We are a family of road trippers, and lately my social media feed has been filled with parents asking advice as they flee to warmer climates. I watch enviously as people head to Florida or South Carolina. At this point, I’ll take less snowy, so my road trip plans tend to revolve around exotic locations such as Toronto or Hamilton.
Honestly, either place isn’t too bad, because it’s a chance for the kids to run around outdoors without their winter boots on, and stopping in at a museum is always a fun destination for our family, as we let the kids terrorize somebody else’s place for a few hours.
Bonus points if the kids actually learn something.
While it’s been said that getting there is half the fun, that’s not always the case for families of young children. I’ve driven long distances with a colicky infant, and now drive with a projectile puker and chronic seat kicker. Add in sibling fighting (‘But he’s looking at me!’) and you have anything but a peaceful car ride.
Veteran parents will tell you that getting anywhere with kids (and diapers, and mittens, and snacks, and drinks, and toys) is decidedly less than fun, and may rival major dentistry for the sheer excruciating factor.
Which brings me to the snowbird parents attempting to drive south. The discussion in my parenting groups tends to revolve around plans to drive straight through to Florida with a couple preschoolers and only a homemade bingo game to keep them occupied.
After I stop laughing, I then offer some advice, starting with the real need for entertainment. My first recommendation is to toss the notions of an electronics-free childhood aside, you need something to occupy the kids while you navigate and drive the vehicle. (And trust me, singing ninety-nine bottles wears thin pretty fast.)
Our van is usually packed with assorted stuffed animals, blankets to snuggle, an iPad for the oldest, and a portable DVD player complete with a small library of movies. And yes, we are thankful for fast play options as we’re stuck in heavy traffic.
(We managed to drive to Florida when the oldest was seven, and the toddler just a year old, with our movie and a selection of bonus features playing over the miles. It was only after the trip that I actually saw what the cartoon characters looked like.)
For any trip, our van is packed and loaded with military precision, starting with snacks. An army marches on its stomach, after all. I try to pack snacks that are easy to eat and hand out in the car, and make minimal mess. Apples, water, and crackers tend to be easy to toss at a kid when you’re stuck in traffic and they’re are screaming in the backseat. We make full use of rest stops for movement breaks and picnic lunches to save a few bucks and let the kids burn off some energy before strapping them into car seats for another couple hours.
The actual gear of road trips is decidedly less glamourous. Paper towels, plastic bags, wet wipes, spare clothes and diapers and a full change of clothes for each kid, as well as crackers, bottled water and children’s anti-nausea medication. And if you’ve seen me cleaning up a vomit-covered child and car seat on the side of the 400, you won’t question any of it.
Which leaves me thinking that whoever said ‘getting there is half the fun’ never had children. Or a mini-van that smells like stale milk.
Amanda Moore is a freelance writer, teacher, pet owner and parent of FOUR children, ages nine and under – so you can say she has Moore Than Enough going on in her life as she tries to manage it all. Amanda’s work appears in various online venues, and you can reach her by email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mooreplus4 or she can be found at https://moorethanenoughblog.wordpress.com