I remember being absolutely terrified and adverse to drives over 30 minutes when our first child was born. We were living in Tacoma, WA, and nothing could persuade us to travel to Portland, OR (an hour and a half away–and a city filled with books, flowers, and craft beer… our favorite things!). But moving to southwest OK and becoming glampers has changed all of that. What’s that? A two-hour drive to go fishing for an hour before we hit triple digit heat? Let’s go! So let’s talk road trips!
Last week I drove to Minneapolis, MN (over 900 miles) with our two daughters. By myself. Yes, I was terrified. Yes, TJ had a very real concern for my sanity. Yes, I planned where we would stop based on proximity to Chili’s restaurants (5 year-olds can be very selective). And you know… it wasn’t really that bad. Before I continue, however, I’ll admit that road trips are a different beast with babies, so we’ll save that for another time.
Now, I’ll tell you there are two big things that kept this, like most of our long road trips, under control: movies and bribes. As I’ve written about before, I used to have lots of “ideas” on child rearing. One of these being “No screens in the car.” Yeah, I know… that’s crazy. We know that (now). When we eventually relented to the “no screens rule” (it didn’t take long), we started with an iPad when our youngest was 3, then eventually each kid had an iPad when we road tripped, always (ALWAYS) with headphones… so we wouldn’t have to hear the theme to Thomas the Train continuously for 6 hours straight. Then, in a moment of unbridled paranoia the day before this trip, I bought a two-screened DVD player for the car. Let me tell you why:
1. If you’ve ever traveled with more than one kid, you know the cardinal rule of kid-interaction: “Whatever the other kid has is WAY better than what I have.” Movies and apps are no exception. So, force them to watch the same thing at the same time, and let the communal eye-rolling at mom begin. Voila! Bonding!
2. Two year olds fat finger things on iPads as much as I do, which is a lot. This requires attention and correction of random “iz boken!” issues every 10-20 minutes. Yeah, let’s not have to do that when there’s only one adult in the car.
3. DVDs are only so long. Given an iPad, my kids will use that thing until the batteries are dead… like a horse locked into a barn of hay, they will continue to consume until something dies. With a DVD, they have screen time for like two hours, then they have to come up for air. This helps me feel like a parent with principles. HA.
So I worked it like this: movie then audiobook or music. And usually towards the last bit of the audiobook we all had to stop for a pee break and then we’d start the routine all over again.
That brings me to audiobooks… some of my favorite things ever. Before heading out on trips, we visit the library and pick out some audiobooks for the road. Some for the kids, and some for the grown ups. Usually the girls say they don’t want to listen to the audiobook when we’re on the road, even if they picked it out, so naturally I put it on anyway and turn the sound up so they HAVE to listen to it. Within minutes, they’re totally into it, and we hear the “Nate the Great” series seven times before we reach our destination.
So now onto the bribes. Bribing kids is an art, you have to know the little and big things that bring out their best behavior. For my kids, good bribes are lollypops and swings, great bribes are chocolate and pools. So I alternated. “If you guys can agree on the movie, we’ll have lollypops.” “No fighting all day and we’ll go swimming when we stop.” It usually works, usually. Since we needed to press and fit in eight hours of driving each day, there wasn’t a lot of time for fun stops, which would have also been used for bribes. However, we have a tradition of stopping at the nearest town around lunch time and find the city park for run around time and a picnic lunch. I plan for about an hour of this, so we can all get some fresh air and get out of the car, even when we’re towing the Airstream. My kids are obsessed with “swimming,” which at this point is really glorified dog paddling with float-vests, but I do see them as future olympic free-style champions. So of course we stay somewhere where there is a pool and splash around before we do anything else, even dinner, because tired kids at a restaurant are way easier than squirrely kids.
Other things that help on our road trips are little surprises:
1. New comic books mixed in with the books they chose to bring.
2. New coloring books can also be exciting, just make sure each kid has their own cup of crayons, or you’ll be using that last unbroken purple crayon as a hostage.
3. Snacks with traces of chocolate, the chocolate chunks always look bigger on the wrappers.
Needless to say we survived this long road trip, and it was actually pretty fun.
What road trip tricks do you like to use?