My husband is originally from Savannah, Georgia. His mother still lives there, so we make the trip several times a year. I love my boys. I love their sweet little faces, the way they smell. I love to watch them discover the world. I hate being in a car with them for seven hours.
My first born is a smart kid; he’s very inquisitive and wants to know as much as possible about as many things as possible. Truly, it’s a fantastic quality. Only it’s a terrible quality when you are in a tiny box for hours on end and he has questions about literally every word you say (not even to him). Why does this take so long? When are we seeing Gran? How long will we see her? What song is this? Why is that car pulled over? Why does dad call Gran mom? You get the idea.
My younger son is too young to ask questions or talk at all, so part of my annoyance with him is simply me knowing what’s coming and projecting, but he’s no angel on these trips. He’s hungry, so we feed him. Five minutes later, he needs to be changed. Oh, he’s hungry again; now he’s napping. And now he’s awake and angry that no one is looking at him or talking to him or otherwise treating him like the prince he is.
The worst part about traveling with kids is the sheer inefficiency of it all. It takes you 28 trips to get all their stuff in the car. They need to use the bathroom every 74 miles. You have to stop and let them walk around every so often, because if you don’t they will get extremely hyper, and if that happens you will contemplate throwing yourself from the vehicle as it speeds down the interstate. A trip that should take seven hours ends up taking what feels like a week and you question why anyone goes anywhere before their kids are twelve.
In a perfect world, I’d have a driver and a sleeping pill and someone would wake me when we arrived at our destination. Alas, we do not live in a perfect world; my driver is my husband and he expects me to have conversations with him and split the drive, so I have to come up with actual coping skills so I don’t get to Savannah (or wherever), fake my own death, and start a new life as a single woman.
- Take a tablet with downloaded movies and shows. I can feel you judging me, and I don’t even care. Oh, I was like you once; I balked at the idea that children couldn’t manage a long car ride without the assistance of technology. After all, I never got to watch movies on our road trips and I survived. Then I had children and I realized my mother was a saint and deserved a medal for not developing a drinking problem or leaving us at a rest stop somewhere. Let them watch movies. Their brains will not rot.
- Take books, markers, paper, etc. Here’s the super adorable thing about kids: they stay placated for about nine and a half minutes, and then they expect you to entertain them in some new way. My child who would watch my Kindle all day long at home if I let him, only likes it for about fifteen minutes on the road. A backup plan is a mandatory. I bring books he enjoys “reading” to himself, coloring books, plain paper, and markers.
- Let them pick the music. Assuming your music tastes are decent, your kid’s probably will be too. My son loves Jon Pardi, so we play Jon Pardi. He somehow knows every word to Despacito, so Despacito it is! This is a really fun way for him to feel like he has some say in what’s happening and we all enjoy singing along and car dancing, so it helps to pass the time.
- Nap. Do you have a child that will nap? Get on your knees and thank the Lord God Almighty, because I don’t. It’s seven hours of us just chatting away, answering questions. I hear most kids fall asleep in the car in no time. If that’s your kid, appreciate it. You’ve got it made.
- Try to be patient. The truth is your kids don’t like being stuck in the car with you anymore than you like being stuck in the car with them. They don’t mean to be obnoxious; they just don’t know any other way to manage their energy and boredom. Give them a break, though it’s certainly easier said than done.
As far as I can tell, long road trips with kids make everyone crazy. Just do your best, parents. Enjoy the journey, right? RIGHT?
I want to know: Do you have any tips for surviving road trips with kids? Asking for a friend. Will literally try anything.