No one wants to hear every excruciating detail of our trip to Nashville and Huntsville, but I did learn several things which might prove useful to you on your next road trip.
1) Take a picture of the stove and all the knobs that are in the "off" position so that you don't have to come back and check the stove twice after you've left the house (yes, I really did). Ditto the garage door. I've started telling the kids, "When Mommy asks you in 5 minutes if the garage door is down, tell me yes, ok, because it's down. See?"
2) ALWAYS take blankets and pillows in the car to encourage napping.
3) The Happy Meal-sized Toy Story figurines that I got at Walmart were the hit of the trip, and resulted in a lot of excellent car behavior - I got each kid a set to discourage fighting. They've been playing with them ever since I gave them the toys on Tuesday morning. If your kids are into a particular movie or character, getting them small toys that they can play with in the car might just save your sanity, too! I also took a cookie sheet (the jelly roll sort with sides) for each kid, so they'd have a hard surface to color on in the car, and the lip of the pan held their crayons so I didn't have to dig them out of the crevices of the car quite as often. Did you know that if you leave crayons in the car during the day in Nashville, they'll melt? I've figured this out, so you don't have to!
4) If I had made a list, I wouldn't have forgotten our toothbrushes and toothpaste. Replacing them at the hotel cost $13 (for 3 square headed old-school toothbrushes and a travel-sized toothpaste - highway robbery!).
5) If you have the option, stay at an Embassy Suites. It's affordable (ours was $129 a night + taxes and parking), and you get two rooms, so once you get the kids to bed, you can sit in the outer room and watch TV, check e-mail, speak in a normal voice, turn on lights, etc. This makes a trip with children MUCH more pleasant. Also, they provide a free hot breakfast (not just stale rolls and old fruit, we're talking about made-to-order omelets and eggs, bacon, potatoes, waffles, etc.). The breakfast alone probably saved us $25 a day. Plus, all the people were super friendly, and it was really clean. We've stayed in the same hotel before, and I love it. I can't imagine staying anywhere else. (P.S. No one paid me or compensated me in any way for plugging Embassy Suites - I'm just a very satisfied customer who wants to share her experience, that's it. Although if the Embassy Suites people want to compensate me, I'll be happy to accept free stays at their hotels! :) )
6) If your dog is a nervous shedder and you're boarding her, ask them to brush her a couple times so you don't get a pound of dog fur in your car when you pick her up.
7) Road trip algebra: 2SC + 1PL + 3m/3D = 2M
Where SC = small child
PL = pregnant lady
m = museum
D = day
M = Much
(In other words, two small children plus one pregnant lady plus three museums over three days is too much!)
8) Save a fortune on "in room entertainment" by bringing your own laptop and streaming movies over the wifi. We watched a couple episodes of Dollhouse on BJ's laptop after the kids went to bed instead of watching TV. We have a wireless 3G aircard, but it would've worked just fine over the hotel's wifi, too.
9) Take a break. My favorite memory of this trip, aside from hanging out with our college friends, is the fun the girls had feeding the fish and the birds that live in the canal behind our hotel. Vacation doesn't have to mean that you run around like crazy people doing and seeing everything. Sometimes the best moments are the simple (and free!) ones.
10) Don't get into arguments with cab drivers, but if you do, remember that their boss's number is printed in large numbers on the back of their car.