Our family decided to take a trip to the beautiful Oregon coast this week, which involved planning for a road trip that, if we didn’t make a single stop, would have taken us 9 hours straight, so of course that means it took us 12 hours. Those of you who have made a road trip with kids before will understand that it is no small undertaking —there are so many X factors involved, and keeping your kids happy could mean the difference between a bearable trip and an excruciating trip. I have never heard anyone speak of a “wonderful” road trip with young children, so at this point I am not sure that such a thing exists.
At any rate, I have, on occasion, consulted the vast system of knowledge that is the internet for advice on what to do to keep my kids occupied. One article I found suggested purchasing dollar store toys, wrapping them up, and giving one to the child every 25 miles or so. This worked for about a mile and a half for my (at the time) 3 and a half year old and 11-month-old, at which point they would tire of the toy and ask for another one, and on it went, until I ran out of toys AND patience, but not road. Oh no, there was much more road to go.
In preparation for this Oregon trip, therefore, we decided to use a few different tricks. The first was that we would attempt to leave very early in the morning in order to keep our kids sleeping for as long as possible while we got a few hundred miles behind us. Did this work? Of course not. It turns out that children whose small bodies are coursing with excitement and adrenaline are impossible to lull back to sleep, no matter how much music you play or how many soft blankets you surround them with. However, after consulting with my sister-in-law, who drove her own fourteen-month-old the same distance while he adorably kept himself occupied with his train book between bouts of sleeping like, well, a baby, it seems that the time you leave can make a difference. They left at 2 AM, we left at 4:30. So, we figure that either we need to leave two-and-a-half hours earlier, or we need to bring some chloroform to knock our kids out. Personally, I’m leaning towards the chloroform.
The second thing we did was make our kids “totes.” In Spence’s family it is a family travel tradition to package two fun “totes” (aka plastic bins with dollar store items inside) for your kids to enjoy on the trip. This turns the trip into a fun game of “”When can we open the totes?”
“Not until the sun comes up.”
“Is that the sun?”
“No, that’s the moon.”
“Is that the sun?”
“No, that’s a streetlight.”
“I think that’s the sun!”
“No that’s a McDonalds. Just open your totes.””
On a positive note, those totes killed at least a half hour of our 12 hour drive. And the other 11-and-a-half hours we killed by playing episodes of Doc McStuffins on the iPad, passing out snacks, stopping for Starbucks drinks, furiously pointing out cows on the side of the road, engaging in nonsensical toddler conversations, breaking up fights, going back for Spider-man toys that “somehow” fell out of the car window, stopping for burritos, furiously pointing out sheep on the side of the road, changing an angry child out of her PJs in a Starbucks bathroom while trying to convince her to wear the clothes I brought (which she ended up stripping off anyway because they were “not beautiful!”), and answering the question “Are we in Oregon yet?” about a bajillion times. In my daughter’s mind, “Oregon” is defined only by the cabin we were staying in and not the entire state typically referred to by the name, so “Oregon” took a long time to get to, which resulted in a consistently disappointed four-year-old.
Anyway, in conclusion, who’s got two thumbs and once thought it would be kinda fun to pack up the kids and drive to Disneyland one of these days, but has now decided that that is never, ever happening? This guy: