Day 12 of Miami to Alaska Family Road Trip: Life in the PapiMobile

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On Day 12 of our family road trip we had a long driving day from Grand Teton National Park to Butte, Montana so today I thought I would pause to share some insights on what we do to make such a long journey possible with three kids and two adults in the PapiMobile.

My Wife Drives and I Blog

Yes, it’s true, my wife – recent root canal surgery and all – drives the Buick Enclave nearly 90% of the time while I blog.  Thank God my wife is the iron woman when it comes to driving because I seem to have whatever you call someone who literally can’t drive for more than one hour without dozing off.


If you think that’s easy for me, it’s not.  Gathering information, checking facts, writing content, editing photos and sorting videos for this blog in a moving car with three kids is extremely tough and especially if anyone aboard is not at feeling or acting at their best.  Most of the posts you see posted here take a combined five to six hours to put together and in many parts of the country (especially in the western and more sparsely populated states) cell towers are either weak or non-existent so even uploading one photo is itself a feat.  Sometimes posting even one story can take up to eight hours.

Modern Technology Rescues Us

I can’t imagine doing a cross-country trip without modern technology.

Our Enclave comes with a DVD player for the kids to watch movie in the back of the car, a pretty straight forward standard in most vehicles of its class but what makes our PapiMobile stand out is that our DVD system comes with Bose speakers and headsets that allow us to divide the car’s audio between the movies the kids are watching in the back and the music we want to hear in the front.

We usually pack between 20 to 30 DVD discs but if that sounds like a lot for us it really isn’t.  My kids have already watched Beauty & the Beast, Cars, Toy Story 2, Tinkerbell and even the first two seasons of the Andy Griffith Show, a family favorite they discovered last summer.

From an adult perspective, we want music and great radio listening options so that’s where the built-in Sirius Satellite Radio comes in very handy.  Our favorite channels are the alternative rock and 80s music channels but we also listen to news and even Elvis channels.  The rule is that whomever drives selects what to listen to so that means I rarely get to choose what’s on the radio.

Safe Driving Tips

A major rule we follow is not to drive beyond our threshold of fatigue.  That level of tiredness will vary from day to day.  For example, on the first couple days of the road trip we were tired after four or five hours but recently we’ve had days of driving 10 hours.  It will vary.

OnStar is our primary navigation system but we have additional GPS devices and even a Rand McNally Map aboard just in case.

The second major tip is to try to coordinate most of your heavy driving time for daytime hours.  At night you can encounter issues with people drinking and driving and even deer and other animals can straggle into your path.

A third rule is that we always drive with four different mapping options.  Our navigation tool of choice is our OnStar system because it is comprehensive, includes human support whenever needed and can even help open our car remotely in the event we leave the keys inside.  Despite our massive reliance on the OnStar system we have three additional levels of mapping redundancy because even the best technology is bound to have blind spots and when it comes to your family’s safety you have to multiple safety nets.  In our car this means we have a GPS system on our smart phone and we even have a huge Rand McNally Map of the United States.  Having a physical map may sound old school but the fact is that sometimes it’s just better to layout a map for a comprehensive, at a glance view you can’t get from any screen.

Another important tip we have is that you should keep your vehicle’s fuel level around half tank because there are parts of the U.S. that have few gas stations between each other and if you miss one or two of them you could be out of fuel.

Disney Travel Tip of the Day

Typically you will save more money on hotels, airfare and other travel packages when you plan your vacations in advance.  Even if you don’t have your road trip fully mapped out try to make as many reservations as you humanly can.  In most cases every reservation you are able to make in advance will lead to savings.








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