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Top Ten Rules for Road Trips

Road Trip Rules

Road trip season is upon us. With summer come long trips to beaches, mountains, and…relatives. I have to say, my family is pretty good at road trips. Last year we fit all five of us (including the baby) into my Honda Ridgeline pickup truck and drove 16 hours to South Carolina. There were no fights! All agreed it was a fun trip!

Here is how we do it:

1. If you are not in a rush, don’t rush. There is no use getting all worked up about getting somewhere unless you have a hard-and-fast deadline (like a wedding or something). Sometimes we need to turn off the stress button and remember that the minute you get into the car, the vacation has started—not just when you get to your destination.

2. The person who is driving gets to pick the soundtrack. We absolutely do not believe in catering to our kids by playing kids’ music (unless the driver feels like it) or letting them watch movies. Of course, that’s what iPods are for, and we do allow them—especially when my husband is driving and he’s getting tired and “needs” to listen to sports talk radio to stay awake. My favorite satellite radio stations are Highway 16 and XMU channel 43.

3. Pack snacks. I learned this from my mother-in-law, who always insists on packing sandwiches and ice. I used to think it was odd. Now I have learned that snacks and sandwiches (and even ice) are very handy, and are often consumed, like, a half hour after we’ve left the house.

4. When bored, play games. Some of our favorites are having the kids read off crossword puzzle questions so that we can all guess the answers to (and the kids can fill in the blanks). The license plate game is always fun: You try to find as many different states’ plates as you can. My husband likes to give the kids math problems to figure out, but that always makes me carsick, so we have to limit that game.

5. Try a new exit. This is especially good on those trips that you have done over and over. This past weekend, we got off at an exit in Katonah, NY. It had no food or fuel signs, but we found an incredible little diner called the Blue Dolphin (which we had to eat in because the Blue Dolphin Diner in Apalachin, NY, is another favorite stop). We had a delicious and quick Italian (from the Island of Capri) meal, and will most certainly stop there again.

6. Eat (and shop) local. OK, there are times to stop at McDonald’s (I think they are even serving organic coffee now!), but if you can, avoid chains and find places that are unique to where you are going. It won’t always be good, but it will always give you something to remember. We often stop at supermarkets because you can get prepared foods at a lot of them, and the bathrooms are usually clean.

7. Have wipes. When hands get sticky from snacking, it’s good to have wipes to wash them. I personally love Herban Essentials, which smell of lemon, lavender, eucalyptus, and mint. But certain kids in my car don’t like them because the wipes make their fingers taste bad if they suck on them. Unscented baby wipes are another handy option.

8. Study the maps. And, in fact, have maps. I still don’t have a GPS, but maps really come in handy when there are road tie-ups that you want or need to drive around. There truly are many ways to get everywhere if you are willing to get off the main highways.

9. Get comfortable. Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Pack pillows, blankets, and whatever comfort items you need (for my husband it’s a neck pillow and eye covering). Make sure your clothes are not going to bother you by being too tight or itchy.

10. Enjoy the ride! If you think of the journey as part of the vacation, you can have much more fun. It’s a great way to get closer (literally!) to family or friends.

Have I forgotten anything?

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9 Responses to Top Ten Rules for Road Trips

  1. Anonymous May 29, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    Yes. Do not take your mother-in-law with you.

  2. susaneva May 29, 2009 at 10:10 am #

    We did the license plate game with our kids when we were on the highway, and I printed off a map of the USA so they could fill in the state with colored pencils when we found it – great geography lesson and they didn’t even know it! Also I would borrow children’s books on CD from the Library to listen to when we needed some quiet time.

    Then there was the time that the kids made a sign for the van window that said, “Wave if you like Grey Poupon” …..which was fun, but then they changed it to “Wave it you are not wearing underwear” without us knowing – we got lots of reaction from that!!

  3. Debbie May 29, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    We always have a throw and pillow in the car, just in case someone wants to snooze.

  4. Vicky May 29, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    I agree that it’s better to interact as a family (how else are our kids going to learn to get along with others?) However, if you have two kids in the back seat who always fight and you are on a four-hour trip to a funeral and are already stressed to the max, bring on the DVD player!

  5. A Gran May 29, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    Don’t get upset or panic if you get “lost”. All roads lead somewhere, just not necessarily the place you wanted to go. We’ve discovered some wonderful places to explore and fun things to do when we’ve made a wrong turn. On my wall, I have a quote attributed to Ursula LeGuin: “It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it the journey that matters in the end.”

  6. CW May 29, 2009 at 7:20 pm #

    wow I think you have them all. We always try to pick some weird place on the map to check out. We have seen the very first KFC ( it used to be a two room hotel), the first concreat in America, and a Castle in Ohio it is also how we found one of our favorite places to stop- Berea Ky. Recently we watched a couple of episodes of one-of-a-kind road-trip kind of places to eat, and if the place is on the way we will try to check it out. One of these days I want to go to Kozy Dogs- the first corn dogs in America.
    I really agree with the trip is also part of the vaccation. Took us a while to figure that one out, but once we did it has been wonderful.Anyone taking 75 south (or north) from GA to Mich/Indiana I have some great places if you want them….

  7. Cheryl June 3, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    We always bring books on tape/CD. We try to choose classics; last trip we listened to “Treasure Island” and we were all absolutely riveted! Other trips have included the “Harry Potter” books. Check out our local library; the selection is great and they are free!!

  8. CD June 3, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    I like to bring colored pencils as there is lots of inspiration out there. Like cows, ha!

  9. Laura June 6, 2009 at 4:05 am #

    My husband and I have been through many road miles together. We learned to always carry a dome tent in the car because the most beautiful places we stayed were campgrounds. They are easy to put up. Solar shower bags are wonderful if you’re roughing it or if the power fails.
    Frozen juice or water in a jug is great for the cooler then gets drank. Pita bread travels better than normal loaves. Put condiment packets in a ziplock in the cooler. Granola or trail mix is a good snack. Pick up sandwich fillings at delis in amounts you’ll use up fast- food poisoning ruins trips.
    We like similar music so we sang while driving.

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