Thinking about taking a road trip across country with the kids and looking for some tips? Are you hoping to connect and bond with those adorable offspring as well as cross some items off of your bucket list? Well, you have come to the right place! I’m pretty much an expert in this field (self-described) as we’ve just come back from our 6th annual Family Road Trip Extravaganza. I thought I would jot down some helpful tips while still fresh in my memory for anyone in need.
- Two months before the trip: Sit down with your significant other with Google maps and decide where you are going. Talk about all the historical sites you are going to see, the “off the beaten paths” you are going to take, and long winding roads leading to the gorgeous scenery you will explore as a family. Then scrap that fantasy and re-map a plan that includes all highway driving to get you as quickly as possible from one hotel to another. One with a pool and a separate bedroom door that you can lock.
- One month before the trip: Scour Pinterest for “Best Road Trip Activities for Kids,” and purpose in your naive little brain to do every one of them. Next, blow your entire trip budget on Amazon purchasing books, car games, crayons, coloring books, markers, binders, headphones, legos, Mad Libs, and literally any other random “car activity” thing they offer. It doesn’t really matter because about an hour into the trip the crayons will be broken and strewn around your car, your kids will be fighting over car scavenger hunt and you’ll probably have Lego’s permanently embedded into your vehicle. On second thought, save some money and just buy yourself some earplugs.
- One week before the trip: Pack busy bags with above trip paraphernalia while lecturing your kids about not rotting their brains by limited screen time on this trip. Point out to them the incredible opportunity to learn and grow as a family. Put together state fact sheets, math facts, and any other historical information sheets for the kids to color and fill out. Include a journal so they can keep track of all of their adventures. When you get to your first destination throw everything together in a pile outside of the car, douse with gas, and set on fire.
- Two days before the trip: Pull out a duffle bag or suitcase for each family member. Meticulously gather clothing for however many days you will be between a laundromat. Thoughtfully put outfits together for each child to wear that will correspond to each days destination. Then wad everything up and throw in whichever bag. Trust me. By day 5 you will notice your kids probably haven’t changed their clothes since you left-ketchup stains and all, your car will smell like feet, and no one has actually bathed since leaving. Unless you count hotel pools as a bath. Which I do.
- Trip kickoff day! Parent must-haves: Gum, coffee, a good GPS system, music or podcasts chosen, coffee, earplugs, a sense of humor, coffee, and an electric cattle prod that reaches all the way to the back seat. Don’t judge. You were looking for tips, remember?
- On the road – What to expect: Day 1 – The first 10 minutes. Silence. Awesome. Whatever you do, do not start congratulating yourself here. They are just ripping through those busy bags that you put together. State and math facts? They’re going on the floor to be crushed underfoot along with the crayons at every potty stop. Everything else is just being manhandled by little hands. Once they realize that their choices are reading and license plate bingo, you will be assailed with the questions. “Are we almost there yet?” “How many more hours.” “I have to go potty.” Do not, I repeat, Do NOT, under any circumstances, answer any question. You will set a precedence. Just threaten to stay at a hotel with no pool.
On the road – More what to expect: Somewhere around day 7-10. You will lose your mind. Then, you will throw every piece of electronics in the car, from tablets to DVD remote, at them and command them, in Batman’s voice, to “Go ahead and ROT YOUR BRAIN!”
- If you’ve made it this far, you might be having a change of heart. Please don’t. Car road trips with your kids are truly amazing. Yes, they are exhausting and can be frustrating and even frightening. Just try taking your 3-year-old who wants to touch everything into potty at pretty much any gas station. You will have nightmares for a week.
Seriously, it is all worth it. To see their eyes light up at first sight of the ocean. To watch them marvel at amazement at God’s handiwork in the mountains. To hear them chatter with each other and listen to their little stories. Yes, some things get old like trying to explain how far 250 miles is to a 7-year-old or how long 2 hours is to a 3-year-old. And yes, my car still smells like a strange mixture of feet and burgers but I would do it all over again. I look forward to these trips every year. It’s a time for my husband and me to connect with the kids and each other and to drink way too much coffee. A time to enjoy each other and just be.
If the opportunity presents itself to road trip with your kids, do it! Don’t be overwhelmed. Remember, we’re parents. We can do anything. At least in our kids’ eyes and with plenty of Jesus and coffee.