What is required to take your family on a cross-country move these days? With four kids, four adults and three vehicles, it isn't easy. You might need almost a full-time IT department to keep everything running, or at least a full-time mediator to broker who is going to get which electronic device. It is part Carmen Sandiego, part Matt Lauer, and all Robyn Tipps and family. Tippins is our community manager and she and her family are relocating from left to right coast this week.
There is the mobile broadband to distribute Internet to everyone, plus Nintendo DS units for each child and a DVD player for those that want to watch movies. Plus iPads and full-fledged computers for the grown ups, who are trying to get work done while in transit.
Remember when we were little and played the license plate game? Or when vans came with a single DVD player as a factory-installed option? They seem so quaint now. How did we ever survive?
This isn't Tippins & Crew first cross-country trip: they have done many over several summers. But it is the biggest caravan and probably the best organized, given their past experience. And it makes sense, given the family: when I visited their home in the East Bay earlier this summer, there was so much hardware strewn around their living areas I thought I was in Best Buy, or at least one of the better equipped computer labs that I have worked in. The living room contained Tippins' office, a large screen TV, and several video boxes such as a DVR, an AppleTV, and a few other devices. But now they have packed up all their gear and are on the road, crossing somewhere over the Texas border hopefully tonight.
So far the Eastward Ho experience hasn't had any big issues. "The Arizona desert is really the only place so far that we struggle with connectivity," said Tippins. And everyone is very self-directed, which helps to keep the device conflicts to a minimum.
So if you are contemplating such a journey, consider these battle-tested travel tips from Tippins.
- Everyone has their own screen, now a DS isn't exactly on par with a 17-inch MacBook Pro, but still it can keep the little ones engaged for hours.
- Power management is key. "In the beginning we used a DC inverter, wired to the cigarette lighter. Once we wired the inverter straight to the battery, which worked fine. We learned not to use the auxiliary cigarette lighter outlet. We burned out the master relay in the van and had to change that (a fuse) along the way, to get our blinkers, ABS, and air conditioning back." After using a more industrial-strength under-the-seat inverter for several years, now they use a special charger that looks like a coffee mug and has two AC outlets, and plugs into the lighter port.
- Walkie-talkie radios are helpful too, though Tippins uses a self-installed 25W Kenwood UHF mobile unit in 2 cars with a repeater in car 3. Communication that won't fail is essential if you have multiple cars and you get separated by a few miles and you want to coordinate your rest stops. A cell phone isn't fast enough to say, "Quick, turn here."
- Software. Bring plenty of games and DVDs for the kids, goes without saying. Analog fun also never goes out of style. A pad and a box of colored pencils or crayons each keeps all aged children happy.
- Multiple broadband accounts are useful. Use tethering options or Mifi to share them amongst your brood.