Surviving the Family Road Trip

Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial start to summer and the inaugural family road trip.  We’ve done a number of road trips, ranging from a day’s outing to a long weekend to the multi-day on the road variety.  The longest so far has been our trip from Maryland to the Georgia coast – roughly 1700 miles in just over 2 weeks.  See – living proof that one can survive a family road trip.  
Not only survived being on the road with kids, but done so in a super-size SUV that doesn't have a plasma flat screen mounted inside, to the dismay of my children and the surprise of our friends.  Yes, we travel sans video monitor and DVD movies.  I know, who knew that was even possible anymore?  If you are traveling without electronics or would at least like to unplug for part of the ride, here's a few ideas to make sure everyone makes it to the final destination all in one vehicle.
  • Everyone pack their own bag of ride entertainment - books (and a nook), coloring and activity books, a pencil box full of crayons, pencils, scissors, and glue sticks, a deck of cards, Barbies, finger puppets; it always amazes me what they stuff in there.  But – also a warning – if your trip involves any type of airplane flight, Smithsonian museum visit, or any other security-checked venue – check your kids’ bags!  They are notorious for carrying contraband.
  • Pack a few audio books, sing-along CDs, movie soundtracks.  We get them from our local library, picking a variety of stories – you’d be surprised how long this will hold kids’ attention on a long ride.  And its kinda nice for the driver, too, to get some “reading” done.
  • Let the kids navigate.  Give them an old fashioned, paper road map that you will never be able to fold back to how it originally was.  Show the kids the route, teach them how to read the map.  This is a skill that will be lost as we sit back and let the GPS tell us where to go.  I have a road map from Cracker Barrel, with the restaurant locations conveniently marked on it, so that I can plan my drive with stops for fried fish and hash brown casserole.
  • Try some of those car games you played as a kid, that pre-electronic entertainment.  Don’t remember any?
    • That’s my car – the mobile version.  Each person picks a color, as you ride along, look out for that color car and keep count until you get to 15, 25, 100 – however long you want this to last.
    • Eye Spy.  The adult in the car picks two things that might be found on the road, assigning a point value to each – the lower points goes to the more likely item.  Whoever finds the items, gets the points.  For example: a tow truck – 5 points, a truck carrying a house – 20 points.  When both items are found, pick two more.  A motorcycle – 5 points, a Space Shuttle – 100 points.  Again, this can go on as long as you want.  Pick a fun prize, maybe the winner gets to pick dinner or a second scoop of ice cream.
  • Feed the natives before they get restless.  Pack a cooler that fits inside the car - juices, waters, bottles of iced coffee, cheese sticks, boiled eggs, fruit, cut up vegetables.  In a separate bag or box, put all your dry goods – chips, pretzels, popcorn.  Include some healthy options, no better time when kids are bored and hungry than to get them to eat a carrot stick.

And when you’ve tried all of these ideas and find that you have only made it 5 miles from your house, turn on the portable DVD.

Have a safe, fun trip!

I also post regularly on my blog at and on FaceBook as Just Piddlin with Frances.



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