Memories of a Road Trip. Part 3. Lessons learned and tips for Road Trips while Disabled. 

If you have read parts 1 and 2 of this series, you’ll probably have guessed that while this was far from a nightmare holiday, it was also far from ideal. Some things were beyond our control, but other things could have been planned for better. Here are those that stand out:

Dehydration  – At the time, we hadn’t realised how much dehydration effects our daughter. It seems to cause vomiting and diarrhoea for her, as well as resulting from those things, to create a spiral of awfulness. It’s easy to forget, as she claims she’s not thirsty until it’s too late. So next time, I need to make it a top priority. She spent a lot of the holiday sick and miserable and it might have been prevented if we’d realised sooner. 

Nutrition – Heat, travel sickness, exhaustion. All these things tend to sap our appetite. So we went to CVS and stocked up on nutritional supplement drinks such as Ensure and Pediasure. These are great as they don’t need to be refrigerated and are available OTC and for half the price of back home. 

Travel sickness – Yes, a road trip with kids very prone to travel sickness probably wasn’t the best idea. I asked my daughter for advice to include in this blog post. And I think the travel sickness must have been forefront on her mind as her advice was : ‘keep looking out the window, preferably the windscreen, to the horizon and that helps you not to vomit.’ Good advice! But also we discovered Dramamine, which we were able to buy OTC from CVS, and it comes in a chewable orange-flavoured form. We stocked up and still use them for shorter road trips here in Ireland. 

Sleep – Sleeping in the camper van was very tough for me. At least we were able to buy Melatonin for the kids so that made life much easier. Here in Ireland, melatonin is only available on prescription and is very expensive. In the US it’s available OTC as a supplement and is a fraction of the price. So we stocked up! They do have a prescription for it here, and I have to say it’s been a life-changer for us. I’m not sure we could have managed the road trip without it. 

Heat – Again, a road trip in a vintage VW camper van, in California in June, with no air-conditioning probably wasn’t such a good idea. Especially as our son, and to a lesser extent both me and our daughter, is sensitive to the heat. We did have various hand-held fans and water sprays but it wasn’t always enough. I regret not buying something like this cool towel. We did take breaks during the hottest part of the day, but it wasn’t always the most pleasant experience. 

Taking breaks – Again, sage advice from my daughter:’ if you don’t feel well, ask the driver to stop and you can take a break for a few minutes, get out, maybe get something to eat.’ Frequent rest-stops are key to a successful road trip. 

Electronics – I am talking here specifically about ‘screens’ for entertainment for the kids. My husband had objected to me packing anything but my phone, but this was one area where I insisted that I knew best. So we packed the 3DS. Yes, they fought over it and pleaded to use it more often than my husband would have liked. But during a stressful journey so far from home, it was often the one comfort they had and I’m so glad we brought it. 

Realising your limitations – this wasn’t so much a problem for me as it was for my husband. He had an image in his head of certain things that had to happen, and it took him a while, and a lot of arguments and crying by me, before he realised that we would not be doing those things because I (or the kids) was too sore or too tired. He did end up revising his expectations, for example we parked in the car park of the Pfeiffer National Park and he walked to the start of the hiking trail while the rest of examined the map and imagined what it must be like actually being able to hike those paths. This was one area where there was a lot of compromise and neither of us were really too happy with the result. We did a lot less than my husband wanted, and a lot more than I wanted. Also, our son was only very recently diagnosed autistic, and our daughter wasn’t at that stage, so my husband still hadn’t taken on board what that meant in terms of activities that we could do. We did have an ID card for my son explaining he is autistic, so that helped a lot in terms of queues at Disneyland and Coit Tower. But there were still things that my husband had trouble letting go of and accepting that we couldn’t do. And he still didn’t fully appreciate just how exhausting ‘just sitting there’ as a passenger was for me. To be honest, for me, that was the worst part of the whole holiday. 

That’s all for now. I’m sure there are a lot of other tips I’ve forgotten. If you have any others, I’d love to read about them in the comments! 

Note: the photo is one I downloaded off Canva. I don’t seem to have any photos of our camper van that don’t include the kids. Ours wasn’t as beat up as the one in the photo, and was orange and had a pop-up roof. 

[image of a very beat up looking blue vintage VW camper van with built-in raised roof. It is parked along the side of a road. ]

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