People told me I was crazy, brave, even dumb, for doing it, but I did it anyway. This weekend, I took all four kids on a road trip. We went to Crookston, Minnesota to visit my sister and her family. It's about a four and a half hour drive. It's an easy drive.. interstate almost the entire way. But my children can make even the easiest drives super difficult, especially when the kids outnumber the adults (which, in my van, is always). Here are some of my favorite survival tips:
Electronics. Whether it's a Nintendo DS (or a DSi XL, in Jake's case), an iPod Touch, or a dvd player, electronics are key to a quiet drive. We bought our first dvd player for our van in a moment of desparation. Lexi was five, Jake was three and we had driven to northern Minnesota for a wedding. It was quite possibly the longest trip of our lives. But in 2004, dvd players in vehicles were still pretty new, and we hadn't splurged yet. I was hoping to do some research and make a smart purchase. But, after a long, painful drive to the wedding, the thought of two tired kids and two hungover parents (it was a wedding, on Brad's side of the family, of course we were a little hungover!) together in the van for six hours was too much. We stopped at the first Best Buy we found and bought the first dvd player we found. We finally replaced that dvd player last year, only to upgrade and give each of the big kids their own. Now Lizzy uses it (but will only watch Alvin and the Chipmunks and Punky Brewster). That's okay with Jake and Lexi, because they have moved onto much cooler personal electronic devices, like the DS and the iPod. I'm sure soon we'll buy something for Morgan too, just to keep her quiet. I'm not usually a big fan of video games and movies (I'd much rather my kids play outside, or use their imaginations) but when it comes to road trips, movies and video games are essential if you want to be sane when you arrive.
Food. This should be a no-brainer. Snacks are vital to surviving any trip. I have even been known to pack snacks for the trip to daycare, which is just a five minute drive. Kids who have full bellies are much happier kids than those who are starving. Plus, road trips are a good time to get the treats you don't normally give your kids. I try to limit the junk food my kids eat, but again, when it comes to road trips, all rules are pretty much thrown out the window. This weekend my kids ate Nerds (a messy, off-limits candy in everyday life), pop, and cheetos (hate the orange fingers!). They were happy and likely on a massive sugar high.
Cash. This is so important. When you're traveling with kids, there is no time to write a check, or keep track of how much you charge on the debit and credit cards. Cash is easy. When it's gone, you're done spending. Plus, sometimes it's easier to send the big kids into the gas station to buy more Nerds, pop or Cheetos.
A sense of humor. When all else fails, laugh. The three year old just spilled an entire box of Nerds in her carseat? Hilarious. The nine year old is whining about being bored. Funniest thing ever. The baby is screaming because she's tired of being in her carseat? Laugh it off. A fake laugh can quickly turn into a real laugh.
Baby wipes and hand sanitizer. These two items can make any mess disappear. Don't be caught on a road trip without lots of both. That reminds me, I need to restock the van with both.
Sunflower seeds. When everyone is sleeping, or playing with their electronic devices, driving can get pretty boring and tiresome. A bag of sunflower seeds does wonders to keep you awake. Make sure you also have something to spit the shells into.
Diet Coke. If you forget all of the above items, you'll probably survive the road trip. But if you forget the Diet Coke, you're doomed. Not only does Diet Coke go great with sunflower seeds, the empty bottle makes a great spitter for those seeds, and the caffeine also helps keep even the most road weary mom awake. But there is a fine line you can not cross.... you must have just enough Diet Coke to stay awake, but not so much that you have to stop for an unplanned bathroom break. Trust me, you do not want to upset the children who are content with their video games and movies or wake the sleeping children just to use the restroom.
Camera. A picture is worth a thousand words, so make sure you pack the camera and take lots of pictures. These road trips, no matter how long or how short, will be memories your kids, and you, will never forget