1. Audiobooks are life savers.
After you pile back in the car from a satisfying meal or a game of rest stop soccer, turn on an audiobook. It’s the best way to get some much needed quiet time on a long trip. You’ll watch as everybody gets quiet, eyelids become heavy, and soon they are all contently heading to dreamland. Successful favorites include classics such as Little Women, Charlotte’s Web, or anything from Roald Dahl.
2. Flexibility is key.
It’s great to have a plan, but don’t be so rigid that you can’t take the time to stop when everyone is about to crack. Schedules are road trip kryptonite. A 13-hour day with only 2 scheduled stops will quickly suck all the fun out of a trip. Trust me, you’ll end up with very cranky family and the urge to down a gallon of whiskey by the time you get to your destination. Vacations are supposed to be fun, remember?
3. Empty all bladders at the same time.
If one has to pee, y’all have to pee. Nothing can drive a parent to their breaking point faster than a kid doing the potty dance 5 minutes after you pull away from the rest stop.
“Why the heck didn’t you go when we stopped?!” goes the battle cry of every travel-weary parent.
“I didn’t have to go then, but I now really have to gooooooooooooo!” comes the annoyingly whiny and urgent kid response.
Getting everybody on the same bladder clock will save your sanity and valuable time.
4. Spend time outside of the car.
A stuffy car ride ripe with the lingering odor of McDonald’s and general kid funk can get old fast. Fresh air goes a long way to breaking up the monotony of a long trip. Take advantage of state-run rest stops or find a close park. Pack a soccer ball, football, or Frisbee so you can burn off some energy before getting back in the car. When all else fails, find a field, parking lot, anything, and have the kids to get out and run around for a bit.
5. The journey should be just as fun as the destination.
Take this travel time to find something to do that you would never get to do at home. My family’s best memories from trips are of places we never intended to stop. Travel the back roads and explore quaint little towns that you never knew existed. Stop to eat at a mom and pop diner,= where the food really is ‘a slice of heaven’ and you are treated like family. A road trip is supposed to be an adventure, so embrace it!
6. Feed the problem.
Having snacks for everybody at the ready is a vital component of road trip success. There is something about an extended period of time in the car that turns kids into a ravenous pack of wolves. Growling, drooling, and baring of teeth are to be expected if you let your kids go too long without something to eat. You can quickly tame the hungry beasts by having snacks at the ready. AT ALL TIMES. Pack easy snacks like crackers, jerky, and granola bars. Trust me, avoid overly sweet snacks, as you could quickly end up with car sick wolves. And no one wants to travel the next 3 days in a car that smells like vomit.
7. Don’t be afraid to unleash the screens.
At home I would be demanding they go outside and get dirty instead of mindlessly staring at a screen for hours, but on a road trip mindless screen time is not only allowed, it’s highly encouraged.
However, I like to save these brain-numbing devices for the moment right before I threaten to throw all the kids from the moving car. If I give them up too soon, they lose their appeal (and power), so timing is crucial. Once they are engrossed in their screens, the car gets blissfully quiet and I get some small degree of sanity back. Because like the saying goes, ‘If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy’.
A cross country road trip can be daunting, but just remember, if you embrace the adventure you can enjoy the journey. As a mom who has taken numerous road trips with her car jam-packed with 6 kids, trust me, it is actually possible for you to not only survive, but thrive.