This is the time of year when families start to take time off, and in a time-honoured fashion, pack into a crammed car and take a vacation. This is done 99.9% of the time with the best of intentions. Late at night, husbands and wives consult each other with sentences like, “it would be great to show junior our majestic countryside,” or “we never do anything as a family anymore, this will be a great opportunity to spend time together”. This can lead to screaming matches on the road: “IF I HAVE TO TURN AROUND ONE MORE TIME WE ARE GOING HOME!!!” or “SO HELP ME, I WILL PULL OVER AND LEAVE YOU ON THE SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY!” if some tricks of the trade are not applied first.
As the third and youngest child in a family that refused to own a minivan or station wagon, I have logged more hours than I care to remember in the back, middle seat of a cramped sedan. Hence, I am particularly qualified to provide the following tips from 30-plus years of sitting with my knees in my chin:
- Make sure your car works properly:This includes the air conditioning, radio, CD player, cruise control, etc… also, make sure you have a roadside safety kit, and that your spare tire is properly inflated! Nothing is worse than telling your wife (with an authoritative tone) “I can change a tire, you stay here and keep cool” and then realizing the spare is flat.
- Don’t try to cannonball to your final destination: We get it, you can drive all night and make amazing time, but at what cost? The driver will be over tired in the morning, and everyone else will be anxious. It’s not worth the sacrifice. Try to stop every 3 hours, checking out roadside attractions, malls, etc. which can make the trip a bunch of mini destinations. This is a great idea especially if you have a young family. Or, just load them up with sugar, give them i-pads and encourage them to fight each other for your approval, that works too.
- Keep your kids occupied, but not tuned out: DVD’s and i-Pads are a great way to stop a child/toddler/teen/husband from having a complete meltdown, but how much fun is it to explore and appreciate your amazing surroundings if your kids are watching Dora the Explorer? Do a crossword puzzle or other word game together, or play Eye Spy – a great segue into how a farm works, or where all the big trucks are going, and why they are on the road in the first place. Or, just load them up with sugar, give them i-pads and encourage them to fight each other for your approval, that works too.
- Bring a cooler with water and snacks:It’s hot out there…keep hydrated and bring healthy snacks! Almonds and dried fruit is a way better alternative to giving a kid sugary drinks and snacks. Or, just load them up with sugar, give them i-pads and encourage them to fight each other for your approval, that works too.
- Good music:Eventually, this happens: spend enough time in a small space with your partners and family in modern travel and you will want to kill them. Kids/friends/wives/husbands/extended family/pets… no one is immune. Music is the ultimate peacemaker, keeping tension, tedium and craziness at bay. This is the tricky part because you need something non-offensive that appeals to all. Funk, jazz, soul and classic rock usually do the trick. Know your audience before you bring out disco. Or, just load them up with sugar, give them i-pads and encourage them to fight each other for your approval, that works too.
And that, my friends, is how you master the art of the road trip – from a guy who as his PhD in sitting-in-the-middle. Now, go enjoy the splendors of our majestic countryside. Bask in the splendor of black fly season, and be in awe of the disrepair of our highways and byways.