We’re facing a 10- to 12-hour car ride with the kids this Thanksgiving and it’s not our first long car trip with them. Since they were young, we’ve braved planes, cars and ferries (no trains yet) with the kids to get where we want to go and to show them the larger world out there.
And the key to mostly sane travel is to prepare. (Unlike the one time my husband was on a flight with our infant son, who had an unfortunate blowout and another set of clothes were in checked luggage.)
Electronics, depending on how you view them, are a necessary evil. We were once on a flight from Michigan to Florida and the elderly lady next to me asked if she could give my kids $20 to split at the end of the flight. Because both kids were wired to their movies and games, neither made a peep for the entire flight and my row companion was clearly relieved and delighted. (We took the money because we were going to Disney, but we had a long talk with the kids about money from strangers, parental permission, etc.)
Books are essential but you also have to plan for when it’s too dark. On a 12-hour car ride, this is bound to be the case. The kids are somewhat starting to outgrow activity books, but they enjoy a good mad lib and that’s a fun game for everyone in the car.
At times, we resort to the tried-and-true car games – license plates from A-Z, “owning” animals on your side of the car window and one that my sister-in-law taught us with the alphabet sentences and alliteration: Auntie Arrived Already, Brad Bothers Babies, etc. The kids giggle away at those as they come up with their own.
Then, especially this time of the year, it becomes dark but it’s not anywhere near bedtime. The electronics come out, the headphones go in and peace overcomes the car ride, only to be interrupted with “I can’t find my movie case” or “When are we stopping for a restroom?” Chargers, cords and headphone wires aplenty when it’s times four but well worth it when everyone is seated in front of their glowing monitors.
And the golden rule of traveling with kids (which mine still don’t always do but quickly learn a lesson): when you stop (at an airport, hotel or restaurant), plug it in and charge it up.
Good luck out there on the open road.