On the road again. And again. And again.

Traveling to tournaments and away games can be a lot of fun and make for good team bonding. It can also be a living hell along the lines of National Lampoon’s Vacation, at least for the parents. We’re midway through a seven trip summer and each time I hit the road, I encounter something new. Here are a few of my better ideas to make road trips more vacation-like.

Making the most of the hotel breakfast

Save the time and expense of going out for breakfast by booking a hotel that provides a breakfast bar. It’s worth an extra $10- $20 a night. If your team has a really early game time, ask the hotel manager the night before and they will usually open the breakfast a little early for you, or at least put some bagels or something out. A few other ways to maximize the breakfast bar:

Peanut butter and wheat bread

Peanut butter tubs and bread for an afternoon snack, courtesy of hotel breakfast bar.

  • Grab a couple extra peanut butter and jelly packets and a whole wheat bagel or a few slices of bread to make a sandwich later.
  • Do they have yogurt and milk in cartons? Throw one in your cooler.
  • Take a banana or apple to eat in the car if there’s not time for anything else.
  • Hard-boiled eggs have good protein to kick start the morning or to save for later in the day. Grab a salt packet, too.

Now, don’t be a Newman about it. I’m not advocating cleaning out the entire breakfast bar and leaving it bare for the other guests. Just take a couple things.

Ice, ice baby
Long, hot days on the field require lots of liquids and lots of ice. Here’s how to refill, for free. (For some tips on cooling off, see last week’s post.)

  • Many fast food restaurants will add ice to your cooler for free. Wait until after the lunch or dinner rush when employees aren’t as busy and have extra ice made.
  • Is there any ice rink around? Scoop some snow from the dump-off pile. It’s not what you’d want to put in a water bottle but fine for icing the cooler.
  • Restaurants will often refill water bottles for diners.
  • A collapsible water bottle like this Vapur lets you can take advantage of drinking fountains without the bulk of carrying empty bottles.

Killing time is killing me
Rain delays, schedule snafus or myriad other reasons can result in extra hours of unplanned hanging out. And the “Mom, I bored” refrain is bad enough from your own kid, but repeated by the team chorus, it’s enough to make you snap. So, what can you do with a carload of kids for three hours?

  • Hit a movie theater for some air-conditioned relaxation.
  • Find the local public library and take advantage of free Wi-Fi, power outlets and air conditioning and chill out with a magazine or computer game.
  • A shopping mall can prove pleasantly distracting. It can also lead to unplanned spending, so beware.
  • Pack some playing cards or board games and find a park or shady spot to play. Paper and color markers are fun, too, even for big kids. Make some posters for each player.
  • Turn on the DVD player and watch some of the best road movies of all time.

Try some of these ideas and you’ll look like an experienced road warrior, without the battle scars. And I’m sure you’ve got some great ideas, too, so please share in the comments. We’ve got to stick together on this sports parent journey.

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