Last weekend, our family went on a road trip from 765-mile road trip for one my brother’s graduation for his Masters in Education. It was cheaper than flying all of us an not at guilt-inducing as me abandoning the family for a weekend. Before the trip, we kept asking ourselves if we were crazy but it was a very enjoyable trip and we are so glad we got to go. We also met up with some family up there and another very good friend who also happened to receive her Masters in the same city as my brother!
How on earth did we survive that 14-hour long car trip (that would have taken others only about 11 – 12 hours)? I’ll share 7 “Quick Tips” for
today’s yesterday’s Friday Quick Takes. Here are some tricks we used based on ideas from friends and ones I’ve just picked up along the way.
1. Books and Audio Books
Before our trip, we went to the local library and stocked up on books and audio books! Having a fresh set of new books to read kept the five-year-old especially happy for the first few hours of the trip.
I also took advantage of all the fee time and finished reading Love the Home You Have by Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart!
I reeeeaaally enjoyed both of those as part of a book review exchange coming soon and I am SUPER excited to chat with Dr. Popcack about his book this coming Monday! I’ll be sure to add that interview on my YouTube HangOuts playlist as well as the audio version to The Simplemama Podcast.
The kids love having a book read to them, even the ones who can read. When I couldn’t crank my neck back to read to them anymore, or get older sister to read to them, we put in a book with a CD so they could listen and follow along. That also kept my husband and I alert and entertained while driving. My favorite one to listen to was Big Wig.
What a silly – and sometimes gross – history of hair! I thought it was hilarious and fascinating. And now I understand where the term “big wig” comes from.
Books and “activity sheets” can only get you so far in a long road trip. I did pack them all bags with coloring books and such but they got bored of those fast. Eventually, the roadkill hit the tires and everyone hit their breaking point. These are times I thank God for modern technology in vehicles that enable us to put on a movie, or two…or three for the kids. We brought a few of our own but mostly watched ones we found at the library – making sure all of them stayed in the car at all times and made it back to the library before the library erected a new wing in our name from all the fine money. (Although, we’ve probably given them enough to do that already.)
The kids really liked The Sword in the Stone, Charlotte’s Web (1973), but were somewhat “reluctant” to watch The Reluctant Dragon. By that time in the trip, we were about 2 hours from home and they were all just ready to get out of the car and sleep in their own beds again.
Books and Movies are great for the passengers, but how on earth does a driver stay awake not go out of their minds while driving for hours on end? Music. My husband hooked up a special device in our car that allows us to stream music, podcasts, an phone calls through the van’s speakers (since we don’t have any of those new-fangled cars that come with all those features.) So we went through quite the assortment of songs on Spotify.
My favorite part of the car trip was when Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody came on. Aside from the first part with the not-so-happy lyrics, the rest of the song is so random and crazy that it caused a riot for the kids and before long we were all singing and bashing our heads around and laughing with it. It was great.
Along with music, listening to another person’s voice talking directly into my ears was a great way to stay alert and drone out some of the background noise.
I really enjoyed the Wildly Unconventional Episode from Tsh Oxenreider‘s The Art of Simple Podcast. It’s about a family of 6, like ours, who traveled around the world for one whole year! We were only traveling to one state and back for one weekend, I couldn’t imagine going around the world and being gone for 1 year! Wow. I really love traveling and have done my fair share of world traveling. I really do hope we can show our kids more of the world, but maybe we’ll stick to one-trip-at a time in our own country for now. It was very interesting listening to this mom’s experience and if she does write a book about it I’ll definitely want to read it. (The links for that episode weren’t working when I tried posting this but maybe they’ll work for you. Or, if you subscribe to her on iTunes you should be able to listen to it. It’s from back in February.)
Ok, books, movies, music, and podcasts are great but everyone knows the most important part of any road trip is – FOOD!
I remember a time when I swore I’d never let the kids eat in the car. Ever.
But when you’re stuck in a van with hours of road ahead of you and fidgety kids, crumbs all over the van floor pale in comparison to the alternative – going crazy.
On the way up, I packed some egg breakfast wraps I’d made the night before. I wrapped them each individually in plastic wrap then put them all into a baggie. I also made individual snack bags with grapes and other munchies for each person and stuck those into another bag. The trick was to only give them one of these snack items in increments throughout the trip instead of letting them eat all the food I’d prepared before we even got out of Kansas. We did stop for lunch which made the trip take longer but it gave the kids time to stretch their legs and run around a little.
Knowing how messy eating can be with kids, I gave everyone their own plastic container. Anytime I gave them snack, we put it in their container so they’d eat over it and hopefully minimize the amount of crumbs all over the van seats and floor. Everyone was great about this – except the two-year old who basically had to be shaken and beaten like a rug (figuratively) every time we got out of the van to get all the crumbs off him and his car seat.
I also packed a diaper wipes and paper towels and kept plenty of trash bags around so when everyone finished eating, they’d each get a wipe to clean their hands and faces and a trash bag to put their trash in. I felt like an airplane stewardess as we arrived to each stopping place. “We will be landing soon, please check your area for any trash around you and put it in the trash bag.”
Taking my cues from airplane rides, I also kept “Vomit bags” and a big bowl handy “just in case”. My friend, Mary Big Hair, made a great suggestion to use seal-able ziplock bags so that, should anyone use those bags for regurgitational needs, we could keep it contained and avoid any spillage until we could safely dispose of it at our next stop. Thankfully we only had on child throw up during the trip (there’s always one) and it was not while we were in the car.
6. Pee and Poop
I also kept a baby potty seat in our trunk just in case someone really could not hold it any longer. Thankfully we didn’t have to use that and amazingly the two-year-old kept a dry diaper the whole way and back. But at some point in the trip, we forbade them from drinking any more water and I began to seriously consider catheterizing all of them for our next road trip.
Of course this is the most important one. We started and ended our trips with a prayer of thanksgiving and petitions for a safe and fun trip. I’d like to say we are one of those families who pray a Rosary on road trips but it’s just not something very practical for us. And, I’m afraid it would be so peaceful that it would put everyone to sleep, including the driver. So I just prayed on my own throughout the trip as I usually do throughout the day and asked for patience and grace to deal with any whining and complaints.
Most of all though, I prayed that I could be a good wife and mother on this trip with my family, that I could fully take advantage of this time together and trully enjoy my family and be present to them. That’s my favorite part of taking family trips together. I can’t be anywhere but with them so I might as well make the most of it and relish it. There will be a time when they’ll all grow up and go on their own adventures without me. For now, we are in this particular adventure story together.
So there you have it, that’s how we got through – and enjoyed – our family road trip this time. I’m always looking for more ideas as we have other trips planned in the future.
How do you survive family road trips with young children?