Tips for a Successful Family Road Trip

Recently, I made the drive from North Texas to the northern suburbs of Chicago to visit family during my children’s Spring Break. I have two children, a five-year-old and an almost seven year-old. In addition to my daughters, the trip in the family SUV included the family dog, a 40-pound mutt named Buster. I would like to state for the record that my wife was not on this trip because she flew to Chicago after visiting with her brother and his family outside of Texas.

This is a long trek. It’s a drive in the neighborhood of 900 miles. It could be a 2-day jaunt, but I decided one would suffice on this trip. There’s no question you are wondering how could I possibly take on such a task as above and live to blog about it?!?! Please, read on.

It’s not the first time I have done this, but the last time included a stop in Memphis for the night. This time, I decided to drive straight through, and it rained for 11 straight hours—from just outside of Rockwall, Texas to southern Illinois. Sometime visibility was maybe a quarter mile when it was pouring rain. I left at approximately 6:15 am and arrived at my parents’ house at 11:30 pm.

I am not bothered by long trips. Why? When I was a kid, my family would drive from Illinois to Florida. In my professional life as a minor league broadcaster, I spent many hours on the team bus traveling the Midwest, the Carolinas and the Great Plains. The longest trip was a 15-16 hour ride from Joliet, Illinois to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Drive time is quality think time.

What happens when that quality think time is interrupted by two young children in the backseat? Well, you have to be overly prepared for a trip like this. You have to prepare for this trip thinking about what they like to eat, drink and how they like to pass the time.

We have two mini-DVD players including power sources to plug in the vehicle when the DVD players run out of juice. They picked out their DVDs of movies and TV shows in advance of the trip.  We have two “old” iPhones for them to play music and/or play games. During the holidays a couple years ago, grandparents gave them each a LeapPad. I don’t want to hear their movies, games or music, and that’s why it’s a rule that they must wear headphones when using those devices. Also, each has a backpack that includes books to read, books to color, paper and random toys along with an assortment of pencils and crayons.

There is plenty of talk time, too. My oldest will ask me, “can we have a conversation?” My youngest will ask me, “daddy, can I tell you something?” Each melts my heart and the greatest of conversations commence. Occasionally, they will ask me to play the music from my iPhone.

When it comes to eating, this trip included Lunchables, snacks (Cheez-its and Goldfish), sliced up bell peppers and granola bars. I also had juice boxes and water for them. A day earlier, I let them pick out a treat at Walgreens. Instead of candy, they each chose chocolate chip cookies. Their food and beverages are kept in a bag on the passenger seat so that when they ask for it, it’s easy access for me to hand it back to them. I picked them up McDonalds for dinner. I will never get them another Happy Meal, though. They seem to argue over the toy, and they both have one. It does not make sense to me.

My daughters catch up on their sleep, too. They each have a blanket. They have some sort of pillow (neck or bed), and they bring an over-sized teddy bear to put between them in order to lean on and add to vehicle comfort when sleeping or resting.  We also put down the middle part of the backseat so that they have easy access to reach back and pet Buster and talk to him.

My oldest will occasionally ask me how many minutes are left (never hours), and my youngest never asks when we will be there. They are both motivated for this ride because they get to see their grandparents at our destination.

For the driver (me), I’m all about trying to eat right and maintain high energy for the entire ride. My younger brother recommended Kind Bars and Mary’s Gone Crackers. Both were a good call. I also eat fruit. I don’t drink coffee, but I drink Alternative Energy by Function (found at Whole Foods, Sprouts, etc.). No kidding, I also whipped up a Dr. Oz Green Drink before I left. It was delicious when I began the trip. Entertainment-wise, I am constantly listening to music on my iPhone, MLB Spring Training games on the MLB At Bat App, and I listened to part of Baseball Tonight on the Watch ESPN App.

Aside from the unhappy, Happy Meal toys and one other backseat disagreement, my girls were well behaved. By the way, I have a roll of paper towel and toilet paper just in case someone loses their lunch or snack. I also have children’s meds in case there’s a sore throat, headache, upset stomach, etc.

It was a good trip.

Do you dare to take a 16-hour drive with your kids sans wife?


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