Tip Tuesday — These Kids are Driving Me……

The hilarity will have to wait for another time because today is Tuesday, time for Tips.

So, it’s vacation time. Ah, the joys of extensive travel with kids. The laughter, the tears, the strong and persistent Braxton Hicks contractions brought on by cramming my second-trimester-pregnant belly into the back seat of a small car, trying to comfort a screaming 18 month old who will not be sedated by the flashing lights on the DVD player because we have conditioned her to never watch more than 15 minutes per day. Oi! Memories……

But wait, since when did this become all about me? Tip Tuesday is about sharing, about community. It’s the one day a week that my blog is supposed to be about all of us, teaching, sharing, helping each other grow. This week’s topic is how to make traveling with kids fun — for everyone.

In the spirit of sharing, I will share one of my own childhood travel experiences, because, after all this is my blog; it’s at least mostly about me. This experience illustrates why I don’t deserve to have a moment’s peace in my road-tripping life as a parent. It illustrates why I deserve to be cursed and why I so desperately need your help.

At this juncture, I will not be offended if you skip to the numbered list of tips at the bottom and then post your own. This story is not for the faint of heart, or really for any decent, non-reality-tv-watching human being.

It was a dark and stormy summer vacation. I was 10ish and the fam and I were driving from Calgary, Alberta to Victoria, BC, camping along the way. The baby was sick. Shortly into our drive, I began asking to use the restroom with increasing frequency. By the end I think I was asking to stop approximately every 30 seconds. (This is not an exaggeration. I vividly rembember pulling away from one filling station and begging my dad to stop at the next one on the SAME STREET.)

My parents drove into a health clinic to have me looked at and it turned out that I had a flaming bladder infection. We got a prescription and continued on our trek in the pouring rain towards BC, camping along the way. Did I say we were camping? Everything was wet (no pun intended). I peed in rest-stops, restaurants, gas stations, bushes, a plastic grocery bag in the back seat of our Chevy Astro Van. (I warned you not to read this)

I cried. I bawled. I whined. The antibiotics upset my stomach so I yorched spaghetti into said plastic grocery bag. My parents deserve a congressional medal of honor for what they went through. After driving for two days, all of our earthly possessions were soaked with rain or other fluids, two of the 5 kids were sick, my uncle in BC said the rain was not supposed to let up for weeks and my Dad decided we should turn around and head home, in the rain. He drove 20 hours straight along some of the most dangerous highway in Canada…with me… in the back… and the fluids.

He patiently stopped for me over and over and over and over and over again. When we got home, they talked about what an adventure it was. We got to eat the individually packed yogurts, Jiffy-Pop and other fun camping treats. It is one of my most memorable and in fact beloved vacations – even though I was sick as a dog and we were never “there yet”. We just turned around and came home.

Some tips from a woman whose mom used to teach classes on traveling with children (Mom, I hope you comment today):

1. Buy a van.

2. Trip presents — small items that the kids get at milestones along the way, every 50 miles, every rest stop, every hour or two. These can be as simple as crayons, a cool eraser, a paper fan or as nice as a new DVD or CD.

3. Coupon books — each kid gets a coupon book full of things like, “pick the next CD,” “pick a song for us all to sing,” “choose the next game,” “switch seats with someone,” “get some extra gummy sharks.”

4. Food — lots and lots of food, special food, food they can’t normally have at home. Try to avoid food that is messy, food that will make your car wish it had never been born …er …manufactured.

5. Games and activities —
I Spy — traditional version or the one where you have to spot something that starts with a certain letter of the alphabet.
Count the cows — count the number of cows on your side of the car. The person with the most wins. If you pass a graveyard on your side of the car, all of your cows die and you have to start over again.
For Younger Kids — we like to play the “I’d be so sad if…” game. This started when Laylee would whine and say she was so sad to get attention. I would diffuse it by saying, “Are you sad because the house is upside down?” and she’d grin and say “Yeah!” and we’d laugh. Now it’s a game. “I’d be so sad if, my teeth were made of pladoh!” Hysterical laughter. Laylee’s turn. “I’d be so sad if the carpet was blue!” Fake hysterical laughter. My turn. “I’d be so sad if there was cheese in my ears.” Hysterical laughter….. This can go on forever.

6. Storytelling tapes and CDs – Great storytellers can mesmerize both kids and adults. Some favorites are Donald Davis, Carmen Deedy, Jim Weiss, Jay O’Callahan, Joel ben Izzy, Dovie Thomason, Bill Harley, Willy Claflin, Syd Lieberman, Kathryn Windham, Bil Lepp. There are tons of excellent ones out there and many of these should be available at your local library.

