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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to Survive A Road trip With Your Kids


Having just returned from two solo road trips, totaling seventeen hours in the car, with my kids, I now consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject of surviving a long car trip with them. 

My last trip could have been a scene from the movie Steve Martin starred in, which I believe was titled Parenthood, but would have more appropriately been titled Parenting Hell.  I drove by myself in pouring down rain, with bumper to bumper traffic accompanied by a non-stop whining five year old and an eight year old who wanted to play his brand-spanking new PaperJamz guitar, courtesy of a friend who I thought was my best friend, but I’ve now decided was clearly jealous of me and wanted to bring my mental health down a notch.  Just kidding, Jen!

Coming off that trip, I realized with loud moaning that I  had three more road trips with my two precious children left to endure this summer.  OMG!  Twenty-nine hours more hours of the stress I had just gone through left me feeling as if I might have a panic attack.  One to take charge, and not one who wants any more wrinkles than I already have, I decided to ask around and compile a list of ten surefire ways to make my road trip the most pleasant it could possibly be. 

I went straight to the experts—other moms who’ve been there and figure out how to survive.  And the following is:

Ten Rules to Beat the Odds and Have a Fantastic Road Trip With Your Kids

  1. Establish the car rules BEFORE you get in the car.  In other words tell the kiddos upfront exactly how long the car ride will be and give them two ‘free’ times they can ask you this infamous question again without penalty.  If they ask more than twice, they must go straight to jail, just like in Monopoly, except jail in the car consist of losing a special road trip snack.
  2. This leads nicely to rule number two. Pack special road trips snacks.  Make sure they aren’t messy, but also make sure they are enticing and can be used to warn kids they are about to go to jail and forfeit they’re special snack. Believe it or not, my kids both LOVE beef jerky, so this is a great special snack incentive. 
  3. Do not make the mistake of falling for the old “I’m so thirsty I could die,” pleas.  Set the ground rules.  No drink for the first hour then ¼ of the drink each subsequent hour. Think I’m kidding?  I’m not!  This is road trip warfare.  You wanna win or do you want your kids to drive you to the madhouse and cause you to have to stop every hour for a potty break thereby extending your trip for a not-so-good hour.
  4. Have movie time.  I am not a proponent of just buckling the kids in and letting their minds go all mushy just so you don’t have to hear them fight and complain in the car, but if you are taking a long road, one little itty bitty movie is not going to keep junior from being accepted into the gifted program.  Pop that sucker in and enjoy your two hours of bliss courtesy of Scooby Doo.
  5. On to rule number five.  If you are not a huge Scooby Doo fan, don’t forget headphones for your kids, so you can enjoy your music while they enjoy their movie.
  6. Pack books for your kids thay can read and pack a Leapster for your kids that can’t.  That program rocks the car!  My youngest let Leapster read to him for a good hour on our last trip, after I asked around and learned this bit of wisdom.
  7. Pack some good old fashion family car games.  Some quick suggestions are: Auto Bingo.  Regal Games makes a really nice small one.  Another suggestion is U.S.A. License Plate Game.  Umm…need I say more?  It can take the whole trip to complete this game!  For the older kids they can do Dell Puzzle Lovers crosswords.
  8. I’m also not a huge proponent of letting your kids go all numb from the world of technology, but I’m not stupid either.  Pack their DS handhelds, their IPod touches, and their Nooks and Kindles. 
  9. Divide out the time of what they can do and for how long BEFORE you get in the car.  You will avoid fights, tears, and a migraine for you.
  10. Pack yourself a book if you are not the one driving.  If all else fails, AND you are in the passenger seat, you can put on your headphones, read your book and pretend you aren’t in the car with your kids.  Ha-ha!  Just joking of course.

Good luck!  May your summer road trips be bliss.  Also, if you know any sure ways to make road trips great with kids feel free to share today.  Don’t be greedy with your greatness!

Have a fabulous day!
Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

23 comments:

  1. Great tips, Julie!

    I totally agree with you on the movie/DS/iPod car rule. IMO, technology was invented to make doctor's appointments and car trips with kids easier! Those are the times I'm not watching and timing screen time.

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  2. You're so right! Doctor's appointments are so much easier with a little bit of technology!

