Thursday, January 5, 2012

Just can’t wait to get on the road again…

I am a huge road trip girl.  My whole life, I’ve loaded into a van (or station wagon) and driven at least 12 hours a few times a year.  I’ve learned a lot along the way. 


(p.s.  They don’t always look this angelic.)

I think Road Trip Success comes from 2 things:  Not Being a Wimp (yourself or as a parent) and PLANNING ahead.

1.  Don’t be a wimp.

Seriously.  And don’t let your kids be wimps either.  I think the most important part of going on road trips is just deciding that it’s not that bad to sit still in a car for a day.  My kids know that when they get in that car, we don’t stop for whining or fighting or boredom or hunger or (hardly ever) bathroom needs.  They learn pretty quickly how to entertain themselves.  ESPECIALLY if you aren’t pandering to them. 

     a.  Along with not being a wimp:  drive without your husband!  Take a cell phone, tune up your car, know your route and JUST GO.  What’s the worst that could happen?  Honestly, I almost prefer solo trips because my kids realize that there is no adult that can help them and they bug me less.  Also, I LOVE to listen to audio-books for hours on end.

     b.  Bathrooms:  Force them to go the minute before you leave and at EVERY gas station/restaurant, etc.  Even if they went when you got to McDonalds…make them go as you walk out of the door.  Also, limit soda.  I NEVER let my kids get refills.  Warn that you will NOT be stopping and that they will have to go on the side of the road if they need to go before the next gas/food stop.  And follow through.  I’ve found that sticking in a movie can very effectively distract a 5 year old with a full bladder.


2.  PLAN activities.

Don’t just rely on your movies.  Because a) they’ll get boring and b) come on!  It’s hours and hours!  There’s so much reading, listening, talking and interacting that can be done.  Make movies your treat.

For normal road trips (8-12 hours), I usually bring dvds, children’s audio books on CD, new library books that I don’t let them touch prior to the trip, 1-2 carefully chosen toys.

For our Texas Trip, I did a bit more.  Ryan and I made a binder for each kid and filled it with games (logic puzzles, license plate games, mazes, coloring pages, etc) as well as a map and details of each leg of the trip.  I also created a daily Journal Questionnaire that I asked (made) them fill out every day and hope to turn into a book.  We added lined paper and an envelope with sharpened pencils, crayons, and pens.  The older kids all stuck their homework in that binder and I loved having it all in one place. 

     a. IMPORTANT:  space your activities! NEVER do 2 things at a time.  For example, we’ll get in the car at 4:00 and I’ll tell the kids “We’ll turn on the first movie at 7:00, so sleep or read, but DO NOT make noise”.  At 7:00 they’ll watch their movie and then when the movie has completely ended, I’ll feed them breakfast from our food stash.  When that is totally done and cleaned up, I’ll have them change out of pajamas.  By this time it’s, 9:00…we’re halfway there and they’ve only watched one movie.  I’ll then put in a CD and tell them that in an hour, we’ll do the next movie.  One activity at a time, very spaced out, makes each one new and interesting.


It’s not my very favorite thing to stare at the central Montana scenery for hours on end, and I’m thrilled when I jump out of the car, but, honestly, we’ve had so many great experiences due to the cheap method of car travel.  Share your suggestions in the comments, please!


Alison said...

Make a timeline of your trip with masking tape and postit notes on the ceiling of your van. Add as many "points of reference" as you can. Move a marker (post it with our car drawn on it) along the timeline to show how far you've gone compared to the remainder of the trip. No more "Are we there yet?"

Also, I wrap little presents to be handed out or awarded as prizes along the way. Gum, flip-books, finger puppets, mini joke-books, etc.

Each kid gets his/her own bag or lunch box to store their stash of goods along the way. (under their seat)

Rochelleht said...

We road trip all the time. Obviously, when you have houses in two states...

People are always freaking out that we drive straight through. 21 hours is nothing.

My suggestion is that we don't let them buy food on the trip. It is a RARE thing if they get fast food. I pack lots of food and drinks and a cooler at my feet.

I am cheap.

Elizabeth said...

This is all great advice. We have done a few road trips and we don't have a dvd in he car! I think the don't be a wimp is fitting for life as well as car trips :-)

Carie said...

Awesome. Now if only we lived close enough to family to roadtrip to!

Mandy said...

I can't even tell you the amount of people I've talked to about your amazing road trip talent. It's like a super power.

Lindsey said...

I love this. I am hard core (as you probably know) driving myself and 4 kids from AZ to WA last year. It was hard, I did it in two days but I agree.. Who needs to fly. Driving builds character...

katie said...

I love this post. I love road tripping and agree 100% with not being a wimp. I have done 3 trips now without my husband and I loved it! My hubby does not love road tripping as much, otherwise we'd do it more together.

I am all for buying treats along the way though. We are frugal normally so vacation time is treat time. I grew up driving 22 hours straight from Chicago to Utah...would love to drive more trips like that if I could encourage the husband. We have family all over so it is possible.

the wrath of khandrea said...

i agree with you 100%. we road trip the exact same way. the only difference is, i still hate it. i like travelling alone so i can listen to my music for hours on end. i even like traveling with skip becasue we like the same music. but throw the kids in the car, and it just feels sooooo much longer.

Lauren in GA said...

I love the binder idea you gave. You are brilliant.

I also love the no bathroom stop idea you gave.

We always play the letters of the Alphabet in order. (everybody has to find their own it gets exciting...but when they were really little we'd find the alphabet together.) We also play what we call the Noun Game. The person that is, "It" says, "I'm thinking of a person (or a place...or an thing) and we ask a series of Yes or No questions to figure out who or what it is. It used to be easy because Brian was always thinking of Batman or something Batman related.

Hey, I got a little teary (happy tears ☺) from your sweet comment on my blog asking how is my little preemie already talking in sentences? I know. I can hardly believe it...and I LOVE it.

Christie said...

I like the binder idea a lot. I am going to try that on our next one.

One thing I do is get a big ziploc bag for everyone with their name on it. Inside, I put enough snacks for however long our drive is (if it's a two-dayer to Utah, that's a lot of snacks). I hand each kid their ziploc and let them ration their own food out. Nothing annoys me more on a road trip than playing waitress to kids in the back seat. I worried at first that they'd eat all the snacks at once, but they really liked being in control of it. Liked that it was up to them, and they simply ate when they were hungry. Then we'd stop for meals, etc. Worked great.

Also? I'm thinking a road trip from WA to MO should be next up on your list... :-)

Jenna said...

I love the comment about not going with your husband. It's occasionally fun to set the pace & the route.

We stop every 2-3 hours (my fault), but it is a quick in & out & we're on the road again. We reward the kids with restaurant food (fast food) for dinner & usually have a healthy cooler plus pretzels in the car. We withhold fluids, but honestly a wide-mouth 32-oz. Gatorade bottle works in a pickle for boys.

Lauren in GA said...

Oh...also...when we have about 40 minutes until our stopping point we will play, "I spy"...just to kill time. Once everybody has has a turn we are ready to stop.

Erin said...

Love this. We already share many, many, man of the same "rules of the roadtrip". I would add to always (duh) precut fruits and veggies to snack and bring a small bowl for each kid. I also rent a whole load of movies/tv shows from the library and put them in a cd book.

Tammy said...

I could learn a lot from you. I am so afraid of doing anything beyond 3-4 hours with the boys. I am still a total novice at parenting but it scares me to DEATH!!!