7. Songs — We got through our rough contraction-ridden ride over the icy mountains last year by singing 800 verses of “Down By the Bay, Where the Watermelons Grow,” after exhausting every song we had ever heard of in our lives. At least that one can go on forever and it’s different every time.

My favorite verse came from Dan — “Did you ever see a gnat with a cocoanut hat, DOW-N by the bay?”

A lot of these ideas are too old for my little kids, which is where you come in. What should I do with them? Laylee is currently getting all four of her 2-year-old molars and is only 60-70% potty trained. Magoo is…….gonna scream.

You can also share ideas for older kids. I’m open. Mine may live to maturity.

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27 Responses to Tip Tuesday — These Kids are Driving Me……

  1. Dad says:

    Two words: “Xerxes Beard”. I’ll refrain from further explanation for your readers, because you may want to do a whole post about Xerxes Beard.

  2. Mom says:

    Sedation? No,I’m kidding. Really.

    You’ve hit most of the major ones that worked for me.

    Games (are more effective if the parents play along.)

    Songs that the kids like. (This may be interpreted as “songs that parents and people of normal maturity find really – really annoying.”)

    Stories – both books and those manufactured as you go along (“Remember Dad’s story about Ferd the Nerd and Cool Raoul”? I wish we did. We could make a fortune with a story that hilarious.)

    Gifts – that will keep the reciever occupied for as long as possible: books, cds, magic doodle pads, paper dolls (oiy the mess, but well worth it for the time they occupy) – Not crayons, only colored pencils or those great new markers that only work on the “special” paper. (I know from experience that a new box of crayons will melt all over the back shelf of your Dad’s new Buick. The color will NEVER come off.)

    Forget organizational aids (like over the seat pocket organizers) They are pretty much a waste. Kids don’t organize. They will look great when you organize them before the trip starts and will never have a single thing returned to “it’s place”. These things only serve to give you false hope.

    A Sense of humor. This is the most valuable thing to pack, because – hey, we’re dealing with little kids here. If a 2 – year old is driving you up the wall, you know that they are developing normally. Take heart and remember that they’ll grow out of it and on to the next phase before you know it.

    Patience. They will grow up eventually. Traveling got really easy for me once my kids could all read and plug into “walkmans”.

    It’s funny. When you kids were little, I thought I was raising children. What I didn’t know was that I was raising some of my best “friends”.

    I am absolutely crazy about all 5 of you. I love to spend time with you. I “get” your sense of humours? – senses of humour? Hmm.
    I appreciate that I can depend on you. I love our shared history. I could never have found friends as good and true as you. I guess there’s some truth in the term “making friends”.

    And prayer. Hey, if you pray hard enough, maybe the movement of the van will lull them into a deep peaceful sleep every now and then.

    Good luck! Love you all!

  3. blackbird says:

    while I am totally intrigued by the Xerxes beard thing —

    I have much older kids, ya know.
    Old I am. Really OLD.
    Anyway –
    we play the name game, we agree to listen to Guns and Roses really really loud, we have snacks and we buy caramel frappucinos.

    We leave very early in the morning so that the kids sleep for a few hours. Of course this means they are fired up and have plenty of energy when we arrive…and K and I are exhausted.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Benadryl. Lots and lots of Benadryl.

  5. Heth says:

    I’m with Blackbird….leave really early and then they sleep and sleep and sleep.

    Some of my kids are older, but I also have a four year old, two year old, and 6 month old and I have to agree with your Mom, it’s all about patience. Oh, and lots of pit stops.

    Another idea is ear plugs for mom and dad, then just let the kids duke it out and hope they have all of their limbs when you arrive. Ignorance is bliss right?

  6. Kim C. says:

    I second the suggestion to get a van. I’ll bet if you have only 1 or 2 small children, a 15 passenger van would be *really* nice for trips…just take out the middle 2 benches. 🙂
    Kid music is great too. A little annoying for the adults if you don’t choose carefully, but it can really keep the kids’ attention.

    When hubby and I were young enough to pull it off, we would leave for long drives at bedtime, and take turns driving. The kids don’t necessarily go right to sleep, but they’re pretty subdued. Then they sleep, and with any luck you’re in the homestretch by the time they wake up in the morning. Way less bathroom breaks too!

