Okay, I admit it. I’m on a travel theme. Something about being in a car for five days with five kids and no hubby makes one think a lot about what works and what doesn’t. In case you are planning any road trips of your own, here are my top tips:

  1. Bring headphones and an iPod/MP3 player for yourself. Sometimes you really need to just drown out the whining and bickering.
  2. Don’t play “the quiet game.” Everyone hates that game and sees right through it. If you need them to be quiet a while, just mandate it. Or see #10
  3. Plan a lot of stops. A lot. I figure on stopping every 100 miles or 2 hours, whichever comes first. Looking ahead for rest areas makes this easier.
  4. Have a “picnic” box packed each day on the road. It should contain lunch (or lunch fixings), snacks, and activities like a large ball, jump rope, and sidewalk chalk. We love the chalk and we leave our mark at every stop. Maybe it gives another weary traveler a smile.
  5. Do not eat in the car. See #8. You need to get out anyway, so eat outside. Don’t worry if the kids don’t eat much, they haven’t burned a lot of calories.
  6. Have something “special.” Example, my kids never get Kool-Aid, except on road or camping trips. Whatever “special” is at your house, save it for road trips.
  7. Plan some special stops. It’s about the journey and not just the destination. We get so focused on where we’re going. Make getting there part of the fun. Picnic in special places like waterways, state parks and scenic areas. We take forever getting to our final destination because we visit zoos, farms, wildlife refuges and science museums en route. We try to make it fun.
  8. There’s a balance between trying to make too much distance and not making progress. Find that balance for your family. We are good for 300-350 miles a day. If camping, plan a hotel for the hardest travel day.
  9. Celebrate each day’s ending. When we get where we’re stopping for the night, we have “happy hour.” No, we don’t drink (usually!). We have a light snack, a beverage, and just take a deep breath. The kids run in circles and explore the new spot.  THEN we start getting organized, cooking supper, etc. It’s just nice to have something to look forward to.
  10. Let your kids be kids but don’t be afraid of boring them. If you don’t entertain them, they won’t expect you to. Bring diversions, bring audio books, bring music– but just relax. They will find a million ways to amuse themselves. And when they don’t, see #10!