Friends & Family

Road Trip! (Or, How I Survived 14 Hours in the Car with My Kids)

Every year for the Fourth of July, we travel to Montana to visit my in-laws.

It’s a grueling trip. Fourteen hours in total, which we split into two days: eight hours the first day and six hours the next. If we were young and childless, I doubt we’d find this challenging. We’d drive, find the hotel, eat dinner somewhere nice–perhaps somewhere adventurous!–snuggle up in front of the TV, and so on. In fact, I know we would, because that’s how we did it when we were first married. 

Now, we have two kids. We also like to bring our dog along. This creates more of a challenge.

We do, however, have a survival strategy. It’s called:


Of course, we have a back-up plan. It’s called:

i spy

Both are pretty good strategies. That, and planning our pit stops. At various times in our familial life, our kids have had various tolerances for their car seats and time spent staring at the backs of Mommy and Daddy’s heads. When the girl was a baby, that tolerance was about two minutes. During this phase, we discovered a variety of good pit stop options:


Playgrounds: that’s probably fairly obvious. Bookstores, coffee houses, and malls: well, they’re basically playgrounds. If you do your research, that is. Get on your phone (when you have reception, which on our drive to Montana is a fairly rare occurrence) and search for kid-friendly options in the upcoming cities and towns. Barnes and Noble always has a great kids’ area, as do many independent bookstores. Malls almost always have a play area. Certain coffee houses have rooms full of toys. You can find these places. They are out there.

Other tips:

Get your kids headphones for their tablets (if they have them) so you don’t have to hear the obnoxious games.

Make an art kit. Put some coloring pages and crayons, etc, in a box or a tote. Attach a pen or pencil to a notebook or a clipboard so you won’t have to turn around and look for dropped writing implements every five minutes.

Dole out activities one by one. If you keep the toys, each new thing is more interesting than if you give them a whole bagful at once.

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