  7. Kim C. says:

    Oh – 2 more things. Audio books are way less annoying than most kid music. Try Ramona by Beverly Cleary for starters. There’s a fantastic version of the whole Narnia series by Focus on the Family.
    And fun, un-messy snacks, doled out little by little. Really stretch ’em out.
    And like your mom said, just try to relax about it. If they’re not killing each other, let them have some fun and make a little noise.
    Make plenty of potty stops and let them stretch their legs. Everyone is happier, even if it takes a little longer to get there.

  8. LFierge says:

    Shoot – we do all these things for a long trip for just me and my husband! We love audio books, currently listening to Red by Ted Dekker in our holiday travels, and we stock up on tons of candy and start driving in the middle of the night so I will sleep and not have to go potty so much. Hmmmm…. did you have this post a few months ago and my husband read it ahead of time? just kidding!

  9. Anonymous says:

    This has the potential to backfire, but my parents would just leave in the middle of the night — they’d wait till we hit our REM sleep, then pack us up and hit the road. One very memorable time, they didn’t tell us we were going on a trip….when we woke up in the car, they announced we were going to Disneyland (they hadn’t told us because they wanted to spare themselves from the insane excitement buildup and the “is it today is it today”ness of it all). Pretty sweet.

  10. Michelle says:

    I love these. I’m going to save that list! Here are some ideas for older kids…

    Even up through high school, I loved the Alphabet Game. It’s collaborative, not competitive: you must find every letter of the alphabet, in order, on anything outside the car. Sounds easy, until you spend an hour looking for an antique shop or liquor store.

    I used to work with a youth group, and on trips, we played “The Animal Game” in the van: one person names an animal, and the next person has to say an animal that begins with the last letter of the previous animal. If you can’t think of one, or you say one that’s been said, you’re out. It doesn’t have to be animals, either; you can pick any “category” you like, as long as it includes enough variety to keep a game going for a while.

    Then there’s the “Spelling Game,” which is a bit more complicated. The first person picks a word, but doesn’t say it; they say the first letter. The next person says a letter–they MUST have a word in mind, but it doesn’t have to be the same word. The goal of the game is NOT to finish a word; if you do, you’re out. There’s a lot of counting and strategizing and also just plain luck involved.

  11. Karen says:

    When I was a kid my parents did a lot of leaving at the crack of dawn to maximize sleeping passenger time. One year my mom gave us busy boxes filled with new crayons, little notepads, stencil rulers, glue sticks, etc. When I was older we did novels on tape. That really did pass the time.

    For my kids we do a lot of what everyone else has mentioned as well as storybooks on tape and kid music. I frequently hop in the back seat between them and read books to them and just hang out. They also really enjoy Magna Doodles and my son has a My First Leap Pad which keeps him occupied for quite awhile. Sometimes I buy a new game and surprise him with it when we’re down the road.

    I know many have mixed opinions about this, but we rely heavily on the portable DVD player for the longest, most boring stretches. There’s nothing like a Disney flick to pass a couple hours of tumbleweeds out the window.

    Regarding potty training while on the road, we used pull-ups and called them his special “travel pants”. We didn’t instruct him to go potty in them and we made restroom stops along the way but they were a good safeguard if he fell asleep and lost bladder control. I’m not a fan of pull-ups but for travel they were a lifesaver.

  12. Mel says:

    We moved from Oregon to Michigan when my twins were 19 months old. Six days in the car. I do not recommend this. I brought lots of small toys which they flung to the ground after ten seconds each. They dropped a lot of goldfish crackers in the car. We played music. We stopped occasionally and once found ourselves strolling up and down the aisles of a hardware store for entertainment.

    Mostly, I say, just don’t do it. 😉

  13. Moonface says:

    love these ideas. must remember them next time we hit the road. my tip is to take frequent breaks so as to stretch legs, freshen up and give the kids a chance to let loose some energy and run about.

  14. MommyMaki says:

    Seems like everything is here so I have nothing to add but I’m gonna copy and paste this all in so when it’s roadtrip time, we’re ready 🙂

  15. Pam says:

    Such great ideas, everyone! My only suggestion now would be to drink only water or not too sweet juice, such as orange juice, for fluids, instead of pop. Saves a ton of time on bathroom stops, for parents and children alike. ALWAYS have real food in the car (not just snacks)(you can stop for fast food, but have good food in case the car breaks down, or you come to a long stretch of nothing and they get hungary unexpectedly). Sugar is not your friend on a trip until the very last stage of the day. Apples, oranges, carrots, not salty chips, and fig newtons (my dad used to buy them only for trips and now it’s a tradition), and gum are your friends for when everyone sleeps except the driver-Oh Wait, does that ever happyen? Yep, eventually. Chocolate, also, is very handy to have, for when the driver gets sleepy! We are sooooo excited to see you soon, DYM and DYD and Laylee and Magoo! Have a fun and save trip! You are the BEST!

