As my family gears up for yet another six-hour road trip from New York to Massachusetts today, I am once again preparing for my role as Car Activities Director. When the kids were younger (before moving here) we did the reverse drive–Massachusetts to New York–and I absolutely dreaded it. Dreaded it! Crying baby, changing diapers in dingy Thruway rest stops, cranky toddler, endless hours of Wiggles DVDs, crushed goldfish crackers all over the seats. None of it made for a very happy or relaxing start to the holiday.
Now that my boys are older, road trips are relatively easy, as long as I can tune out the back seat bickering. When it comes to traveling there is one device that our family can’t live without. It’s the iPad. Before I hit the road I load it up with a book for me, a movie rental or two for the kids, and few new game apps. I usually take care of this the night before the trip.
Then I pack the activities bin. This can be a plastic milk crate, storage bin, or wicker basket. Even a laundry basket will do. In the bin I put two clip boards, one for each kid. These come in handy if they want to work on word searches, simple mazes, coloring sheets, or crossword puzzles. Then I add in books, comic books, mini magnetic games, and a deck of cards, pencils and crayons. Truth is, they’d probably be content to play video games the entire six hours, but I believe in some unplugged time.
Next comes the cooler and the all-important road food. With the exception of coffee, we rarely every buy fast food on the Thruway. Everyone gets a sandwich. Then I assemble snack-sized bags of pretzels and grapes, throw in some cheese sticks, granola bars and water and we’re set. I also have bag filled with napkins, hand sanitizer and wet wipes for the inevitable messes that happen along the way.
This year, we’re adding a new element to the family road trip. Our puppy Casey. As a new dog owner, I’m not quite sure what to expect from her. Generally she likes riding in the car, so I’m hoping she’ll be comfy in her crate in the back. I consulted my Dogs for Dummies book and learned an old dog-handler’s trick. Dogs “should travel on little or no food” the book says, “and should get a jelly bean or another piece of sugar candy (except chocolate) before hitting the road.”
So as I get ready to pack the car for yet another road trip, I’m curious how other families do it. Are you the kind of family that plays car games like Punch Buggy or Going on a Picnic or do you all hunker down with your favorite electronic devices and not speak again until you reach your destination? Whatever you do, I hope your travels are safe and your Thanksgiving is a happy one.