Back when I was a kid, road trips were less civilized. As a family of six, we would cram into a two-door Ford Escort that had a tendency to overheat and head down the freeway. Car seats at the time were optional, and since we didn’t have room, my baby brother would often ride on the dashboard in order to nap.
Food on the road consisted of hot dogs, sans buns and condiments. I learned about blow jobs, compliments of my older sister, who thought it was hilarious to use one of the hot dogs as her prop. Needless to say, I never looked at hot dogs the same way again.
These days, thanks to minivans, SUVS, gaming systems and various electronics, entertaining your kids on the road has never been easier. The well-organized parent packs Pinterest-worthy activity bags, customized to their child’s interests. What with snacks, books and drawing materials, there simply is no excuse for complaining children.
In our dreams, right?
Because no matter how well you plan a journey, it is only a matter of time before the inevitable happens, that question we parents secretly fear.
“Are we there yet?”
I consider myself a fairly seasoned traveler kind of parent because in order to see any family, we have to make the effort. While the challenges of travel vary based on the age of the kids, taking a road trip can prove to be a life-altering experience, causing you to question why the hell you had children in the first place.
On my first road trip with children, I had visions of leisurely stops along the way. I planned to enjoy scenic views and locally made ice cream. I decided I would make lasting memories with my kids and create a scrapbook fellow parents would drool over. However, after the 50th bag of fruit snacks was thrown to the latest screaming child, my optimism was crushed. This was in no way a vacation. Rather, it felt like penance for past sins committed. Tears, hair pulling, frantic stops at Target to replace the bathing suit left at home, promises of Slurpees and gummy worms left unfulfilled and desperate attempts to find the nearest playground became my reality.
I learned some things the hard way, and after the millionth road trip, I think I have it down. Here are 9 ways to successfully road trip with kids:
1. Calculate the length of your trip time-wise and double it. This will prevent you from going all Sons of Anarchy on your kid when you stop at every single rest area.
2. Pack hand wipes and don’t forget toilet paper in the event of unforeseen roadside diarrhea.
3. When your kid says they need to throw up, believe them.
4. Don’t let your kid eat when climbing and descending winding roads. (see above)
5. If your kids start to whine and bicker, roll down all the windows and turn up the music so you can’t hear them. There is a time and place for ignoring your children, and this is one of them.
6. Pull over and tell the kids to get out when they throw a tantrum. Make them run behind the car while you continue to drive. It’s surprisingly effective.
7. Don’t be afraid to use Benadryl.
8. Bribery is not only highly encouraged, it’s an approved form of parenting while on a road trip.
9. If your car doesn’t have a DVD player or at least a portable one, God help you.
I know this sounds discouraging, but please believe me when I say there is actually a silver lining. Traveling actually gets a little easier as kids get older. In fact, the tables turn a bit.
Now I find that I’m the one that needs to stop and pee at every rest stop, I’m the one who is secretly grateful for that extra roll of TP I packed, I’m the one my kids drown out by turning up their music, and I’m the one asking if we are there yet.
Just consider it payback.
Disclaimer: OK, OK … maybe don’t let your kids actually run behind your moving vehicle. Also, it’s probably best to wait on dosing Benadryl until you talk to a medical professional as well. In other words, not me.