This picture is what happens when you’re busy getting ready for an early morning road trip with 3 kids. A little watercolor action turns into full blown PAINT MONSTER. Bwahahahah! He actually called himself that. So in an homage to all the trials and tribulations that can arise on the road, I’ve come up with our tried and true tips for surviving–and enjoying–a good old fashioned road trip.
As most parents can tell you, the time spent driving during a road trip can either be a relaxing fun adventure or can quickly unravel to a nightmarish ride of gloom depending on your family’s approach to travel. As seasoned road trekkers Vader and I discovered that with a tiny bit of preparation we could (almost) entirely steer clear of dreadful long trips and bring on the magic.
- Silent now, talk later. Talking about things that all the members of your family actually find interesting is sometimes challenging, never mind for 18 hours straight. For this reason we subscribe and listen to some interesting podcasts. We love WNYC’s Radiolab show. The geeky world of wonder radio show always manages to captivate my whole family–from Daddycakes, teenager and right on down to tiny toddler–and sparks engaging conversations afterwards. My kids swear Radiolab episodes make time go faster. We stockpile podcasts away for months and then listen to them on our road treks.
- Start family travel traditions. “50 States before I graduate from high school,” stated Liam during one of our road trips. It was an ambitious goal but it was so exciting to see his love of our road trip develop into a new family tradition. They don’t all have to be lofty either. They can range from the simple (a unique refrigerator magnet from every spot you visit), to the completely sublime (a family photo at sunset during each trip). Having these little “road goals” give everyone a purpose in between home and the final destination. Soon your kids will be just as excited to reach the next pit stop as they are to get to Disney.
- Understand the different needs of everyone in your car and plan accordingly. Seamus’ Asperger’s sometimes makes sensory overload a problem for him. Popping in ear buds and listening to his own handpicked book gives him the personal space he needs while still sharing our physical space. There are a lot of great retailers for audiobooks but be sure to check out your public libraries. Many now carry audiobooks as well as books for eReaders.
- Make room for the magic, at home. I’m a bit of a magpie in that I’ve always loved saving ticket stubs, sea shells, and other assorted mementos from our travel excursions. 3 years ago we started the family tradition of putting all the little hodge podge and ephemera from our vacation into a glass jar at the end of the week, labeling it with the place and date, and showcasing it on our mantel. The boys decide what goes in and during the vacation they bring me little pieces of treasure—a handful of sand from a beach we camped at, a heart-shaped rock chosen with chubby toddler hands , a scorecard from a heated mini golf game—and are safely stored away. Months and years later they love taking down the jars and peering inside. It almost always brings up delighted “Do you remember when…?” talk quickly followed by “Where are we going on vacation next?” discussion. That part is truly magical.
Safe travels to you, my friends, as you all try to soak up the last little bit of summer this weekend.