I vividly remember driving from Pittsburgh, Pa to Daytona Beach, Florida when we were younger. It was my job as the older, wiser sibling, to organize the back seat for the 16 hour drive. The best part, the vehicle housing this family of four was a red, Trans Am. Between travel pillows, blankets, cooler for snacks and stuff to keep my 10 year old self and five year old brother busy, there was barely enough room for the two of us. Thank goodness seat belts weren't what they are now and we were able to lay across the back seat.
Boy, have times changed. Now, kids have this amazing movie theater in their van. It's like relaxing in your living room on wheels. Drop down DVD player (sometimes 2, one for each kid), built in cooler with cup holders for all seats. No need for blankets because they can control the heated seats and their own air vents from the back. Heck, with enough technology, you won't hear a peep till you get to your destination, unless someone has to pee.
Well, that's not how we roll. In fact, this seven and a half hour road trip had no DVDs, Ipads or phones (for the kids. Mommy had to work.) The only electronics allowed were the Playaways, from the library. Cyberchase, a math show, was a huge hit and I am pretty sure both kids know it word for word. When they weren't watching math and letter games on their Playaway, we colored and played the good ol' fashioned road trip games. To make it easier to color and do homework (and play a couple of hands of Go Fish!) I packed each kid a cookie sheet. With a cookie sheet on your lap, you don't lose crayons or flash cards and you have a hard surface to write on. A game or two of "A is My Initial", and "I'm Going on a Picnic", a nap and a stop at the gas station and BOOM! We were there. (Good thing cause poor Nunnie was feeling cramped back there with these two munchkins.)
The two most important things about preparing for road trips are...
1. Keep them busy.
2. Keep in mind how you would feel if you were cooped up in the back seat for 7.5 hours. Just because these guys are littler than adults, doesn't mean they aren't going to have some of, if not all the same issues you would have as a grown up. Boredom, bathroom break, legs cramping, car sickness, it's all there. Listen to what the kids are telling you. Keep the conversation open for the entire car, not just front seat and back seat. Even as an adult, I hate not getting shotgun, especially when you are the only person in the back seat. It's a constant " What did you guys say?" conversation. Don't do that to your kids.
Road trip survival
- Pack Snacks. I pack each kid a snack bag of identical snacks. I remind them that once they are finished, they are finished. Stick with easy to eat, healthy bites. Don't forget water bottles.
- Things To Do. I don't go on a road trip empty handed, why would I let my child? Each kid takes a book or two, (The little one brought her TAG reader). This time we also remembered headphones for both kids so they weren't yelling at each other to turn things down and they could use them to muffle sound while reading. Five Below had them for $5.00. That was the best 5 bucks we spent. Card games, coloring books, music, books on CD, anything that will keep them occupied in the car and in the hotel/resort when their is downtime.
- Journal. Both kids had to keep a journal. Me being the wonderful mother I am, lied to my 8 year old and told him his teacher required him to write in it every day. They could write about their day and/or draw pictures about what had happened. Journalling was great on the way down and back too. I came up with creative card questions that they could use in their journal. Ex: Create your own country; Give it a name, flag, draw a map, write laws. Give everyone a new name. Draw the coolest thing you saw on this trip.
- Map. Yes, we all use GPS now. Last year, on our way to Disney, my husband even changed the GPS voice to Donald Duck. By the time we got to South Carolina, even the kids were screaming at the poor duck. The thing with GPS is that it is technology and to often than not, it poops the bed on us. Usually it's a few seconds before we have to possibly get off an exit. That is when it takes the time to lose the GPS signal, or recalculate. We keep maps in the car for two reasons. 1. For safety purposes. If GPS stops, then we can still figure out how to get to our destination. You know, like the old days. 2. It is a visual for the kids. Every once in a while, we will pass the map to the back seat and let the kids figure out where we are using clues. Keeps them busy and is educational!
- Everything else. Wipes (no matter what age) Kleenex, a garbage bag (shopping bag) gum, dental floss, spare change for tolls or vending machines, extra pens/pencils, electronic charger (including GPS if it is separate) Keep in mind that this road trip list would drastically change if you had little ones that were still in diapers.
I'm sure that there are many a things that we could add to this list and what works for one family may not work for another. This is a guide to help keep your sanity while driving to your happy place. As with most things, communication is key and don't forget to include those little munchkins in on what the plan is. We all have a better time when we feel included.