Road Trip!

We recently took a big old fashioned family summer road trip.  Chicago to Windsor, Canada…Windsor to Toronto…Toronto to Niagra Falls…Niagra Falls to Connecticut…Connecticut straight through to Chicago. We covered nearly 2,000 miles in a week.

Because we live in a big city, we don’t drive very often.  Just about everything we need is within a 10 minute walk, and if we can’t walk we try to take the bus.  On the rare occasions that we actually do have to drive, I often question if the destination is actually worth the trip.  Evie, Mack and Vivian generally are not too pleased to drive around for too long, so I keep the car rides to a minimum.

But, our road trip this summer was the only way we’d get to see our family on the east coast (flights were just too expensive).  And, with my cousin Monika here we thought it would be fun to show her around.  Plus, I love getting another stamp in our passports, so Canada called.  All in all, it was a good time to take a big trip.

Here are a few things we learned about managing little ones on a loooooong ride:

1. DVD Player

Sure, it might be nice to fantasize about playing old-fashioned road trip games (license plate bingo!), but in reality my 1, 3 and 5 year olds want absolutely nothing to do with that rubbish.  They want DVDs.

Thankfully, our car has a DVD player in it, but I know portable ones can easily be purchased for less than a tank of gas. For this trip, I bought a few movies they’ve never seen before, and we borrowed some “new” DVDs from our generous neighbor.  The kids watched their shows while the adults listened to the radio.  The best part? Their random giggles from behind their headphones!

2. Snacks

Road trips and long flights are good times to splurge on less than healthy snacks.  Crackers, cookies, candy – it’s all in good fun.  However, we also make a point to pack some healthy treats.  Everyone has his or her own Klean Kanteen bottle filled with water.  For our drive from Chicago to Windsor, Canada, I brought along a loaf of freshly baked banana bread and some strawberries.  Vivian enjoyed some portable Greek yogurt pouches from Happy Family.

3. Presents!

Before the trip I shopped for a few special gifts to give the kids during particularly bleak times of the drive.  When they’ve had ENOUGH of the car, I toss a wrapped gift back to them.  Mack loved a few new Hot Wheels, Evie was thrilled with a Barbie dress-up game, and Vivian snuggled a new tiny baby doll.  Sure enough, after every present their spirits were lifted for at least another 50 miles, and we had peace once again.

4. Take stops

I know it can be tempting to power through a long ride, but stopping is essential for a peaceful drive.  Our final destination was Connecticut, but to make the 900 miles out east more tolerable we stopped in several Canadian cities. We enjoyed a nice walk and a great dinner in Windsor (just over the border from Detroit).

And, we found so much to do in family-friendly Toronto!

Visiting Niagra Falls was awesome – a cool adventure for the kids, that’s for sure.

(even though Vivian was less than pleased about wearing a plastic poncho for the Maid of the Mist boat tour.)

Life is about the journey – not just the destination.

5. Cry

For the return trip, we didn’t follow the advice above, and we chose to drive 900 miles straight home.  We had about 60 miles left when we all had to stop for a bathroom break.  We let the kids run around the rest stop, playing with the video games in the arcade.  After 15 minutes, it was time to pack everyone in (again) to finish the trip.  Vivian resisted.  She cried. She wiggled. She was doing everything to avoid getting back in her car seat.

I had to hand her to Chris. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put her precious little butt back in that car seat.

I started to cry. I was so tired and I felt bad about having them cooped up in the car for nearly 14 hours at that point.  I was done.

And, then I felt better.  Sometimes a good cry is necessary, right?!

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4 Comments for this entry

  1. Katie McFarland says:

    I wish my mom had read this blog back in the day! When we were younger she took me (age 7) and younger brother and sister on a road trip (in a very small car) to Yellowstone and Yosemite from Chicago. No DVDs, no snacks, just a single gameboy Nintendo the three of us shared. It was torture for her AND us! I’m going to email this to her!

  2. Marcia says:

    We’ve done several long road trips with our kids (with varying degrees of success), but I’ve never tried the small presents trick. I will have to try that next time. Thanks for the great idea!

  3. YES for making regular stops! We did two long road trips last summer, one from upstate NY to Chicago and another from upstate NY to St. Louis. Our son was 15 months at the time and budgeting time for regular stops probably saved our sanity!

    So glad you all go to see Niagara Falls, especially with your cousin here visiting. There’s nothing quite like them! I’m also a big fan of Toronto. 🙂 Oh, and if you ever drive to Connecticut again, there is a terrific children’s museum in Indianapolis that is very much worth a stop for families with little ones!

    • Maureen says:

      We visited the Indianapolis Children’s Museum earlier this year, and, you are right, it is AWESOME and well worth a trip. The kids didn’t want to leave!

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