Planning a Road Trip to Visit Grandma?

June 20, 2012

One way to make the time go by on a road trip

Car door of Prius after kids have covered it in stickers

For the last 5 years, our family has mostly driven to visit grandparents in New York and Los Angeles. After 3 trips to New York, and around 10 trips to Los Angeles in our Prius, I think I am becoming pretty darn good at managing long drives with young kids. I have even driven solo to Los Angeles in one day when my girls were 3 and 6 years old. (‘Did you all wear diapers?’ a friend asked). So here are a few things I have learned that might make your upcoming trip a success. Or at least, less painful.

1. Embrace screen-time. Yes, you can do it. You can spend 30 hours in a car reading books out loud, playing word games, and finally getting around to teaching your daughter how to crochet a pot-holder. We did this. And it knocked the wind out of me. After our 2nd trip, we caved and bought a DVD player. My kids were entertained and I was able to listen to a book on CD in the front half of the car. We also found that our kids watched videos for about a quarter of the trip, choosing to play ‘family’ with dolls or read or draw for the rest of the way. So it wasn’t all that bad.

2. Minimize stops. This is key. It may seem like it doesn’t make a difference if you make a ‘10-minute pit stop,’ but it does. Mainly because, with kids, a 10-minute stop doesn’t exist. Of course, sometimes you have to stop, but too many stops really do slow you down. Our Prius is helpful since we really do stop less for gas.

3. Pack a lot of food. We have tried stopping at different places vs. packing food, and found the latter works best. It is much faster and healthier to bring your own grub. If you do need to stay overnight somewhere, that is a good time to go out – but it is worth it to research restaurants ahead of time and have a plan. When I drive alone to Los Angeles, I have breakfast and lunch bags for each of us next to me in the front, and can toss a meal to a kid in the back as needed.

4. And be careful what food you pack. Yogurt tubes seem like such a great idea…until your 3 year old starts squirting them all over their car seat. And it takes a long time for that smell to go away…

5. Be a little indulgent. Road trips are long, and, if you are going through deserts or cornfields like I do, there’s really not a lot to see. So we do let our kids watch videos, have snacks they don’t usually get at home, and, well, we let them stick as many stickers as they want on their window, pictured above. My husband sold his car recently, and said ‘It took me two hours to get all the stickers off their doors.’ I thought, ‘It took us 4 trips to LA and 2 to NY to get those windows just right.’’

I’m planning a couple trips for our family and truly look forward to both the drive and our destination – grandmother’s house. And once we’ve made it, and the kids have tackled their grandparents, and I have paid out whatever bribes needed to stop the kids from fighting in the backseat (that sometimes helps, too), a break from the kids is only that much sweeter.

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