MOMS TALK: How Do You Survive A Road Trip With Your Kids?

Does a long car trip with the kiddos give you sense of adventure and fun or downright dread? Let's explore what we can think of to make the best trip possible for the whole family.

Ah, the family road trip. 

The car overflows with luggage, coolers, strollers and bikes. The kids are poking each other and fighting. The adults are scrambling  to gather up all the stuff that didn't get on the packing list (usually it's the most important stuff like wallets, cameras, and cell phones).

All this and you haven't even backed out of the driveway yet. 


I know for me as a child, our road trips were less than joyous. In fact, a few were downright disasters. My parents and brother, along with our two dogs, often did road trips to the Oregon Coast in the summer. We'd pack up our ridiculously long and wide 1976 blue Lincoln Continental and hit the road with my brother, the dogs and myself in the backseat.

Doesn't sound bad, but wait, there's more.

Well, my brother and I were notorious for getting really car sick. In the back, it was difficult to see over the seats to see out the front window. So, we had to take turns having one sit in the middle and we had two dogs sandwiched between us. Personal space? Forget about it. Typically, this practice ended up in a hitting match.

To add insult to injury, one of the dogs was prone to throwing up and the other was prone to passing huge amounts of gas the entire trip. Awesome.

Then my dad would listen to the same K-Tel Hits disco eight-track tape over and over again. I swear, to this day, if I hear a Donna Summer song I literally cringe. Mom wasn't immune from driving us nuts either. She insisted that we drive on Highway 101 to take in the scenery. Trouble with that was that every time that a big rig lurched around a bend in the road, the car kind of fishtailed, making us even more carsick.

Good times.

So, you'd think after my experiences as a kid that road tripping with my family would have taught me a thing or two. Not really. My husband and I made some blunders when our two kids were small. In fact, so many, I'd like to share them here. Learn from us.

1. When your children tell you they are carsick, BELIEVE THEM. Have the sick sacks and towelettes in fast reach.

2. If you value the interior of your vehicle, NEVER give your toddler ink pens, crayons and Playdough. Ever.

3. Snacks that are gooey, greasy, drippy, smelly and oozy should be consumed OUTSIDE the vehicle at the rest stop, not in the car. Beverages need to be spill-proof. Big time.

4. When the children are whining and asking when the travel is going to be over, avoid at all costs of giving them the EXACT time allotment. If you have a six-hour drive, give the squishy answer: "It will be a little while. We have a way to go yet. We'll let you know."

The real answer may be tough to take. Also, don't repeatedly say, soon. Soon doesn't happen fast enough for a kid, and you will say it so much that you will lose your mind in no time flat.

5. You have kids. You WILL bring way to much stuff. It always happens. But you will undoubtedly forget the most critical item (diapers, anyone?) when it's too late.

So, don't be like us. In fact, check out this newsletter from the Parenting Network. This document gives you some great strategies and ways to come out of a road trip actually unscathed. The link will get you there with ease. 

However, let's hear from Patch readers. How do you handle car trips with your kids? What's worked for you? Let us know.

Oh, and happy travels. Really.

Brent Champaco July 27, 2011 at 09:10 PM
As a parent, I think the best you can do to maintain your sanity is invest in a digital player or cell phone that plays cartoons.
Jackie Fender July 27, 2011 at 09:14 PM
We always had those bingo cards that were entertaining for a bit at least....silo? cow? police car? BINGO! Brent is on track though for sure, especially for the wee ones. For the older ones I owe several cameras and challenge them to snap away. It's fun to see the same scenery/drive/car from another perspective.
Kim Thompson July 27, 2011 at 11:13 PM
Brent, electronics really do make a difference. Jackie, they had those bingo cards when I was a kid 100 years ago. I'd get carsick though if I looked down at them though. I do love the idea of the camera for the older kids.


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