Well, nothing like the last minute. StuntMom asked me last week about writing an article on roadtrips, and a week later, under the gun big time (I leave for Boston for my 60 mile Breast Cancer Walk in 3 hours), here it is.
The kids and I go on roadtrips on a regular basis. We drive down to Massachusetts to visit friends and family, to Connecticut, to Michigan, to Ohio. We get around. And the trips are relatively painless. Here are my tips for roadtrip success:
Have a well stocked shoebox sized container of crayons, paper, colored pencils, stickers, scissors, colored index cards, etc. (I love the little $1 Dover Publication booklets - perfect size for the car.) The kids use a cookie sheet (bought esp. for the car, no burned nastiness on these) for a work surface. It works perfectly, as it keeps the stuff from rolling around as the car moves. Crayons are kept in a small one serving yogurt container, which fits into the cup holder of carseats. Again, this minimizes the mess factor. No glue sticks, no markers in the car. And before they move on to another toy/activity, make sure the arts and crafts box is cleaned up.
For my youngest, I have a little backpack filled with some cars and misc. toys he never sees - they are exclusive "road trip" toys. I put the backpack right next to him, and he entertains himself for hours. He is 16 months, and is not yet allowed to use the arts and crafts box. He only gets a magnadoodle (also only a car toy) for expressing his creativity.
Food is an important part of longer roadtrips. We always pack a special lunch for the first day of our drive. This summer, sushi and spring rolls were the menu of choice. Pick a special food, something the kids don't get every day, something they love, for lunch. It gives them something to look forward to. Snacks are also helpful in keeping the peace. I pack a big bag of popcorn, along with bowls for everyone. Peanut butter crackers are also very popular with the entire family. And I know many of you may not approve, but we stock candy. Smarties take a good amount of time to eat, so are a good choice. Dum Dum lollipops also work well for us. I keep it simple, not too many choices. I would highly recommend making a rule: no wrappers or garbage on the floor.
Which leads me to: Pack some bags for garbage, and teach your family the importance of using them. A clean car makes for a much more civilized roadtrip. Pack a roll of paper towels and cleaning solution, just in case. You never know when car sickness may hit.
When you take pee breaks, make sure everyone gets out and runs around. Let the kids stretch their legs and breathe fresh air. This really helped this time around - my daughter didn't get sick even once. If you have a child that is borderline potty trained, let him/her wear a pull-up.
No books are allowed, as they just make the kids throw up. Each child gets to bring a pillow, to make the ride a bit more comfortable. After every meal or big snack, we have "quiet time," when we just look out the window and quietly chat about what we see. This gives their stomachs time to digest their food, which results in less puking. Spontaneous naps often happen at this time.
Let's see, what else? Toys. I found that the less the kids bring, the better off they are. For our most recent roadtrip to the midwest, I allowed each of the older kids to pick out one toy each to play with, and this worked wonders. Jimmy brought along a few of his take along trains, Bea brought some dolls. With only one toy to play with, they stayed focused on their play for an extended period of time.
Well, this is not my most organized piece of writing, but I hope I inspire you to enjoy your trips, make them fun! Don't dread getting into your car with your family for your summer roadtrip! You can make it a good time!