In our family, fall time means long car trips time. Summer time means long car trips time. Winter time means long car trips time and even spring means long car trips time. Last week was Dayton, Ohio, the week before was Cincinnati, Ohio, before that it was Richmond, Indiana and next week we’re off to Sandusky, Ohio.
I wish I could give you an easy fix and say, “Give ‘em Benadryl and wake them up in 4 hours” but it just doesn’t work that way. We travel with our teenagers and with our toddler often. Generally, we don’t travel with them all in the same vehicle but when we do, it makes life easier, the teens tend to entertain and help out with the baby and life is easier for the driver (me!). Please let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions.
Snack Time is Happy Time. When it was just the two of us we would make frequent stops at gas stations and grab chocolate donuts, a bag of chips, a Redbull. Now that we travel in a pack and we want to live to see our great-grandbabies, we bring our own food along and gas station stops are for gas (and the occasional treat). This has made planning ahead really important but it works! Hunger brings grumpiness so we ward grumpiness off with edible treats.
Music makes the heart sing. We take turns listening to our choice of music. Depending on the length of the trip we rotate every 15 minutes or every 20-30 minutes. It helps to point out on the clock what time it is now and what time the next person will get to choose the music. Since we generally travel outside of our regular listening area, the unfamiliarity with the radio stations wastes time so we build play lists on our iphone or ipod. You can find inexpensive MP3 players on Amazon. Songs that you can sing along to or that your whole family knows are even better. OR, if you have time, create a play list that includes favorites of each person in turn!
Travel games speed time up. Many games come in tiny travel sizes which is great for older kids but not so great for toddlers. We don’t use a lot of electronic hand held games but when we do allow for it on our car rides it’s for a set amount of time because participation in family conversation and learning times is important. That’s not to say that this rule won’t change in the future but for now we have avoided handheld electronic consoles and in vehicle television sets. We try to play 20 Questions, Traveling Word Riddles, the License Plate Game, Alphabet Games, Memory and so many more!
Stop for a stretch and some fresh air when tension is getting high or even better, BEFORE!
Give Each Person a Job. On our way to our destination each person will have a job. Each time we stop at a gas station it’s one family members job to swipe the credit card and fill the gas tank (this was supervised closely for several trips and now is a natural for the older children we travel with), one family member is in charge of cleaning the windows (sometimes we have two family members assigned to this depending on their ages) and another family member cleans all of the trash out of the car while another fills everyones water bottles. Of course EVERYONE uses the bathroom!
While I know that these ideas will not take care of ALL situations on your road trip, hopefully they will help make road trips a little easier. Don’t forget to leave your suggestions in the comments below!