How to Survive an Expat Family Road-Trip!

As the school holidays drew closer, D and I began to contemplate where to spend our Summer vacation.  Living in Dubai we have the beach on our doorstep and a multitude of swimming pools to choose from to keep us cool.  It’s a great feeling when you turn up to a fancy hotel for the day, knowing you’ve had yourself a ‘bargain.’  2 for 1 on the entertainer (the ultimate app for any family of expats, wishing to save a penny or two!) I highly recommend.

Over the course of a week, we sat at opposite ends of the sofa, our eyes glued to every website travel related, only lifting our heads to mutter ‘how about this one dear?’ Until that moment when it hit us, almost simultaneously…. Let’s do a California road trip! Boom, in that instant, our excitement was in overdrive.  Going on a road trip is one of the best ways to experience the USA and having spent lots of time on the West Coast over the years, we can now share our experience with the kids. The ultimate Tidman family road trip was underway.

‘But California is HUGE’ I hear you say! Where do we begin?

I started by listing some of my most memorable places and all the things I thought the kids would love to see and do, adding more and more to the list as the excitement grew. That was soon cut to size when we realised, we’d need at least six months to complete trip. It was a never-ending list of fun, frolics, adventure and family bonding.  Thank you to my new best friend, Google maps for endless hours of route planning (vino in hand) and after a multitude of adjustments, we had it! San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Santa Cruz (cue Lost Boys film night) Monterrey, Carmel by the Sea, Big Sur, San Louis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Malibu and finally the City of Angels, Los Angeles.

Now, we are very lucky having two well-travelled kids and by that, I mean NO travel sickness.  All that left us to think about was keeping them occupied en-route and not killing each other, or us. My anxiety soon set in. Why did we not choose an all-inclusive family deal in Spain?

Our ingenious idea was to give them both cash. Yes, cold hard cash, $100 each in $1 bills and every time they ‘kick off’ we’d take some away. Whatever’s left, they get to spend. Suddenly they are best friends, batting their eyelids at mummy and daddy like butter wouldn’t melt. But what we didn’t take into consideration was the logistics of acquiring the money.  No time was factored in to stop at a bank (couldn’t be arsed), no gas station ever had enough dollar bills to give us enough change and on top of that, I frequently had to ‘borrow’ the odd dollar or two for snacks along the way to prevent ‘hangry’ pre-teens (hunger + anger = bad day).  The bank of mum and dad soon became the bank of Izzy and Sam and my ingenious idea soon left us skint.  Out came the basics like pens, paper, colouring books and playing cards. We discovered that some Satnav models even have comical voices that the kids find hilarious. Travel games such as, spot the pick-up truck and eye spy, backed up with our superlative rendition of ‘American Pie,’ was in full swing. But no family road trip would be complete without the gadgets! Despite our best efforts and all good intentions to keep the kids occupied the old school way, we succumbed to the power of Fortnite & Roblox.  Let’s face it, we aren’t perfect, we are only human and sometimes the stress of siblings at loggerheads over the beef jerky, and being stuck in a traffic jam for hours, with 1500 miles of the Pacific Coast Highway to cover, is enough to make even Mother Theresa give in!

Super mum, I certainly am not. Cheers to the start of the new school year folks.

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