front rotors were warped)
  • Collected figurines, coloring pads, stamps, and books for Ellie 
  • Picked out toys for Zelda
  • Got music and books on tape for Jason and I (except - as I type this up - I am realizing that I forgot to download the books on tape to my phone. Whoops!)
  • Got good road trip snacks and a small cooler that could fit in between the seats
  • Put an outfit for each girl, for each day, into a gallon ziploc bag with a label on it
  • I sewed an ipad holder for Ellie's ipad, so she could watch movies on it

I want to expand on that last bullet point, since it was kind of a big project and turned out to be enormously useful already. 

Ellie has an ipad that was given to her by her Grandpa quite a while ago. I wanted someway to be able to mount it to the back of the seat in front of Ellie, so we could play movies on the drive and that she could watch them. But I didn't want to buy anything, because we try to be frugal. So, using fabric from some pajama pants that were too short for me, some plastic vinyl I got from the sewing store for under a $1, and some velcro I got fromt the sewing store also for under a $1, I made this:

The ipad slips into the front side (and is inside it in the first picture). It has four straps on the back that wrap around the headrest of the seat in front of Ellie and velcro in place. And for something that only cost about $1.50, Ellie can watch movies! I did buy a small portable speaker to go with it so that she could hear the movies over the road noise, and that has been worth it. Without that, she wouldn't have been able to hear the movies. But she could, and it worked, and all is well.

I also want to expand on the bullet point about the girls' outfits. I was kind of stressed about packing their clothes for them (for some reason it just seemed overwhelming to me), and mentioned it to my sister-in-law Sarah. She suggested picking out an outfit for each girl for each day, and putting each outfit in a ziploc bag so that it would be clear and organized. And that's exactly what I did, and it was perfect!

These are the bags. As you can see, each girl has seven bags for our six day road trip. They're labeled for each girl - "Ellie Day 1," "Ellie Day 2," "Ellie Day 3," etc., all the way to Day 6, plus an extra bag. In each bag there is a day outfit and a pair of pajamas. 

So in these fourteen bags there are fourteen day outfits and fourteen pairs of pajamas, all labeled and ready for each day. It totally took all the stress out of packing for the girls for me. 

Now, how we got ready for the hotels/motels. Like you'd expect, we research hotels in each city that we were staying in and picked the best options for us based on reviews and price. We then booked the hotels through the cheapest options online. Sometimes that was a travel website, like Booking.com or Expedia, and sometimes it was the hotel's own website. Then, last week I called each hotel to confirm our reservation. And it was good I did! Four of the five hotels had no problems with the reservations. But one of them - booked through Expedia - had been told the wrong day by Expedia and so had us reserved for the day after we were actually going to be there. Luckily, there was no problem with switching us to the correct day. But it was good we checked!

Finally, we've been looking up attractions and good food places for all along our route and the cities that we'll be stopping in. Even though this road trip is a necessity and not something we really would have chosen out of the blue, we want it to be fun. We broke the trip up into six days to shorten the driving each day and make it a bit easier on the girls. That gives us time to have fun (and eat good food!) along the way.

So those are the biggest ways that we've prepared for this road trip! It's been a lot of work, but we are seeing some of the payoff now as we're on the road. Keep checking back each day this week to follow us on our way across the country!

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