A Day in the Life in the Airstream - part 1, travel days

I have had several people tell me that they want to know exactly HOW the Airstream works. They want to know the logistics or eating, sleeping, schooling, traveling, etc. They ask, "What is a typical day?" 

I must start by saying that there has never really been such a thing as a "typical" day in the Mette household - with or without the Airstream. We have never had 9-5 jobs. While we have had cycles of settling into a comfortable routine, we have always been flexible with the day-to-day stuff. I do want to answer the questions, though so I will begin a 3-part series describing a typical day in the Airstream. 

Our days follow one of four formats: 

1- "Travel" day - You guessed it, time in the van! 

2 - "Gig" day - This is a day where Michael's work involves playing music.

3 - "Off" day - This is not a day off of work, per se, but a day that we are not scheduled to travel or play music. You will see that these days often involve a lot of work: schooling and paperwork.  

4 - "Vacation" day - I won't write a special post about these, because they are the ones that you see in the blog. The format is: scrap the schedule, make it to our destination, and have as much fun as possible. 

Travel Days

Our kids have always been good travelers and Michael enjoys driving. We once drove 27 hours straight (before the Airstream). By the end, we expected the kids to be whining and crying, but instead they were slap happy and spent the last hour giggling. It was good to know this going into the Airstream. We do try to limit our long travel days. We read somewhere that 5 hours of driving was a good limit for a day. I think that is good advice, so we try to keep it  around there, although this summer we did manage a few 9-12 hour drives. Here is a typical long travel day: 

7:30 AM - Wake up and get dressed. We do this in about 15 minutes. No one showers in the morning. We pull the curtains, take turns in the bathroom, and in general just bump into each other a LOT. If it is a good day, I manage to grab the hairbrush and double-check the girls' hair for tangles. The Airstream looks like a tornado hit it at this point. 

8:00 AM - go to Mass if available. If there is a day where we are more apt to skip daily Mass, a travel day is usually one of them. There is a logistic of getting checked out of our camping by a specific time and arriving at our host at a specific time to deal with. Usually I sit down at Mass and realize that at least one girls made it out with either the wrong shoes or tangled hair.  

9:00 AM - Breakfast. We love breakfast. Sometimes we have "first breakfast" before Mass and then "second breakfast" after Mass. Winter favorites are oatmeal or eggs. In the summer we are more apt to stick with cereal or bagels. Usually I have the kids sit at the dinette. Gabriella pulls up the piano bench to the edge and I stand in the galley and pass out food. When the kids are done eating, they are sent to "play in their room." I'm not sure what they do back there in that small space. I don't really care because Michael and I sit down for our eggs. We clean up and say our morning prayers. 

10:00 AM - Button down the Airstream. Clean and Stow. We can get by with a less through cleaning, but I find that it is ALWAYS best to arrive with everything neat and in order, so we do a thorough cleaning before we depart. Breakfast dishes and vacuuming are done. The kids make their beds and put all the dirty laundry under the bunk. We fold away our bed and stow anything that moves. All the soaps have to be tucked into the cabinets. The surfaces have to be clean. Anything left over gets tossed in the beloved "junk drawer." If we have to fill up our water tank, I start that process.

Filling up the water tank can sometimes take up to 25 minutes. There is no air return, so it is a delicate process of filling with water and then letting the air escape from the tank. If you rush and forget to let the air escape, then it will shoot out at you like a whale spout - which is Not what you want when you are trying to get cleaned up and out of town. 

10:30 AM - Hitching. Michael drives and I direct the van into place. Once he is lined up, he takes care of all the plugs, sway bars, etc. I attend to the awning, electric, sewer, and jacks.  If Michael and I work together, we can get the van hitched up in about 6 minutes. (the awning takes longer). 

The kids gather their "activities" and load in the van. Activities vary. We always bring the iPads and they are always used for the majority of the drive. The older girls usually embrace some other activity as well. This is often drawing. They took up crocheting one week. They read. They make bracelets. Cecilia has a box of little polly pocket sized dolls. MJMJ will hold onto a train. Whatever it is, they get it. I bring the iPads and that is it. 

11:00 AM - Depart. There is usually no firm check out procedure at a campground. Sometimes you have to drop your parking pass in a box. We make it out to the highway and I get out to tighten the sway bars. We wait until we are out of the campground to do this since it is easier to navigate turns when they are loose.  Often I use this time to grab items that we may have forgotten like sunglasses and such.  Michael eats a protein bar. 

1:00 PM - Stops and snack packs. I have to be honest, we stop almost once an hour. Usually we make the stops as quick as possible so that Michael and I can use the bathroom since we drink coffee and soda the whole drive. Every 2 hours we declare an "everyone get out" stop. Michael fills the gas tank. I take the kids inside and then pack "snack packs."

I don't even know where we came up with this name. I'd call it a sack lunch, because that is really what it is,  but I think that I feel guilty that it does not contain all the food groups. Each kid as a reusable lunch sack. I go to the Airstream and fill them with little baggies of whatever we have. Apples with peanut butter, pretzels, cheese stick, water bottle. Sometimes they get a rough as: protein bar, fruit snacks, & saltines.  We rarely ever PLAN a snack pack day. (when we do, they get cool things like squeeze yogurts and flavored almonds).  Usually we get on the road and realize that we do not want to take the time to stop for fast food or cook since we did not get out of town until 11:00! But, we did not get out of town until 11:00, so we need to have some lunch. Michael and I have a protein bar and a piece of fruit. If it is a good day, we have a salad of some sort. I almost always keep a pre-made bag chopped salad around for driving days. 

1:30 PM - More driving. By this time, we have required that MJMJ close his eyes for a nap. The iPads have made their way out of the bag. Michael and I may have settled in, listening to an NPR podcast. 

5:00 PM - Stop at McDonalds. It does not HAVE to be at McDonalds. If it is bad weather, we will look for a place with a playground. Usually we will make this a longer stop. Often Michael will stay and rest as the kids play and I will go across the street to a grocery store and pick up a few things. (because wow! did you see what I had to resort to in the snack packs?!?!). By this time, Michael starts to look forward to the end of the day. I might pick up some wine and an evening snack for him when we arrive.

6:00 PM - More driving. Usually Michael is still driving. I will drive, but only if he requests it. He enjoys the challenge of a long drive and my driving probably makes him nervous.  By now, we have started a time for "iPad switch" time. We let each of the kids choose what song they want on Spotify. I browse my Allstays app for the best value among area campgrounds.  We start to point out to the kids that it is dark outside and that they could settle down and rest if they want. 

9:00 PM - Arrive at campsite. It is dark and we probably did not have a reservation. I approach the gate shack and read the instructions for late arrival. We try to find an appropriate site in the dark.  I direct Michael into the site, using my phone as a flashlight. I open up the Airstream and start the heat, fans, or A/C - whichever is applicable. Michael unhitches. The kids clean the van. I hook up the water, electric, and sewer. Usually the kids change directly into pajamas. They will ask for a snack and I will comply. Then they go to bed. If it is early, we may encourage them to have a movie. Either way, Michael is ready for his moment of peace in the evening.