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  3. Great tips, Julie! I will definitely be using them this summer. :)

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  4. LOL, I'm so glad that when I go on road trips these days, there are no kids involved. Back when we were kids, parents didn't have nearly so many gadgets with which to distract us. I have to feel a little sorry for them.

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  5. Catherine,
    No gadget and no car seats! I remember sleeping stretch across the backseat on long road trips. These days, they'd call Children's Protective Services if you did such a thing.

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  6. I moved across country with three kids, two dogs and one very unhappy cat. 6 days of locked in the car hell. By the end, I put on my audio book and bored them into being little car zombies. :D None of us will ever take long road trips again!!

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    1. Cynthia,
      You are a very brave woman! I have never attempted a car ride with animals!

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    2. The dogs loved it! The cat, not so much. :D But he survived and he still loves me.

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    3. I once moved from Texas to Alaska. There were four of us, and we took 2 cars and only what would fit within those cars. Oh, yeah...and we had 8 cats. Five of them were kittens too young to be separated from the mother. We hadn't been gone more than twenty minutes before the mama cat got car sick and puked all over the kittens. It was a long week in the cars. LOL.

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  7. Julie ~ No long car rides in my future. But I do have a couple of long airplane rides coming up. And my son's ipad will be indispensable.

    Car rides these days are nothing like they were growing up when my father would just say over and over "Look at the scenery."

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    1. Your "look at the scenery" comment reminds me of my mom's "sing to yourself" comments! Ha-ha. Too funny!

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  8. Julie, there great tips, but they can only apply to one of my children. The other one is a busy one year old who doesn't sleep in the car. The other one can follow the rules. However, she follow sleeps once the car starts moving. I really don't mind car trips

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    1. Yea, the rules never apply to anyone under three! Sigh.

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  9. Great tips, Julie. Also, leaving the kids at home makes for a peaceful ride. ;)

    When I was younger I read in the car all of the time. Now it makes me carsick. :(

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  10. LOL! A car trip without the kids is a different story. I have different rules for that trip. Call me if you need them.

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  11. Julie,

    All excellent ideas. The last time I took a road trip with all three kids, we bought them a DS (or some other type of hand held game - whatever was popular at the time). One for each of them with 2 new games, each. They didn't get to even look at them until we were 2 hrs into the trip (we left in the early a.m. and they had slept anyway. This kept them entertained and they were able to trade games so there were six divided among the three of them that none of them had played. There wasn't a movie option for us in my car, but I would have had a stack of them for the trip if I had. It is a vacation after all and the rules for vegging in front of the tv and playing games should be put aside, if only for the parents sanity than nothing else.

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  12. Ugh I have a few coming up this summer and I am not looking forward to it. But I will definitely remember to use some of these ideas when I go. Luckily, one son is all moved out. So we're down to two...we'll see how that goes lol. Great blog!

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    1. Thanks, Suzie! I hope your summer vacation is great!

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  13. Jane,
    I agree some rules are meant to be left behind when going on vacation!

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  14. Julie,
    Phew! I'm glad you clarified what you meant by jail. I was picturing a dog cage in the back of the SUV. ;D

    My kids really like to bring along old favorite movies for all of us to "watch". Usually I'll drive and listen while my husband watches with them. On our last trip, they brought The Holy Grail. Quoting that movie brings at least a couple of hours of enjoyment for them.

    We also stop regularly and stretch our legs. My husband and I feel like part of the whole purpose of travel is to enjoy the journey. There's one place we stop on the way to visit with my family where we can take a short hike. Or if we see something that looks interesting, we pull over to check it out. We found George Washington Carver's birth place one year and it was so cool. And we rode on an old restored carousel another time. You probably wouldn't like traveling with us. LOL

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  15. When I'm with my husband we will stop and explore, but alone with the boys I'm all about just getting there. It's hard to travel with two young boys by yourself because I don't even like sending them into public restrooms alone. It freaks me out. Seriously. I've watched too many movies in my lifetime. LOL. Last time my husband and I took a long car trip with the boys we stopped and visited two Civil War sights. That was very cool and the kids loved climbing on cannons, seeing trenches etc. So, I could travel with you as long as we were stopping somewhere cool!

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