You know what I miss? Being on the road.
As hard as it was to be on a year long road trip, as many times as I had to say “stop touching her!”, as angry as I was when my husband had to stop to see “one more thing,” as heartbreaking as it was when our ski clothes had flown out of the trunk on top of the car, and and as exhausting as it was to pack and repack that van, I would do it again tomorrow.
When I look back on our Big Adventure, I think about my happiest moments, sitting with my legs up on the dashboard, the sun warming me through the window, and singing along to music. I loved the feeling of leaving one town behind us and heading to an unknown place ahead. That in-between was my favorite.
Dear Tunie, you might not be driving across the country but you’re probably going to take a few good drives this summer. So today I’d like to help you have your own feet on the dash moments.
My family is quite experienced at this point. So here is our Road Trip Survival Kit. It comes complete with a Roadtrip Playlist to make your drives even sunnier.
Road Trip Survival Kit
As you know, if your child is cranky they’re probably either tired or hungry. Our worst moments in the car came when we were out of snacks and the next town miles away (can someone build a restaurant between Colorado and Santa Fe?). If you can win the snack prep, you’ve won the road trip.
Here are some tips:
- Milk – If your baby is nursing you’ll have no choice but to stop along the way. I’ve done the ‘lean over the car seat breastfeed trick’ but if you can avoid it that’s best. Bottles are SO much easier on a road trip.
- Healthy Snacks – car rides are actually not a bad place to try to get your kid to eat fruits and veggies. They’re captive and they want something to munch on. Before we pushed off each day on our road trip I peeled about 20 carrots and 20 cucumbers. They all got eaten during the day. Apples and grapes are also great. Juicy fruits like peaches and watermelon should be avoided.
- Snacky snacks – We usually had a big bag filled to the top with snacks. Our go-tos were – seaweed, Bamba, pretzels, popcorn, goldfish, crackers, Clif Bars.
- Water – We went through so much water on drives especially because they ate all of those salty snacks. Bring lots of reusable bottles (that won’t overheat in the sun.)
- Smoothies – we had a tradition of getting a smoothie from whatever town we were leaving and taking them on the road. It was a good way to start the drive with a full stomach and get some nutrients before sitting all day.
Music makes everything ok. It’s what makes a simple drive on a crowded highway feel like a poignant moment to be remembered forever.
There were times in the car that were so turbulent I thought we’d never make it to the other side. Everyone was annoyed, yelling, hitting, and sulking including my husband and I. Music brought us to calm like a bridge over troubled water.
When the kids were exhausted and needed to sleep I put on Classical, especially piano. Two good options for that are Chopin or Bach’s Goldberg Variations. It had the effect of calming them without drawing too much attention to lyrics or dynamics.
Music marked our journey like flags on a map. In each place we’d play the music of that location – In Los Angeles- Frank Sinantra, the Eagles, and Hip Hop, in Seattle – Grunge, in St. Louis – Miles Davis, etc.
We had a tradition of starting our drives with Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again.” Now when we hear it we’re all instantly brought back to our drives together last year.
In order to make your music listening simple and accessible, here’s a curated playlist for your drive with Kindie artists and all around good music.
BOOKS ON TAPE
This got us through MANY hours. To be precise, 31.5 hours of Laura Ingalls describing her family’s journey west meticulously. We often felt like we were passing the exact spot where their potato crops were demolished by grasshoppers, or where they lived in a dugout while Pa worked on the railroad.
It’s a good reminder that what takes us 4 hours to drive, on cushy seats, with snacks galore, and heat and AC in the car, took them 4 months sitting on a wagon freezing and wrapped in blankets.
The readers of books on tape are often the writers themselves or actors and actresses. It’s so very enjoyable. If you’ve got older kids who can focus for a long book hours can go by without anyone noticing.
PODCASTS. By miracle, we found some podcasts that all of my kids agree on despite their wide range of ages. There are such great ones out there! Our favorites are Wow in the World, Smash Boom Best, Radiolab for kids, and their absolute favorite – Greeking Out.
We played many. Here are our faves:
- DJ. Each person chooses a song and we go around. We’re all grateful my daughter grew out of her Sofia the First phase.
- 20 questions. Which in our family really means 43 questions at least. So many hours of playing actually taught my daughter to ask general questions and narrow them down.
- Association. This is a simple game we came up with on one of our drives. One person says – I’m thinking of ____ and the next person goes purely off association and says – and I’m thinking about ____. The mind trick here is to accept that we all have different associations and you have to let go of your own direction.
- I Spy. Nuff said.
- Cloud Shapes. This is just finding shapes in clouds and pointing them out to each other.
- Opposites. You say tall, they say short. You say hot, they say cold.
- Alphabet Game with categories. Let’s say it’s fruit – A, apples. B, Bananas, etc.
MAPS, ROAD ACTIVITY BOOKS
Every now and then the kids liked to pull out the maps and see where we were and where we’re going. We keep them in the seat pockets in front of them. The Doodle Pad is good, Water painting books. My daughter also has activity road trip books that she liked.
Final tip – Remember that the drive is as important as the location. Last year when my kids would say – are we there yet? I’d always say – YES.
find times to stretch back and hold your kids’ hand. Take a moment to stare at them while they peacefuly sleep in their seat. Part of why I loved being in the car on our way to someplace new is because we were all together. I knew where everyone was and that made me feel safe, happy and content