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What It's Like to Take a Family Road Trip

Inevitable Laws of the Road Trip With Children

It's Summer and time to explore. For us, that means the allure of the road and long trips in the car. We love getting to other states to visit family and see new places, and there's a nice rhythm to going by car. Even with kids, driving can seem a lot more peaceful than flying. We used to be able to drive 10 to 12 hours with kids.

Lately, we've found it's easier to drive shorter days and make fun stops to explore on the way to our destination. I'm not sure any of us could survive a 12-hour day in the car this Summer. Anything over six seems to require at least two hours of noncar time. And the longer the trip, the more impossible it is to pack for. In just a few hours, our back seat turned into a mound of animals, blankets, pillows, shoes, snacks, and paper beneath which my children were breathing, somewhere. Or screaming. Behold, the rules of the road.

  1. Nappers don't nap. The longer the car trip, the shorter the nap. If a nap miraculously occurs, it will only occur in the last 15 minutes of any drive.
  2. If one child miraculously naps, the lengths you will go to in order to keep nonsleeping child quiet are extreme.
  3. Never forget the headphones. If there is more than one kid in the car, headphones may be the only thing between you and terrible chaos. Or between you and someone saying the word "Mommy" over and over and over while you navigate traffic.
  4. You always forget the headphones.
  5. Any rules you establish at beginning of road trip will be tossed halfway to destination. Especially the "no gum in the car" rule.
  6. Gum in the car is an excellent idea. It keeps a mouth occupied, and it's like a snack and a treat all at once. Even if it ends up in someone's hair.
  7. Reading will not occur. All of the books you lovingly selected to occupy your child for the longest time — a giant library — will be ignored in favor of joke books, sister's crinkly books, road signs, stickers, and a menu from last night's restaurant.
  8. You may pack and package a week's worth of wholesome snacks, but you will still spend at least $30 on utter crap, coffee, and water at gas stations and rest stops.
  9. If you stop for a bathroom break, a bathroom break will be requested 10 minutes after getting back on the road after the initial bathroom break.
  10. Poop. If someone says poop, leave the road immediately. Even then you may not be fast enough.
Image Source: Corbis Images
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