1. Ziploc bags are absolutely invaluable. Sandwich size for handing out munchies in the car or protecting liquid medicines and such from other things that are packed. Multi-gallon size for wet bedding, dirty laundry etc.
2. Mini-pita pockets are wonderful for sandwiches on the road. Too bad I discovered this (quite accidentally) towards the end of our trip.
3. Next time we travel via airplane, I'll pack little packets of Kleenex along with a package of gum for each of the kids. On our way out (which did have some incredibly odd seating arrangements - two window seats in front of a row of six seats across) the kids were climbing over each other and other travelers to get Kleenex over and over again.
4. Although moving to a mini-van for our travels around California (I think we chalked up 900 or more miles on the car) was louder and a bit more hectic than the spacious van we're accustomed to, we adjusted to the more cramped conditions pretty well over time and it was well-worth the savings in rent fees and gas in comparison with the 12 passenger van we had originally planned on. Oh yes, and traveling south on Highway 1 was much more comfortable in the leaner, more maneuverable Sienna. The mini-van would have been a disaster if we hadn't packed light. This took a lot of pre-trip planning, but worked out quite well. Since we were staying with relatives for all but two nights spent in hotels, we did laundry every few days.
5. I think parents develop a certain resignation over time that kids will disrupt their lives and it's okay to miss a bit of things while taking care of little ones. This, naturally, had many manifestations on our trip - from taking Frank to the restroom multiple times during Cardinal Pell's homily at TAC to rushing through Santa Inez Mission because Kate REALLY wanted to go back to the car (she had just woken up from a nap and was grump and somewhat disoriented). What I didn't expect was how much easier these little losses would be when my older kids were enjoying and appreciating these little treasures - because this time I had a much more complete sense of "It is good that we are here."
6. I'm really delighted that we didn't completely plan every day of our trip ahead of time. We had a lot of family visiting packed into the first few days with my nephew's graduation and as much Lawless family get-together time as we could. After that, there were pegs to hit on certain days at certain times in certain cities, but a lot of leeway in-between. Our "sight-seeing" plans were pretty loose, though we had lots of possible ideas gleaned from the AAA guidebooks. Since we knew there was way too much for us to do (without making ourselves miserable) we let our ideas first be whittled down quite naturally - skip the super expensive stuff and deal with the limitations of what was closed when (and this happened quite a lot - we really wanted to see the Getty Villa, but it was closed on Wednesdays, and wouldn't you know it, both days we had open in the area were Wednesdays - also, nearly everything we looked into in San Francisco was closed on Mondays - our one day in town). As it turned out, after our first Mission stop at San Juan Capistrano, the kids (led quietly and yet stubbornly by Gus) wanted to see as many Missions as they could. So much of our travels took on a bit of a pilgrimage aspect and Gus has now started a collection of photos of Stations of the Cross (link coming soon).