D.A.D.: Are Road Trips Worth the Hassle?
Driving a long distance with kids in the car can turn a fun ride into an infamous family memory.
Are we there yet?
It’s unconfirmed, but I’m pretty sure that statement entered the lexicon as soon as Karl Benz completed his modern-day automobile in 1886.
It’s summertime, and with that comes good ol’ fashioned road trips. Day trip to the beach. Weekend trip to see out-of-state family. Week-long trip to a theme park or vacation spot.
Road trips are different, I've learned, when you’ve got kids.
College road trips were sought after; they were journeys with the sole purpose of creating memories.
Early marriage drives with your spouse were exciting, as you explored landmarks and picked up–or stopped–whenever you pleased.
And then kids come into the picture. The radio volume has to come down a bit. Or maybe it's the soundtrack to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that needs to be on loop.
The evading of potholes during an in-car nap for a young one becomes more important than the trip itself. And the distractions. You better be prepared to distract them with all your might.
I learned this firsthand in the summer of 2010, when we attended a family wedding in New Hampshire. Google told us it would take about four and-a-half hours to get there, easily the longest trip we had attempted with our first son.
At the time, Jacob had just turned a year old. He was walking–not well, but mobile–and sitting still for long periods of time was becoming a thing of the past very quickly.
Among the luggage, besides clothes and toiletries, was just about every toy we could jam into our mid-size SUV. Noise-making trinkets and games. Check. Books with never-ending photos of who-knows-what. Check. Portable DVD player. Big, permanent-marker check.
The travel north wasn’t bad. Jacob took a nap–albeit a short one–at the midway point to break up the trip. As the weekend strolled along, Nancy and I conjured up this cockamamie idea that we’d forget about losing Monday to travel, and shoot home after the Sunday night wedding.
Drive through the night, spend the next day relaxing and recuperating.
We thought it was a great plan because we figured Jacob–a very good nighttime sleeper–would be out cold the whole way home.
We hit the road and the little guy was in dreamland almost immediately. Thirty minutes later, he woke up, and I guess the late night driving intrigued him.
It intrigued him for the next four hours, actually.
There was no toy, no movie, no noise that could keep him entertained–and docile–for more than a few minutes at a time.
After battling sleep and a cranky one-year-old through four New England states in the dark of night, it’s a trip that soon won’t be forgotten. If ever.
So, as you head out this week for the holiday, or maybe later this month or season for that memorable family trip, how are you going to tame the kids? How are you going to make it the awesome trip it’s meant to be, rather than the trip from you-know-where?
Looking forward to hearing your suggestions on how to keep the kids calm as you traverse America’s roadways.