Road Trip. Do those words fill you with excitement or dread? The answer may depend on the ages of your children. It may be dependent on the length of the trip or the destination.
For many years we lived in Chicagoland and my husband’s family lived mostly in central Nebraska. That is a 10-12 hour trip depending on weather, road conditions, number and length of stops, and speed limits. Thankfully the speed limits have increased. Since the oil embargo in the 1970’s forced everyone to economize fuel usage, the federal government reduced all interstates to 55 mph. Little by little states have boosted those limits. Higher speed limits make a big difference on a long road trip.
I clearly recall one particular trip to Nebraska in our sea-green four-door Plymouth Horizon (I think this model has been discontinued). We had two sons, ages four and one. I must have been wearier than theywere because I was convinced the car was shrinking as we drove. That particular trip was so difficult for me that when we bought our next car I literally used a tape to measure its interior. I was convinced it had to be bigger than the Horizon for my survival.
Some families choose to travel long distances at night. They hope the children will peacefully sleep. We did try this a few times. Once was in the unescapable Horizon. It really did not work for us, primarily because my husband is a morning person and not at his best when driving late.
We recently took this same long trip for a family funeral. My husband and I were good travelers, but we did not have any children with us. On the other hand, one of our sons made the same trip with his pregnant wife and their five children, of whom the oldest is 10. They arrived safely and in good spirits. This latest road trip reminded me of some of the tips we gathered for friendlier travel with children.
- Children’s movies on DVD players. (we did not have this one for our children, but it would have been wonderful)
- Audio books
- Favorite music
- Picnics at rest areas are better and cheaper than eating at restaurants because of the freedom to move and run. Some areas also have playgrounds. Yes, this takes some planning. Seasonal weather can be a challenge or make picnics impractical.
- Snacks and drinks that are not too messy, but also not the typical ones at home.
- Change up the typical seating order/arrangement. Might even change seats at the half-way mark unless moving car-seats is too cumbersome.
- New coloring/activity books and markers, crayons or colored pencils.
- New toy without too many small parts to be lost.
- Travel Games. i.e. I spy something (name a color), Guess what animal I am thinking, Counting (flags, barns . . . .) on your side of the road, and Travel Bingo.
- Individual back packs in which the child has chosen the contents. Back packs provide a place for belongings and an opportunity to practice being responsible for one’s stuff.
- Whatever activities you plan, be willing to be flexible and be observant of how well each one is coping with the confinement. Making an unscheduled stop may make the rest of the trip more pleasant for everyone.
- Also carry a first aid kit, facial tissues, wet wipes, and a plastic bag for trash.
One more tip: Do your best to obtain a full night’s sleep the night before the trip. This will help everyone have a better attitude and sunnier dispositions. The driver/s will also be more alert.
Travel Prayer: Lord, watch over us as we travel. Help us to have good attitudes. May we not get lost or sick. Keep our vehicle in running order. Please keep all crazy drivers away from us. Amen.