Thursday, April 14, 2011

Planning a Road Trip with Kids- part 1

Let's get real, folks.  Road trips just aren't as fun as they were back in the old days.  And by "old days" I, of course, mean when I was a kid.  Did they even have roads before then?  Yeah, that's what I thought.  I've heard stories about cave dwelling and stuff, but it's all very mysterious for the most part.


Back when I was a kid, we could fold the back seats of the station wagon down flat, effectively creating a Playground/Dance Floor of Summertime Fun, which could then be covered with blankets and thus transformed into the Super Awesome Super Soft Car Camping Bed of Summertime Fun.  Throw me a bag of Doritos and "The Wishsong of Shannara" (10 points to anyone who knows what the heck I'm talking about), and I was good to go.  This meant that if we were "making good time" we could probably drive for eight days straight without wasting time or money on the lamest of all lame things: sleeping.  Well.  Now kids have to be all buckled and sitting up straight and in car seats.  They can't roll around or groom the dog or challenge each other to a proper arm-wrestling match.

 road trip in Toyota Sienna

How is a mother supposed to change the diaper of her small child whilst careening down the freeway at 80 miles per hour if her baby has to be all... SAFE?  So unfair.

I bring all this up because back in the day, planning for a road trip with kids was a lot different (read: nonexistent ) than it is today.  And in the nine years of parenting that I had engaged in leading up to our departure from California to Michigan, I had not planned, taken, nor even thought about a long drive with children.  Um, yeah...I might be crazy but I'm no masochist.  Unfortunately, I couldn't have my cake and eat it too (don't you hate when that happens?) and if I wanted to ever live in the house we'd bought, I was gonna have to go there.  I was forced, against every life-preserving fiber of my being, straight into the dreaded Land of 10,000 Drive-thru Meals located deep in the heart of Continuous Bickering.

Surviving such an adventure is no small task.  And it was hard for the grown-ups too.  In the end though, it turned out so much better than any of us expected and was actually (and I am being serious when I say this) a lot of fun.  I know!  What the heck am I smoking?!?!  But seriously, I'm serious.  With the right research, planning, and attitude (do I sound like an inspirational speaker yet?) even a 35 hour car ride with four kids can be an adventure worth remembering.  But, seeing as I've already rambled on for almost five paragraphs , the actual tips and tricks for planning a long road-trip with kids will have to wait for another day.  Please...try and choke back your tears of disappointment.  Installment number two is coming soon, I promise!


  1. Ha! I remember taking my first roadtrip where I didn't feel like the lazy kid in the back anymore (I had to, gasp, drive!). It really made me appreciate all those long road trips we would take and I would just snooze and relax in the back.
    Hey, you might be stressed, I mean, who wouldn't be!? But I am sure the kiddos are loving it. It is all about making memories right?! right?! :) lol

  2. You strapped them to the roof of the car. That is what was fun, you couldn't hear them scream. This is just a guess. I'm not a parent.

    Road trips with my folks were a crap shoot. Nothing like two adults chain smoking with the windows rolled up because it was winter in MN! At the time I thought nothing of it. Now I realize that probably would be frowned on today. Good times.

  3. @Texa- Kids have got it made these days, it's true!

    @Bernie- OMG haha! That's exactly what I mean when I say planning was nonexistent back then!

  4. Love this! I wrote something similar last year, a nice memory of simpler times going on an outing with the kids. Sharing the link here if you'd like to read it...

    My hub's business involves connecting people and kids to every electronic device available in their cars; families can't make a 5 minute trip without the children watching DVD's and playing games. Like, whatever happened to looking out the window and enjoying the world outside?

    Have a good one!

  5. We drove from Austin to Indianapolis for Christmas this winter with the three kids and the dog. It's about a 22 hour drive.

    I literally planned for weeks. I won't list all my activities until I see your list because that would feel like stealing your post and well, that's just sort of mean and I'm super nice.

    Can't wait to hear what you did. I think I understand how it could have been fun, though I still think a good 2 hour ride with plenty of stops is better. :)

  6. You had me picturing trips to northern Michigan, riding in the back of Grandpa's VW bus. Grandpa dampened the ambiance a bit by smoking cheap cigars, chewing Mail Pouch tobacco and spitting in a cup, and playing the same 8-track tape of polkas on a perpetual loop. But, we would still look forward to every trip up north. LOL

    Wishsong of Shannara. Shannara series by one of my favorite authors, Terry Brooks. :)

  7. @Patty- I hear ya! I'll admit that we take advantage of what I used to consider to be our fair share of electronics and then I find out that first graders have their own ipods on the bus so that they have "something to do" for 12 minutes and I'm thinking: how 'bout make a friend???

    @Leslie- Oh yes, it took WEEKS for us to make that drive come together. My husband would have thought I was a lunatic if he wasn't already accustomed to this kind of shenanigans! And then he was all "Wow, you're awesome" when it all came together. hah!

