SANITY SAVER Road Trip Rituals

Woo Hoo! We’re on the way, we’re on the way on the way to… The Summer Road Trip 

Kelli Catana tells us how to survive and enjoy

With summer vacation upon us, a road trip is a great way to add a little fun and adventure.
Remember when hearing the words ‘road trip’ caused all kinds of excitement? That was before kids or a full-time job or any responsibility of any kind. Now the words ‘road trip’ has the ability to strike fear and dread in any parent out there, especially those that have done it before. After all,  experienced road trippers often know what to expect, while first timers can have a romanticized version of what they’re in store for.
As a parent of four young children, the road trip has become something we’ve grown to embrace, simply because air travel can just be too expensive, and if we want to see our relatives on the east coast, we have to drive. I’ve learned over the years that if you aren’t prepared, a road trip can quickly go from a fun sounding adventure to a full on nightmare. Because 17 hours in a car can be long for even the most seasoned road tripper, much less a four year old.
With summer vacation upon us, a road trip is a great way to add a little fun and adventure to those long summer months. Your trip can be a short  jaunt to a camping site or a longer haul to visit relatives. Regardless how long it is, I have a few tips to make it a more enjoyable experience.
First of all, know your audience. Yes, I mean your kids. Got little ones-you’ll need to stop more. Kids a little older? You’ll need more entertainment options.
How are your seating arrangements in the car? If you have siblings who are prone to pushing each other’s buttons (is there any other kind?) you need to separate them as much as possible. This is of course much easier if you have a van than a car, but even putting a little bit of space between them can ease much of the fighting. Also make sure that you have at least one child in close enough proximity to you to be the passer. You know, the one that can pass back the snacks, or the new movie, or a drink, or a tissue, whatever it might be. It’ll save you trying to stretch your entire body from the front seat to the back because someone needs to wipe their nose.
Next: electronics. Don’t have one of those fancy vehicles with the builtin DVD player? Borrow one, or pick one up from your local store. They’re pretty reasonable in price and worth their weight in gold on a road trip. If you can, borrow one for each child; this will minimize the fighting over  who gets to watch what. Less fighting means happier parents. This is not the time to worry about how much televison your child is watching. If you can have them occupied by the latest episode of Caillou or the newest Disney movie, do it. Sanity is more important than worrying about your child staring at a screen for three hours. You might want to think about getting that portable electronic gaming device they’ve been begging for too. Trust me, you’ll definitely appreciate it more than they will.
Plan your pit stops. I know road trips are long and they can be less than exciting, but when you’re driving, you need to plan your pit stops. Pack a picnic lunch or at least stop somewhere where the kids can run and park it for at least an hour. I know that we often just want to get to our  destination, but if you want kids that are going to last in the car for hours on end, you have to give them some time to run around when you stop. Make sure you have a ball, or a Frisbee or something for them to play with and let them take their time. They’ll be tired and sluggish from the ride, so they need the time to eat, digest and then play without feeling rushed. Pit stops are half the fun of a road trip and if you want them to last for the  remainder of the ride, you need to give them an appropriate amount of time outside of the car. Once, when it was too late for an outdoor stop, we hit up a local fast food place with a play land and just let the kids play. It wasn’t ideal, but it did the trick and they slept the rest of the drive.
Snacks might be the most important part of a road trip. Because kids get hungry a lot and when they’re hungry they whine a lot. Nothing will drive you crazier during a road trip than a kid who is whining non-stop that they’re hungry. So pack LOTS of snacks and water. I know it might seem easy to throw a bunch of drinking boxes into a cooler, but the last thing you want is a bunch of kids sucking down juice boxes. Unless you like stopping for bathroom breaks every 30 minutes.
So don’t be afraid of the road trip – embrace it and go on an adventure with your kids. They will have a blast and more importantly, they’ll have an experience they can tell their friends all about when they go back to school. I guarantee you’ll create memories that will last a lifetime. Just make sure you plan for it. Good luck!

Kelli Catana is an Ottawa area blogger, wife and mother of four very busy kids. When she’s not in front of her computer, you can find her at a rink or
chauffeuring her children around the city. Follow her on twitter @kellidaisy.

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