This time of year many families are traveling in order to spend time with loved ones. When you have little children, a long car ride can quickly become a nightmare triggering a meltdown at each milepost passed. You won’t want to depend on electronic entertainment alone, planing interactive games or activities ahead of time will give you an advantage in preventing a road tip that is remembered for all the wrong reasons. Read 3 tips to survive a long car tip with your kids below.
Variety Kills Boredom
I want the inside of your minivan to look like your mobbed-up cousin just hit an arts & crafts delivery truck. Coloring books, word finds, Mad Libs, Sudoku, eye-spy games, Rubik’s Cubes, card games, sewing kits—whatever your kids are into. Just don’t bring anything sticky or melty or made up of 10,001 tiny plastic pieces. Make sure you buy some new stuff and keep it out of sight until everyone is in the car. Look, kids: presents for Car Prison!
Even if your kids are super crafty, that shit isn’t going to last more than a couple hours. Next up, books. Bring a whole milk crate full of them. Why else did you buy a vehicle with 40 cubic feet of cargo volume? If your kids are in the middle-grade to young-adult range, there’s a whole shit-ton of new titles to choose from every month. Hit the bookstore and scour the bargain section, or load up at the library. My daughter has recently begun reading novels, and it’s a damn miracle. Sure, I’m over the moon that she’s experiencing the life of the mind and touching the soul of a writer and all of that, but more importantly, it buys me hours of peace and quiet, because when she’s reading, she’s not fighting with her brother or telling me in excruciating detail about a dream she had last night.
Don’t want to bring books? Try books on CD! If you choose wisely, you’ll get at least five hours of engagement for each story. Audio books are super expensive though, so get ’em from the library and rip ’em. Don’t tell the FBI. I’ve been doing this for years, so I now have hours of stories about Ramona Quimby and Charlie Bucket and Winnie the Pooh.
Tired of words? Break out the music. Make a sing-along playlist ahead of time and blast it when everyone starts to lag. The mood you want is movie-montage happy-song time. Smiling faces, giggles, dopey dance moves—the whole shebang. Again, this won’t last the whole trip, but it’ll raise everyone’s spirits long enough to get you two-thirds of the way there.
And look, eventually, you will give in and hand over the iPad or portable DVD player. There’s no getting around it, especially if your road trip is insanely long like ours. It’s the closest thing we have to deep-space stasis travel, with everyone slipping into a kind of video coma. The hours fly by, the drool puddles on the kids’ shirts, and they might even pee their pants without noticing. The problem comes when the videos turn off. For my kids, TV is a drug, and it triggers a withdrawal worthy of a James Frey fictional memoir. That screen goes dark and the kids spring to life as demons, wailing and gnashing their teeth, enraged by their confinement. The hurricane tantrum is not worth the quiet that preceded it.
Pack Your Lunches
I know fast food is unavoidable on the interstate, and I remember well the siren song of the Golden Arches. Of course, now you realize it tastes like crap and makes you feel horrible—both immediately afterward and later that night, alone and crying for mercy on the commode. But the kids like it, you say. The kids also eat their own boogers and refuse Grandma’s famous mashed potatoes. What they hell do they know about cuisine? But what about those fast-food play areas, you say. How do you feel about tossing your babies into a giant petri dish coated in a thick, invisible smoothie of cholera-scarlet fever-dropsy super-germs?
For your meals, pack a little cooler and have a picnic. Plan some balanced, nutritional meals, but throw in a few road-trip snacks. For me, traveling great distances by car requires the consumption of Combos and Doritos. Find a playground or a park in a town just off the interstate, have a little lunch, and let the kids do their thing on the jungle gym. Make sure you pack a frisbee or a soccer ball in case the playground equipment is rusty, Soviet-era surplus. You and the missus can spend the time bickering about the shitty sleeping arrangements at your destination or just stare at your phones in silence.
If it’s going to be too cold to play outside, look at the route ahead of time for children’s museums or science centers. Those are usually only in big cities, and if your route is more country than concrete jungle, look for interesting roadside attractions or bowling alleys or skating rinks. Something that gets the kids out of the car for a little while to let them burn off energy.
One caveat for stopping: If it happens that your children have fallen asleep, either through blind luck or the correct dosage of Benadryl, do not stop. Drive. Drive like Forrest ran. Never, ever wake a sleeping child.
Plan For The Worst
Remember the Snowpocalypse that hit the southeast in 2014? People in Atlanta were trapped in their cars for hours and hours. If only more folks drove camper vans, they would have been home sweet home. Anyhow, the way the weather shifts these days, I wouldn’t feel entirely safe from the frozen reach of Old Man Winter even if I was driving through Death Valley. You don’t want to have a Donner Party cosplay experience in your minivan or be reduced to scrounging for animal-cracker crumbs off the floor mats to survive.
Start by looking at the weather report. If there’s a chance you’ll encounter snow or ice in a region that’s unprepared for it—I’m looking at you, Atlanta—think about an alternate route to avoid megalopolises of idiotic drivers. Even if you have no fear of thundersnow, freezing fog, or wintry mix, you should bring a couple blankets and some emergency rations. Throw in a flashlight, a foldable snow shovel, and a window scraper. Make sure you—or whoever you expect to send for help—bring footwear appropriate for walking outside in the cold.
Beyond the catastrophic, you should prepare for the mundane. Inflate your tires before the trip—including the spare!—and bring a tire-pressure gauge and some jumper cables. Check your oil and coolant levels and fill your windshield-washer reservoir with fluid that won’t freeze.
SRC: Read another tip for surviving a long car trip with your kids at: adequateman.deadspin.com/how-to-survive-a-road-trip-with-your-kids-1743554290