By Michelle Mady
My family of seven is often found on the road, exploring the country, especially in the spring and summer. Over the years, we have traveled from Boston to Toronto, St. Louis, New Orleans and Orlando. We are planning a trip to Arizona in the summer. We started these multi-day trips when my children ranged in age from 2 to 12.
So, how did we survive being on the road for three or four days before getting to our final destination?
Share The Load
My husband and I have a system. We switch driving every two hours. Now, could I drive for more than two hours? For sure, but my needed recovery time would be longer. Swapping every two hours, before we get tired, gives us more overall time on the road. It also serves as a reminder that children pee more often than adults. So, every two hours we have a drive swap, snack time, bathroom break and leg stretch. It helps to keep the kids fresh, having them hop out for a minute every two hours. It might seem like a lot of stopping, but it keeps us going longer overall.
Skip The Games
Roadtrip games are great for the short term. Looking for license plates from different states is so much fun until hour five where you are seeing many of the same states. I Spy can only entertain you for so long. Other games need a moderator to oversee the game, which tends to be the non-driving parent. And this, in turn, makes your rest between driving duty more stressful than driving. So, as much as these games are entertaining for day-trip road adventures, a long haul needs different support.
Stock up on Individual Activities
Grab a travel lap desk for each child. Many of them secure in place and do not interfere with the safety of the car seats. Load it up with a white board, dry erase markers, coloring sheets, colored pencils and some small toys. Make sure to add some new, never been seen items to increase the excitement factor. With a car full of people, quiet down time or personal space can be limited. This helps give some space boundaries as well as encouraging some independent play so the non-driver can rest and the driver can stay undistracted.
Build in Time for Side Adventures
One of our favorite stops included a town in Illinois that featured the world’s largest mailbox, which you can actually drop your mail in! It is three stories tall and shares the small town with a 49-foot tall wind chime, a 30-foot tall gold tee, and 10-foot long clogs. Yes, this roadside attraction is silly, but it was a great place to take a break from the car. Build in a few hours for these types of stops and keep your eyes on the tourist signs on the side of the road. We also visited the USS South Carolina battleship, our first Cracker Barrel restaurant, and tried a real Georgia peach using this “spot a sign” stop planning system!
Tune in to Satellite Radio
Have you ever traveled somewhere and you are in between large cities, so your radio options are talk radio or showtunes? While both have some value, you have to be in the mood for those few stations. We use our own playlists a bit, but when you are in the car for a few days, the monotony of the same playlist, especially including songs from “Trolls” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” can get to even the most patient of us. We have Sirius XM and listen to Kids Place Live, which is great fun for both the children and adults in the car. Even my teenage boys enjoy it! The DJ’s take children callers and share some crazy facts. Having some new form of entertainment is a great way to pass time in the car.
Road trips can be a great way to see so much of the country. We use it as an adventure and sometimes let the children choose our next stop. We drive from breakfast to dinner and grab hotel rooms along the way. It is not only cheaper than flying, but the side adventures we have in the car are memories I hold so dear.
About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15. As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.
Photo credit: iStock.com/fatcamera