The Long and Whining Road {Survival Tips from our First Road Trip with Kids}

Parenting is definitely an endurance sport. There’s lots of running, jumping, bending, and plenty of sweat and tears. But never has it seemed like so much of a marathon as the time I spent 9 hours sitting in the front seat of our trusty ol’ minivan, barreling down the freeway toward Nashville.

You see, my husband and I had the bright idea to make the 9-hour drive down south to visit my family shortly after Christmas this year. When faced with the choice between herding our three sweet little wildebeests onto an airplane (and thus subjecting several dozen other unsuspecting people to their, uh, charms), or loading the entire family into our grocery-getter and making the long drive ourselves, we chose the latter.

Don’t get me wrong. My kids are mostly well-behaved in public, and they are downright sweethearts much of the time. But there’s some extra special crazysauce that arises in all of them when holidays are involved. Add to that a day of traveling, and I was sure that we were better off taking one for the team and making the long drive. Looking back now, I think we totally made the right decision. And since some of you may have a mid-winter or Spring break road trip planned in the near future, I’ve come up with my best tips for how to make that drive without losing your mind.

There’s a third kid hiding behind that tablet…
  1. Load up the car the night before. I can’t emphasize enough how important this was for us. By getting everything into the car ahead of time, we weren’t running around at the last minute. It also helped us figure out how best to arrange everything in the car. You don’t want to be stuck flying down I-75 with a screaming child in the back without snacks within your reach. More on that later.
  2. Leave EARLY. Like, really early. Like, so early it’s still dark out and the kids will be confused enough to sleep for the first few hours of the trip. Just pluck them out of bed in the dark and load them into those carseats in their PJs. Yes, I know that means you have to get up really early too, but that’s why God made coffee.
  3. Pack snacks. ALL the snacks. Snacks for you, snacks for your partner, but most important, snacks for the kids. Sure, you can pack healthy snacks like carrots and celery or whatever, just make sure it’s something they like enough that it can stop a meltdown. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no fruit snacks when little Johnny suddenly realizes he’s famished. Trust me. You don’t.
  4. Stop before you think you need to. We messed this one up big time on the trip back home. Before we knew it, it was 1:30 and we hadn’t stopped for lunch yet – the kids are used to eating lunch at 11:30. Needless to say, it was a loud and angry drive to the next exit to find somewhere to eat. The same rule goes for bathroom breaks – As much as we wanted to drive through and just get to our destination, letting the kids out of the car for a quick bathroom trip every few hours was good for everyone’s sanity.
  5. Start stretching at least a couple weeks in advance. Maybe even take up yoga. Seriously. At some point – or many points – your child is going to drop their doll/tablet/snack trap and it’s going to become their own personal equivalent of an emergency situation. Be prepared to twist your torso in ways you’ve never imagined and stretch your arms to lengths you thought impossible to reach their desired object and give it back. I was not prepared for this and I was sore for a week.

Really, this entire list could be summarized in two words: Plan ahead! With a little luck, and a lot of planning, you should be able to make that trip, no sweat.

We survived!

So tell me, what’s your best advice for road-tripping with your kids?

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Born and raised in Ohio, Sarah now lives in Bloomfield Hills with her husband Michael and their three children. Although she’ll always be an Ohio girl at heart, she’s adopted Michigan as her home, and fell in love with Detroit from the start. Sarah and Michael are both attorneys, which makes keeping up with their 5-year old son and 2-year old twin daughters a challenge, but never boring! In her free time, Sarah loves to cook, read, knit and craft. She is addicted to online shopping & Netflix, and she firmly believes that there’s a good one-liner out there for just about any situation.


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