11 Ways To Survive A Summer Family Road Trip

by Clint Edwards
Originally Published: 
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If I had 10 hours left to live, I’d spend them on a family road trip, because, let me tell on the last road trip we took, time slowed down. It felt like an eternity.

We drove from Oregon to Idaho to visit my sister-in-law. The kids fought over everything from who got to sit in the awesome seat (a title that seemed to move from one seat to another depending on the leg of the trip), to who ate all the Doritos, to whose fart smelled worse (let me just say, the four-year-old won that title in my opinion considering it was a shart, but I didn’t cast a vote). One kid was always hot, and one was always cold. Someone always needed to pee. I was one wheel jerk away from parking the van on the side of the highway and running into the wild, never to be seen again.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I don’t know, honestly. But every summer we make a trek. We cross state lines. Sometimes several state lines. We wish that minivans came with sound proof limousine partitions so we could just slide that sucker up, and turn the front of the van into a quiet zone, and the back of the van into the thunder dome. Whoever survives gets to visit the hotel pool.

If you can’t tell, I’m as frustrated by the family road trip conundrum as you. I mean, honestly, I’m running out of ideas to make these family obligatory trips livable. So I harnessed the power of the Internet. Here are some of the tips that stood out. You’re welcome.

1. “I gave each child bag of quarters. Every time they whined or picked on sibling, I would have them pay me quarter. If they did something good they might earn a quarter back at end of trip. They got to spend their money on anything they wanted.”

WHAT?? That’s brilliant! I spend way more than a bag of quarters on therapy after a road trip so it’s a bargain.

2. “Leave early in the morning, I’m talking around 3-4 a.m. Kids fall back asleep for hours and there’s no one else on the road. Or just drive all night.”

I know a lot of parents who do this and it sounds horrible. But if you can go without even more sleep (you know what I mean, sleepless parents), then this is a good option.

3. “Tablets and chargers at the ready; coloring books and sticker books.”

This is a tried and true tactic for the digital age.

4. “Bribery: For every rest stop where they behave, they get a bronze star. For every meal when they behave, they get a silver star. And every day their behavior is more good than bad in the van, they get a gold star. Hotel behavior overnight also earns a gold star.”

The genius here is that it makes the kids feel like they are actually earning something, when in fact you are just manipulating them into not driving you bonkers.

5. “Audiobooks that the whole family enjoys, and can talk about together. We’re currently listening to Magic Treehouse with my 1- and 3-year-old, and we pause it often to talk about how everyone is feeling and what they’re experiencing.”

That just might work. And in the same vein, here are some great suggestions for podcasts. Now you just need to get your kids to agree on what to listen to first.

6. “Cookie sheets with magnet builders.”


7. “Dollar section toys and books are great because I don’t care if they get destroyed or left somewhere.”

God bless the dollar section.

8. “My family plays Lip-Sync Roulette. You turn the radio all the way down and hit the tune button until you find the next station. Whoever’s turn it is has to lip-sync whatever is playing like they were performing on stage… it keeps everyone entertained for hours.”

I actually could see this turning into an awesome YouTube clip.

9. “Empty Gatorade bottles to pee in because it never fails, someone has to pee right after you leave the bathroom.”

This might work, but honestly, my son hits the bowl with the accuracy of a Stormtrooper, so it could really backfire… if you get what I’m saying.

10. “Buy each child a giant jaw breaker, the kind with a hundred colorful layers to lick through. Make it a challenge to see who can lick through it first. Keeps them quiet for hours.”

Outside of sticky hands and faces, this might actually buy a couple hours of quiet (assuming your kids are old enough to handle a jawbreaker, of course). On a road trip… quiet is priceless.

11. “Unlimited screen time.”

Enough said.

Here are the facts. I don’t know if there is a way to 100% get around an uncomfortable road trip with children. But, hopefully these tips will at least make it a little more tolerable by using some of the tips above.

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