“Just Drive,” She Said

6 Aug

The family that drives together thrives together. Long car rides, if they are not stressful, can build great memories. Together, my family of four has traveled this summer by car to Nebraska and Florida–both 18-hour drives–without staying overnight anywhere en route. We managed to stay awake for these marathon trips. And we didn’t drive each other crazy.

Here’s how:

  1. We leave insanely early. I mean o’dark-hundred early, as in 2 a.m. This gives us a chance to let the kids sleep (translation: quiet time for adults). We have found that our kids will sleep soundly until the sun starts coming up. After that, all bets are off. The benefit to leaving this early for a long trip is that you can arrive at your destination still having time to get in some sightseeing or visiting.
  2. My husband and I share the driving fairly evenly. He is more awake than me at 2 a.m., so he does that leg of the trip while I sleep. Around 5:30 or 6:00, I take over, and we continue switching off from then on, with the non-driver taking naps or doing other activities when off duty (see #5 for more info on “other activities).
  3. We separate children in the backseat by a hard and fast barrier. What do I mean here? I’m talking a large cooler, preferably stocked with sandwiches, cold water and fruit/other snacks. The barrier serves as a boundary line defining each child’s “space” in back of the car, keeping screaming and whining at bay. Particularly helpful with the “little brother or sister” heckling phenomenon. Parents, you know what I mean here. The food will keep them happy.
  4. As much as possible, we limit stops to rest areas. This controls the amount of time spent getting off the road and back on again. Rest areas are pretty predictable in terms of getting in and out. Restaurants are not. Fast food is bad for you and gets slower the further south you drive.
  5. Make sure that everyone has activities to keep them busy if bored. Mad libs, car bingo, books, knitting, handheld video games, audiobooks, podcasts, music, math facts. We have found that it’s useful to have the kids also be in charge of ONE DVD player between them, so that they are forced to interact with each other, negotiating on movie choices. Each child should be equipped with their own headset, so that the adults up front are not in on the movie noise. Ladies, take note: I have found that the car is an excellent location for eyebrow-tweezing when you are not on drive duty. Plenty of light and otherwise optimal conditions unless the road is bumpy. This really passes the time productively. I tried to paint my nails during this most recent trip, but my husband complained about the closed space and smell of nail enamel. Oh well.
  6. A Garmin is essential. I prefer to have a hard copy map so that I can see the entire route–and because I am a lover of maps. But the audio directions of the Garmin are very helpful when the other adult is sleeping. And the woman’s voice is sufficiently snarky when you go off course (i.e., the nasal, “Recalculating”) that it’s entertainment in and of itself.
  7. A pre-teen to teenaged girl is extremely helpful when you run the risk of dozing off. She can be talking to you, her brother or a friend on the phone–it makes no difference. The nonstop talking is key here. And the somewhat high-pitched intonation, with unpredictably loud outbursts. Very important.

Enjoy your time on the road this summer. It’s precious family bonding opportunity.

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One Response to ““Just Drive,” She Said”

  1. shraddha August 6, 2009 at 8:11 pm #

    good points…sounds like fun!

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