One ritual that every family will eventually participate in is the road trip. The routine is universal. Wake up early, get the car packed, throw the kids in the back seat, and head off to Aunt someone-or-other’s house. But, somewhere down the road, one or both of the kids will have to pee. Maybe boredom will have set in after 10 minutes in the car and they’ll start complaining about how long it’ll take to get there. Maybe one of the kids will suddenly have to barf. It’s always something. One parent has to drive and the other has to control the uncontrollable kids. Everyone plays their role, and it gets frustrating quickly. The farther down the road we get the more we ask ourselves how important seeing Aunt someone-or-other really is. There are several things parents can do to make a road trip a little less of a hassle. There are essential items to bring as well as specific techniques to use. Here they are:
Things to bring and do…
Change of clothes
On a road trip there are certainly clothes in the trunk. But that isn’t good enough. It’s best to have a change of clothes right in the cabin. When Johnny barfs on himself or falls face first in a puddle in the Burger King parking lot it’s annoying and difficult to go rummaging around the trunk for a change of clothes. If it’s icy or otherwise freezing outside having clothes handy and ready is a relief.
This includes wipes as well as leather or upholstery cleaner. When it’s time to stop at a hotel or it’s early in the morning the night after staying at a hotel it’s a good time to brush out the car and check for any spots that need immediate cleaning attention. Cars become incredibly messy on longer road trips. Spilled juice and various other accidents can add stress to the trip that doesn’t need to be. Go through the effort to clean spills, and accidents suddenly become less irritating.
Anything that keeps the kids happy and keeps dad from driving into a ditch. DVD players are good as are hand held video games. The standard family road games like “I spy” are good too, but honestly I’d rather not have to participate in entertaining the kids while driving. This is where modern gadgets are invaluable. The goal is to keep the kids distracted for a while, not to educate them or otherwise have family bonding time.
The United States is full of roadside attractions and National parks to go see. Take advantage of that and go see something new. Everyone will get their legs stretched and it’s a good opportunity to put the camera on a fence post and take a picture of everyone pretending to be happy. 20 or 30 years in the future nobody will remember the miserable long hours driving because there’ll be a picture of everyone standing in a field smiling. It’s much better than taking a picture at a rest stop on the New Jersey turnpike.
Never leave home without it. Mom (or whoever is navigating) has enough to worry about with managing the kids to also be an effective navigator. Just plug in the GPS and there’ll be nobody to blame except the driver for getting lost. Dad certainly wouldn’t dare yell at himself, right?
Boys are much easier in this department. When they have to pee and the car is 40 miles from anywhere just pull over and have them pee in a bottle. I would suggest not stopping at all while they pee in a bottle but that would be illegal – wouldn’t it? Don’t forget also to dispose of the bottle. Nobody wants to confuse it with the apple juice. Girls are a bit trickier and I don’t have any personal experience. I have, however, been told that it’s good to have a privacy towel handy in case she has to do her business on the side of the road.
Family road trips are a fact of life for which preparedness is essential. One parent drives while the other tries to control the kids. For their part, the kids make messes and try to entertain themselves. Everyone has a job and everyone needs as little stress as possible. DVD players and video games keep the kids entertained while GPS keeps the navigator from having to navigate (and getting yelled at). A clean car keeps everything in perspective and calm. When the family finally does arrive at Aunt someone-or-other’s house they will feel good and satisfied that the trip was a success. And, years down the road there will be proof of what a successful trip it was. There will be photos of that roadside attraction where everyone pretended to smile.