Since moving the family out of Utah almost 10 years ago we have made the holy pilgrimage back to the homeland at least once every year. In the beginning we would travel by land and it wasn’t so bad- in fact, it was kind of fun.
I have fond memories of sharing the front seat of a U-Haul with my newlywed hubby and our only dependent, a pet parakeet. When we would stop for the night we would drape a towel over the cage and stealthy-ninja-sneak the chirping bird into our hotel room after hours.
The week before we were married my husband, away on an internship, drove that same route to get his anxious bride-to-be. With the stamina and speed that can only be attributed to young love he drove all 24 hours straight, only stopping for gas- a legendary feat we’ve never been able to duplicate.
As our little family grew and we became gainfully employed we began to fly instead. It was like ripping off a band-aid- painful, but quick. I have become somewhat of a flying-with-kids expert. I can collapse the double stroller, display my collection of electronics and 3.4 oz liquids, derobe, remove five pairs of shoes, and keep my beltless pants up - all while holding a newborn and standing on one foot in the security line. My kids are pretty good too. They have all become frequent flyers before their first birthdays. They can navigate to the baggage claim and use the airplane toilet without being sucked out.
Now that our family has REALLY grown, tickets for all of us and a large vehicle rental on the other side can just about break the bank. So, this Spring we are setting out by land. But now that their wings have been clipped, my confident little travelers are suddenly apprehensive.
When I was a kid (way back before seat belts were invented, I think) I loved road trips. We kids would bounce around in the back of the family vehicle like popcorn. We played license plate and alphabet games and burned through a stack of library books. We stretched out to sleep when we were tired and sometimes sat on mom's lap. A long drive was no big thing. We were good at being bored. We had lots of practice waiting for things in those days. (Like waiting for a whole week for the next episode of He-Man. My kids, on the other hand, rolled through Seasons 1-3 in a weekend and didn't even have to wait for commercials!)
Nowadays kids are required to sit in a car seat until their 26th birthday or until they are 200 lbs (or something like that). So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the idea of being five-point straight jacketed into a small space with screaming siblings for several days without wi-fi sounds like a cruel kind of crazy.
I believe in finding "Joy in the Journey" and I want my kids to be excited about the drive- not just the destination. But that fluke trip a few summers ago where we drove out instead of flying is still burned into their minds. That was the trip where the kids caught a stomach bug not long after leaving home and we spent the entire three day drive filling barf bags. “Just breathe through your mouths everyone, there’s a town in another 50 miles.” That one is kind of hard to forget.
I am really hoping that this family drive can be a positive experience. Especially since it will probably be our routine method of travel for the rest of our large-passenger-vehicle-sized-family days. As the lone black sheep to have left the homeland it is our lot to make the trip at least yearly if we want our kids to know the wonders and magic of cousins. So, we drive.
I have been grilling friends on their best practices for road trips with kids and I extend the question to you, my cyberbesties: What are your best tricks for family travel? Do you have favorite activities, traditions, or incentives you use. Are there specific videos, CD’s or audio books you recommend for a family crowd? What do you do to make the happy memories last longer than the numbness of the rump? I’d love some tips!
Join in HERE to discuss ideas! (Private discussion group for LDS NHA - Join us!)
------------------------------------ Jana sings lead vocals in her minivan and likes to park illegally whenever she can get away with it. She has been fired from her position as co-pilot on nearly every expedition requiring a map. She hopes to master road-tripping with children so she can visit all fifty states with her crew someday. .------------------------------------------------------