    @Dave- 10 big points for YOU Mr. Wojkyljktljktyljka! (or whatever your name is ;) ) That image of your grandad is cracking me up, too :)

  8. roadtrips??? oh my, I remember a 13 hour trip with our then 2 daughters...we were in to hour 5 or so and the youngest one threw up all over the back yeah, we have to pull over at a gas station and try to clean up her and the car as best we can and still drive the rest of the way with the car smelling ever so lovely!!!! :)

  9. Fortunately, living in a place accessible only by plane or boat prevented us from taking road trips with our kids. But we did have some fun ferry rides on the Alaska Marine Highway! (The ferry from Bellingham, Washington to Juneau takes three glorious days, with plenty of room for kids to run around, sleep, read, play games, eat food that we brought with us (or food from the great cafeteria). As road trips go, I recommend it!

  10. You betcha road trips aren't what they used to! I remember when I was 13 and we had to drive cross country to get from California to South Carolina. Three kids, three dogs, and two adults in the car. Imagine that! No portable VCR's or electronic games or Ipods. I don't know how we survived...oh I know, with laughter and the ziplocs with games and books my Mom used to put together for us. Try giving that to a child nowadays and more than likely he/she will throw it out the window!

  11. I will fully admit that I am the iPod, portable DVD, and please-stick-your-nose-in-your-cell- phone Mom when on road trips. I want to focus on the road and be left the heck alone - besides, my kids are pretty much together 24-7 at the house anyway, there is no need for them to "bond" when Mum is chugging down the road at 75 MPH trying to drown out all passenger noise with her 70's punk mixes.

  12. We need the next installment before July, please. Can you do that? We're accustomed to 12 hour jaunts to the Midwest, but this year we were dumb enough to say yes to a 16-17 hour trip. Yikes.

  13. @melody-mae: oh my gosh, that must have been a stench to remember!

    @Paula: The ferry sounds amazing! Although, I don't know if I could do that for three whole days... :)

    @Bella: It's funny that we remember the trips as kids as so much fun, but I bet if we ask our moms they'd burst into tears just having us remind them of the horror ;)

    @Ranchermom: Now that kids have to be all buckled in and motionless during a trip (and of course, my anti-safety claims were all tongue-in-cheek), the electronics really do come in handy. It's not like they can do the awesome stuff I used to be allowed to do!

    @Jim or Amy (y'all should sign your comments so I know who I'm talking to ;) ): Yes...soon. Not tomorrow though. Gotta switch things up, you know? Where are you guys going this summer?

  14. "the dreaded Land of 10,000 Drive-thru Meals located deep in the heart of Continuous Bickering." Best quote of the day PERIOD. I loved this post! I'm quickly seeing that you're going to keep me cracking up :) Can't wait for part 2.

    Oh, and I know what you mean about the whole backseat playground thing. When my cousin and I were little, we would turn the backseat of my mom's van into a fort and everything else under the sun. We were rarely in our seats and buckled in. *sigh* Those were the days.

  15. I seriously bring this up all the time * * road trips are rough now-a-days with the kids strapped down * * we rocked the folded down station wagon playground thing too ;)

  16. Dweej - the trip is made easier with the unbelievably gorgeous scenery, the whale sightings, and the interesting people you meet on the they have staterooms and play areas for kids. (I'm not employed by the Alaska Marine Highway, I just love traveling on the ferry!)

  17. dweej - CO this summer. Cool weather in the middle of a Texas summer = bliss...except for that whole 16-17 hour drive part.
    I have also been told that apparently the first 9 hours or so of our journey will be less than picturesque, so apparently that whole 'look out your own window' trick won't work. boo.

    (this is Amy...the previous one was Jim) ;)

  18. Dweej! I love your blog! Sorry I'm just now getting over here, the last few days have been a little crazy. But I love it! And I'm so with you on the road trip thing. I used to love road trips as a kid, and it's so sad that my kids will never experience the big, giant bed made out of folded down back seats. Lame. :(

    Anway, I'll be back more! I can't believe you bought a house off the internet. You're my hero.

  19. I am so an iPad kind of mom on the road. I remember when we didn't even need to wear our seatbelts on the road, and got to play around throughout the whole van. When I go on road trips I make sure I have plenty of snacks and drinks pack. The iPad is the life saver. I work for DISH Network and have the TV Everywhere app on my iPad. The kids can play games as well as watch TV. With the TV Everywhere they can watch live TV or their DVR recordings anywhere we are at. The kids love being able to watch their TV shows while on the road. I love it!

  20. We took lots of road trips when I was a kid (actually more like this...moving out of the place we were living in the middle of the night to go the next place in, uh, well, we'll see when we get there, but that's another story.) My sister and I used to fight over who got to lay in the rear window dashboard so we could look up at the billion and one stars you could see cause it was so dark in-the-middle-of-nowhere...

  21. I remember those days, no seat belts. Driving with the grandparents to Florida with 3 of my cousins and my brother, 6 of us in a big old chevrolet of some sort. Two of us taking turns sitting on the floor board in the back. Someone sleeping in the rear view mirror. Or how about going to the lake and cramming 11 people into your mother's car? My mom was the cool mom and even drove us all. Sitting on each other's laps. Those were the days.

  22. Oh, my I remember driving from S. CA to MT with baby brother on a small mattress placed across the seat & the styro-foam cooler. In the back of a VW bug, thru the desert I watched him.

    When we were older, we bought a couch while visiting our grandparents in Phoenix. Which meant that we had to put down the back seats in our station wagon & the (now) 3 of us had to lay on the couch or sit cramped on the floor for the 12 hr drive home!



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