My personal love of road trips stems from childhood–when Dad and I would hop into his rusty Toyota Celica, often without a destination in mind, and hit the open road most weekends. Though we never went far, I loved those hours spent in the car together.
But as a parent myself–with three children less than two years apart in age–my own growing family stayed away from road trips for quite some time, only venturing for a two day drive to see relatives in North Carolina now and then.
Our first experience planning, executing, and living through a lengthy family road trip came this past summer on our Little House road trip through the Midwest–nine days in the van together, eight nights sharing one hotel room.
You can call Steve and me brave–or crazy. (Inside I know we’re a bit of both!)
I was reminded of our summer adventure recently when I courageously (& by myself this time) woke the kids on a “regular” day with an unexpected message: Pack your bag and get in the van!
Though this trip lasted only two days, they were two FULL days with two introverts plus two extroverts in our family truckster together.
Thankfully I have developed a few survival strategies for this type of excursion–I call them the ten commandments of a family road trip.
And with the holidays coming up, as more families hit the road than at any other time of year, I thought I’d share them with you today.
Almanzo’s homestead in Malone, New York is definitely worth a visit and tour for Little House fans!
1. Thou shalt remember that this road trip may be a vacation for your kids, but it isn’t one for you.
You are the activities director, plain and simple.
Be prepared to arrive at your destination (or back home again) in need of some serious downtime–this goes for the introverts among us especially.
2. If thy trip extends over any traditional school days, thine kids shall be prepared to answer “Why aren’t you in school today?” many, many times.
This may include responses to the toll booth operator, the drive-thru window clerk, and waiters or waitresses anywhere.
Don’t forget random strangers as well. Make your answer good–or pretend you don’t speak English if necessary.
3. Thou shalt not expect to get much (if any) sleep on the journey.
Don’t count on anyone sleeping in the car…or hotel either, come to think of it.
Therefore thou shalt have handy sources of caffeine and dark chocolate at the ready.
Make the effort to head to Ben and Jerry’s Waterbury factory if you’re anywhere close to Vermont! Go there to channel your inner Willy Wonka.
4. Thou shalt only choose hotels with large swimming pools.
Ignoring this one is a cardinal sin, one that comes with an inbuilt penance all its own. Let those kiddos get out and burn off that cooped up vehicle feeling, and try to choose one with a hot tub for the mamas and papas as well.
The same advice goes for mapping out playgrounds and staying with fun friends along the way (preferably ones with cool toys so parents can successfully get in a few sentences of conversation.)
5. Thou shalt remember that the lessons of a family road trip go far beyond academics.
Yep, there are always audio books in the car and historical sites along the way, but the real lessons are first and foremost Family 101:
learning to be patient, getting along, seeing each other at our most exhausted and choosing to love anyway.
6. Thou shalt toss out all thoughts about limiting technology.
Grab hold of thy iPads, phones, screens of whatever sort, and use them guilt-free.
Your sanity is just as important as the kids’ brain development. This is definitely a time to implement the 80/20 rule.
7. Thou shalt prepare thyself for sibling rivalry in all its glorious and most severe forms.
This includes who gets to push the elevator button, who chooses the current music in the car at any given time, and the urgent, non-urgent cries again and again of “Mommy! Tell him to stop.” from the backseat.
8. Thou shalt bring along divine earplugs, earbuds, meditation apps, Scripture, thine rescue remedy and anything else that helps to maintain inner peace.
If you’re a highly sensitive parent, take two and call me in the morning.
Or stay home. (Kidding! Or am I?!)
9. Thou shalt make peace with the thought of eating foods that would not normally appear on thine table.
This includes the occasional meal with ingredients thou cannot pronounce. Take a deep breath, pray over it, and be thankful.
The extra-energetic among us may take along a bag or cooler of healthy snacks and meals–the rest of us need to practice detachment and letting go. It’s only a few days.
10. Most importantly, thou shalt remember that in ten years thou wilt have forgotten the struggles, the exhaustion, and the inconveniences.
You’ll be left with a ton of photos of everyone smiling, having an adventure, growing closer one day at a time. You’ll laugh with your spouse about the vague, can’t-quite-remember crazy-making that happened on the trip.
And maybe, just maybe, you might even miss the energetic chaos–a teensy bit.
If you enjoyed this post, check out Jamie’s new book, Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy.
“I wondered why I hadn’t loved that day more, why I hadn’t savored every bit of it…why I hadn’t known how good it was to live so normally, so everyday.
But you only know that, I suppose, after it’s not normal and every day any longer.” ~ Anna Quindlen