After our recent trip to DC, I had an idea to write a post talking about how we do road trips. As I created an outline, some of the points seemed obvious and too much like filler content. Bring snacks. Everyone knows this and you know what? If you somehow forgot the carrots and hummus, or the raisins, your kids can survive off of crackers and whatever else you can scrounge up at a rest stop. I was also going to mention Waze, the app. Does everyone use this? I'm an old person, who is not really up-to-date in the tech department, but I know and use this app, so I assume everyone else is aware of its existence.
I think the discussion I really wanted to have surrounds entertaining your children in the car and their tolerance levels for road trips. My kids are not fans of driving long distances and part of that is due to the fact that they are prone to motion sickness. I am too, so I completely understand. But also, it's boring. Their words, not mine. I always think back to my parents loading up three kids (5 and under) and driving from Massachusetts to California. "Electronics" of today didn't exist at that time. There were no electronics of any kind. Everyone had telephones attached to the wall and I'm pretty sure that one of our televisions was still black and white. So what did we do? We played with toys. We used our imaginations. We looked out the window!
I have a friend with two kids slighter older than mine and when we have parenting discussions, I've been known to say, "Act like it's 1984. What would you have done back then?" Rich and I have really tried to limit screen time for the girls, but sometimes you just give in. We had a portable DVD player that we used in the van for long road trips. It wasn't ideal but it worked. We had to string it across the middle of the two front seats, which made your blind spot even blinder and because the volume had to be turned up a bit so the kid in the third row could hear, the driver and front seat passenger had a movie blasting in their ears. That DVD player began having issues a few years ago so before our road trip to Michigan last summer, we invested in dual DVD players that can be attached to the back of the headrests.
We purchased two, so there are now four DVD screens in the van. My niece was coming with us and this way, everyone had their own screen. With the dual system, only one of the screens actually plays a DVD. Yes, this means that the two kids using the same system need to agree on what to watch. Thankfully, this has never been an issue for us.
While I'm not a fan of allowing my kids to binge watch shows/movies, over the years we've found that it's one of the things they can do on the road which won't trigger car sickness. Activity books and the like are out of the question.
(I know the shoulder strap needs to be on her shoulder. The car was not moving (waiting for Rich) and she was shifting away from the sun.)
Additional thoughts on road trips:
- Start 'em young. Little kids are not going to enjoy road trips but over time, they'll get used to driving long distances. Hopefully, when they're older, they'll appreciate they opportunities they've been given.
- I've departed for road trips at all times of the day. 4:00 in the morning, 3:00 in the afternoon, midnight - that was waaaay before kids. To avoid grumpiness associated with being overtired, we've found that waking up a little bit earlier than usual and leaving in the morning works best. The drive to my grandmother's house in Michigan takes about fourteen hours. If we left at 4:00 in the morning, we'd arrive around 6:00 that night. We would also be exhausted from waking up at 3:30 in the morning. If you're disrupting your normal sleep schedule, be aware that there will be side effects.
- For everyone's sanity, make frequent stops if you need to. I know it adds time on to the drive but sometimes you just have to stop.