Elizabeth: 3 Kids, 1 Minivan, 3,000 Miles: A Mom’s Guide to Staying Sane on the Road
I have always loved road trips! One of my earliest memories as a child, was of my dad getting me out of bed when it was still dark out and putting me into our green Dodge truck with a cab on the back, and heading out across the country to visit my grandma in New York.
Unlike most kids my age, I never got bored in the car. I could find endless things to do to keep myself occupied. I would draw pictures, play games, listen to stories, look at books, but most of all I loved to look out the window.
I would look out at God’s creation flying by and think how amazing it was that my God could have created such a masterpiece.
Now that I am adult and have a family of my own, I still love to take road trips. I drag all of my family into the car and head out across the country as often as time allows. Even with the challenges of traveling with three kids, I have never lost my love of life on the road.
Recently I embarked on something that even I never thought I would do: I headed out across America with my three kids – by myself! No husband to rely on, no passenger to help choral the kids in the backseat. Just me and my children, ages 6, 4, and 2.
Many people, including my mom, thought I was completely insane for even attempting such a feat but I was determined. I drove from south Florida to upstate New York (just south of Montreal) and back, and in the process logged well over 3,000 miles on my minivan. Believe me, it wasn’t easy! However, I learned a few tips along the way that could prove helpful to any mom or dad hoping to take a cross-country trip with their children and come out sane on the other end!
1. Provide Lots of Entertainment. This may seem obvious but on a trip as long as mine – entertainment is crucial. I stocked everything: portable DVD players, books, crayons, games, small toys — anything that could keep them occupied while we covered the miles.
2. Don’t Be in A Big Hurry. Trips are stressful enough, but if you add in the extra stress of a deadline it can make your trip even more difficult. Kids need lots of time to stop, go to the bathroom, eat, etc., and if you are on a deadline, your stress level will go from high to stratospheric. I decided early on that if I was too tired or simply needed a break, I would simply stop. A word of caution though: Don’t meander! Stop if you need to but making a lot of unnecessary stops will just prolong the trip and in turn make your children tire of traveling that much quicker.
3. Make the Trip an Adventure. If your children feel like they are setting out on an adventure and not just a long car ride, it can make the experience that much more fun. Make it an adventure by focusing on landmarks along the way; point out mountains, fall leaves, strange buildings, weird cars, anything to peak their interest. You can even make a story out of the weird car you just passed or the funky shaped cloud floating in the sky. At one point on our trip we were up in the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounded by fog and at times it looked like we were floating in the clouds. My son Aidan was the only one awake at the time and I said “Look Aidan we are in the clouds!” It was a way for his imagination to work even in the stiff confines of the car.
4. Plan Ahead. On my way north, I had a stopping point in mind but I didn’t have a hotel reserved, so when I arrived at the stopping point, I was forced to search high and low for a hotel with a room available. Apparently, there was some convention in town and almost ALL the hotels were booked. On the way back I made sure not to make the same mistake again by reserving my hotel in advance. The difference it made was immeasurable and it made for a much easier transition. It even allowed time for the kids to take a short swim in the hotel pool before bed – once again helping to make our trip fun – not boring!
5. Give the Kids (and yourself) a Break! Traveling can be tough on kids. Their routines get messed up, they’re out of their comfort zones, and they are restricted (both literally and physically) in what they can do! Give the kids a break by giving them a little wiggle room for their behavior. Let a tantrum pass without a lecture or punishment. Let their whining go unnoticed. Give them an extra piece of candy. In other words for a few hours – LET GO! It will make the trip that much more enjoyable for your kids and that much easier on you.
Don’t let traveling with your kids seem impossible. Many moms (and dads) I know would never dream of taking a long road trip with their kids and in my opinion they are really missing out. Some of my fondest memories as a child and as a parent, are the memories I made while traveling with my family. Traveling takes you away from your daily requirements and lets you focus on just being a family and in the process, creating memories that will last a lifetime!