by Corinne McDermott, Have Baby Will Travel
I think everyone has a memory of at least one family road trip… Piled into the family station wagon, safely buckled in and taking turns singing harmonies of Row Row Row Your Boat in-between neatly munching healthy snacks. No? How about pinching, bickering and hogging the one Sony Walkman in a seat that's sticky from spilled juice with the vague scent of vomit wafting by occasionally (this being a time pre-Febreze). More like it? Me too.
But in spite of my less-than-fond memories of the sweaty summer road trip (pre-AC as well!), we're probably hitting the highway soon, and I'll definitely be using the 5 Rs…
Don't just rely on online map generators – find a bit of time to really check out possible routes that may not be the quickest, but could be the most interesting. You'll have to be making more stops now than when you hit the road pre-kids, it would be great if those stops could be fun and even educational, instead of just a truck stop/coffee shop. A few more things to consider – there are some fun and helpful applications for your cell phones and GPS. Familiarize yourself with them in advance and you won't be frustrated trying to figure them out while all the lovely scenery is whizzing by!
How much would it suck to have a car packed full with belongings and kids stuck on the side of the highway due to car troubles that could have been prevented due to maintenance? In the weeks leading up to your trip, have your car serviced, with fluid levels checked and tires balanced. The day before you leave double-check the tire pressure and make sure your membership with a roadside assistance provider is up to date.
What good are those handy-dandy snack packs, travel games, or stash of DVDs if you can't safely reach them from your seat? Who wants to be scrambling when a spill inevitably happens? Prepare a bag specifically for addressing these needs while en route and make sure A) you know exactly where it is in the car and B) you can reach it without unbuckling your seat belt. Wherever you go, always make sure you have wipes and hand sanitizer nearby.
Many opt to drive 'round the clock to maximize your vacation time and minimize time spent in the car. This sounds good on paper, but try to make sure that everyone in your party is rested – not just the driver! Pulling the kids out of their beds and plunking them in their car seats sounds like an ideal way to gain some ground when the tots are asleep, only that trick just might not work for you (it didn't for us). If you'll be driving in shifts, make sure you can actually sleep in the car if you're on shift #2. It would be highly unpleasant (and not to mention dangerous) to be a busy passenger for 10 hours only to have to then take the wheel yourself.
Road rage and rude gestures 20min into your 20-hour drive is not the way you want to start your vacation. Yes – please don't forget that it's a vacation and getting there may not be half the fun but it need not be a nightmare. Take a deep breath and laugh at the little things. That jerk that just cut you off is likely not going to be spending quality time with their family time anytime soon, and you already are.
With so many families now opting to hit the road instead of the sky these days, make your journey a fun one for your brood. Hopefully their memories of family vacations will be as idyllic as you hope your trip will be! And hopefully your memories will allow you to look back at the bumps on the road and laugh.
Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel – your online guide to traveling with babies and toddlers. For more information please visit www.havebabywilltravel.com or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.