My children are superstars.
Friday’s drive was about 7 hours of travel time (including a few stops) and we had maybe 20 minutes of whining spread over the entire trip. And that was with the torrential downpours that made it impossible to see anything or drive at a normal speed, and with getting soaked every time we got out of the car to go into a rest stop. K loved her surprises and even served as entertainment director for N, handing him new toys every so often and playing peek-a-boo when he got bored.
Today’s drive was plagued with an unintentional detour (although now I can say I’ve been to Oka, where a famous standoff took place between the police and an aboriginal group) and some terrible traffic right around when we wanted to stop for dinner. Ten hours after we left Saint-Sauveur, we pulled into our driveway. We may have had a total of thirty minutes of whining. K used stickers and index cards to make invitations for her stuffed sheep’s birthday, she built a family of dinosaurs out of play mais, and she examined all of her stuffed animals and applied band-aids liberally to their poor little bodies. N slept for about 5 of the 9 hours on the trip.
I have some cute pics of K playing with her surprise gifts, but I’m too tired to dig out the camera right now. I’ll blog more about it tomorrow. In the meantime, let me leave you with my tips for a successful road trip with young kids:
1. Bring surprise gifts for the kids. The more elaborately wrapped the longer they’ll take to unwrap, and taking up time is really the point of the exercise. As for the contents – open-ended crafts or building toys seemed to be the best for sustained play.
2. Bring lots of snacks. A 9-hour car ride is not (in my opinion) the time to be strict about how many cookies are too many. Again, distraction is key. If you can achieve distraction with grapes, do. If it takes gummy bears… well, stock up.
3. Prepare kids’ music that you like. Unless you want to hear a lot of whining, load up the iPod or make a mix CD with songs that you love as much as the kids do, and be prepared to play DJ for them.
4. Hit the Golden Arches. As much as I dislike their food, McD’s seemed to be the only place we could take the kids to stretch their legs and play for 20 minutes on a rainy day. K still talks about all the “tubes” and how she climbed all the way to the top even though it was scary.
5. Find out-of-the-way stops. We used the standard highway rest stops a couple of times, but had great success when we went off the highway just a bit. Once we ended up sitting in the grassy shade next to a chip wagon, which K loved because she got to climb the huge hunk of granite that was sticking out of the ground a few feet away, and which N loved because he was actually able to roam freely for a while. Another time we left the beaten track to find a Playplace (at Mcd’s) for K, and a third time we just wanted a restaurant where someone would bring us our food for a change. Anyhow, these places were less crowded and more fun than the standard highway stops.
6. Don’t count on naptime. N slept a ton, K not at all until the last hour of a 9-hour day. Had I planned on not having to entertain her for two hours while she napped, I’d have been frustrated and short on distractions.
7. Bring multiples of everything. Multiple blankets for snuggling in the car, multiple outfits, even multiple sippy cups – because you won’t be able to reach the ones that have been pushed out of the carseat onto the floor. Having an organized stash within reach means less discomfort, and hence less whining.
8. Accept that any rest stop, even just a stop to pee, will probably take 20-30 minutes. It just will.
9. Brush up your camp songs, especially the kind where the kids have to repeat after you. Bonus points for songs with actions.
10. Remember that it’s only one day. Even if the kids scream the whole time, you can start fresh with them tomorrow.