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Tips for family car trips

The road to summer fun

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By Sarah Lemanczyk, for Betty Confidential

If you've ever driven 1,800 miles to Florida in a Chevette with four people, a jumbo red Coleman cooler, a canvas tent and you're me, then you too probably angered your father to the point where he shoved a McDonald's soft serve cone straight from the drive-thru window into the ashtray to prove a point.

But if you're not me, and you're a bit apprehensive about loading the kids in the car for days at a time -- rest assured it can be done, with a minimum of physical and emotional clean-up.

I have three kids now, ages 6, 4 and 20 months. I've driven them across country and back; I've done it pregnant with a toddler in tow, with two in tow, with just a baby and the classic cross-country move while pregnant in a U-Haul. In tandem with my obvious cheapness, I genuinely love a good drive. The highway, the mileage signs, that first coffee of the morning from some out-of-state gas station chain... I grew up in the car -- driving a couple hundred miles most weekends to see my grandparents and countless family pilgrimages to historical sites and Disney World. My own children are the current victims of this familial road-lust, and I drive them thousands of miles each summer. If you've never had your tots in the car for more than a jaunt to IKEA, you may have to build up to 800 miles a day. But you're stronger than you think.

1.) It's all mental. This is going to be fun. Tell yourself. Tell your spouse. Tell the kids. Tell the neighbors, the grocery clerk -- random people soliciting for political campaigns at the front door -- tell them all. The driving is going to be fun. You're looking forward to the drive, to spending all that quality front-seat time talking, to seeing the countryside at eye level. To the heaps of money you'll save over the privilege of having your children's shoes x-rayed... Whatever, but really, talking -- especially about what's going to be fun -- will actually help it be fun, even when you've somehow missed the entrance to the New York State Throughway and your husband is gesticulating wildly at you, at the wadded up map in your sweaty hands and screaming, "Did you see it with your own eyes?" Reminding yourself that this is fun will also help this to become a precious memory and not the final proof that your husband is, in fact, something that rhymes with "nick."

2.) Bring earplugs. This is both a part of number one and obviously distasteful in addition to being grossly unsafe. But you're only human. My husband always brings ear plugs in case all three children are crying and I'm still at it about the stinginess of the hotel towel situation from the previous night's stay. He's never actually used them, but the fact that they're there, sitting on the dashboard, that's all he needs. It's like having a plan to fake your own death -- sure, you don't think you're ever going to use it, but just knowing that your plan is to get on a Greyhound bus, head to Alaska, and work the fishing industry is enough to get you through the day. But perhaps now I've said too much.

1 comment so far...

  • I know family car trips can be a little stressful with little ones but I like to give them a little whiteboard and Expo Washable Markers (safe on car upholstery). They can draw pictures or create and play games with each other while on the road. It keeps them occupied while traveling long hours.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Angela on 15th November 2010