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How to Make a Long Drive Fun

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The Travelling Companions by Augustus EggBetween delays, security lines, rising prices, and falling service, Adam and I already found airline travel a hassle. Add a toddler and flying became more trouble than it was worth.

That’s why Adam and I are solidly committed to the good, old-fashioned road trip.We’ve racked up more than 2,000 miles traveling to visit relatives and vacation destinations. These are a few things we’ve learned to make those long drives more fun.

  • Don’t go it alone. Car trips are always better with more than one driver—period. But even though my husband doesn’t have a license, I wouldn’t attempt a long drive without him. When it’s just the two of us, he helps me stay alert and navigates. With our toddler, he’s the one in charge of rescuing dropped stuffed animals and refilling juice cups.
  • Pack smart. Our son went through four pairs of pants on our most recent car trip. Fortunately we’d already learned the hard way that kids’ suitcases have to be easily accessible. Make sure you can get to staples like diapers, kids’ clothes, and medicine without unpacking the car. If there is any chance you’ll have to stop overnight unexpectedly, consider packing a duffle bag with a change of clothes and toiletries for everyone so you don’t have to bring in all your bags for a few hours’ rest. Snacks are also a must.
  • Play a game. I always thought car games were to keep kids occupied. But the classic alphabet game is a long-drive staple for keeping myself awake and attentive.
  • Listen to a story. Even though talk radio and CDs are great, I find them all too easy to zone out. Instead, I listen to stories—music and talk I have to pay attention to. My personal favorites are musicals. (I made it through my most recent car trip with Dream Girls, Chicago, and Hairspray.) I also enjoy audiobooks, although I’m sometimes alarmed to realize I can’t remember listening to the last several chapters.
  • Go with the flow. A few months ago, I wrote about my own personal travel nightmare—getting pulled over for speeding twice on the same trip. On my most recent trip, I decided not to risk it. I set the cruise control at a reasonable speed and let other drivers pass me by. At most, I added about an hour to my trip. But in exchange I had the peace of mind that I wasn’t going to get a ticket. I felt more relaxed and had a much better time. (Adam would add that no one had to fear for his life.)
  • Take a break. Nothing makes me feel quite as old as a long car ride. When I peel myself out of the driver’s seat after a long haul, I can feel every joint in my body! Short, frequent breaks are the best way to prevent those aches and pains. We choose to take a few longer breaks instead to limit the number of times we have to force a screaming toddler back into his car seat.
  • Anything goes. Car trips are hard work for everyone, but especially for a toddler. We try to make the trip a special treat by bending some of the rules. For example, a car trip is the perfect time to let a kid watch TV all afternoon. We also let him drink his fill in juice and eat all the treats he wants. The trip will still be long, but at least there’s something in it for him.
  • Know when to throw in the towel. Nothing stresses me out on a car trip quite like traffic. Over time, I’ve learned that traffic is a reason to pull off the road and settle in for a nice dinner or find a fun park. I’d much rather spend rush hour resting than crawling along the interstate with other harried drivers.

What are your secrets for fun summer travel?

3 responses »

  1. Kristina Glicksman

    Being a non-driver who often travels alone, I find I enjoy buses and trains much more than planes. And since having walked the Camino, I love the idea of slow travel even more. It took me four days to get from Spain to Croatia last summer, but along the way I got to explore Barcelona and Ancona, eat some great food and get plenty of sleep.

    Reply
    • As parents, we drive mostly because we have control over the things that make our son upset. I would love to do more true slow travel when he gets a bit older.

      Reply
  2. Donna Fincher

    My children learned the alphabet, the states’ capitals, the multiplication tables and how to spell the Dolce sight words while on summer road trips to Disney World! Multitasking baby!!

    Reply

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