  16. Queen Beth says:

    Well, this totally grosses me out, but my sister-in-law put a little training potty in their SUV. That way they had a potty to use just by pulling over to the side of the rode. Now, What I never thought to ask was, did they empty it on the side of the road too? Or did they marinate in the smell for a while?

    We are a huge fan of DVDs. We have a player in our van. I also try to run over to the dollar store and buy plastic containers to be their “Busy Boxes”. That’s what my Mom did for us as kids and it really great. Fill the boxes with *NEW* boxes of crayons, scissors, coloring books, puzzle books, glue sticks (the washable kind) and such. Maybe even their own bag of M&M’s!

    I’ve also made my kids their own “Snack Packs” where they each have some healthy and not-so-healthy snacks in them. Juice boxes are great, but tippy cups are spill proof. Then they have snacks any time they want and we don’t have to stop somewhere anytime they are munchy.

  17. Sugarmama says:

    These tips are fabulous–thanks! Your “I’d be so sad…” game puts me in mind of our own family’s rather grosser version called “Monsters like to eat…” As in, “Monsters like to eat worm spaghetti with rotten slime sauce and moldy cheese on top!” It IS pretty hysterical sometimes, but be warned that it can devolve into potty humour very quickly if you let it. Pretty soon, everything that monsters like to eat is covered in poop sauce.

  18. Karen says:

    Sugarmama- that is the funniest thing I’ve read all day. Poop sauce . . . still laughing out loud.

    I also should have said that my sister and I would switch places periodically with the front passenger which was a huge treat. I always got that spot at night when my dad was driving because I chattered all the time and would keep him awake while my mom and sister snored with their heads lolling around in the back seat. I have very special memories of riding shotgun and hearing him tell stories of when he was a kid. Air bags have ruined that ability but if you child is old enough or you don’t have air bags it might work.

  19. Kelly says:

    Great suggestions by all!
    All I do is pop in DVD’s for the kiddies in the very worth it portable DVD player.
    I guess my kids are pretty easily entertained by movies…..
    Promise. They came that way!!! 😉

  20. Brooke says:

    Our favorite is the “What Do They Have In Common” game. You name two really random objects, say a frog and a piano, and you have to name a characteristic they have in common (they both make sound). What’s amazing is that you can almost always find something, no matter how random the things are. My mom is a Gifted/Talented teacher–this game was her idea, she says it teaches higher level thinking skills.

    Also, yes, we’ve done the porta potty in the back of the van. Gross, but works. It makes it easier that we have boys. Now that Corrie is here, I’m not sure what we’ll do.

    One more–the kids have to “earn” their spending money for the trip. Take a huge bag of quarters or dimes with you. When kids are cooperative or kind for an extended period of time, they earn money. When they argue, they lose some.

  21. jenny says:

    Coupon book and earning spending money? going right into this momma’s bag of tricks.

    We have the over the seat organizers to cut down on clutter (we are vanless) back there and my kids actually use them. They might not be very neat at the end of a trip but everything is up off the seats and tucked away. We usually listen to a cd or two or five and then end up listening to audiobooks.

    My kids (8 and 5) rarely sleep in the car… my son spends most of his time just looking out the window and listening to the stories, my girlie on the other hand loves her color wonder.

    If we’re leaving somewhere in the evening and have a lenghty drive to get home I always pack pajamas and some fleecy blankets. Even if they don’t sleep they’re cozy and content.

  22. RGLHM says:

    Tried all sorts of things for my almost 3 year old and I tell ya, the winner is….the DVD player. She does eventually get bored of it so we use crayons, paper, books, songs, ect. ect. I try to pull things out she hasn’t seen for awhile. And then thank God when she falls asleep for a good chunk of it. have a FABULOUS trip!!

  23. Stephanie says:

    I wish the leaving early thing actually worked.

    My kids wake up the instant their butts touch their carseats, and they are raring to go.

    I got nothing. DOn’t go on vacation?

  24. bon says:

    boy am i slow on the draw…
    Disney has a “storyteller series” of various titles like Toy Storie , Bugs Life etc…
    we download ’em off of itunes and PArrrtay!
    that’s the only one that I haven’t seen on this tip page.

    when I was a kid we just read books out loud… and sang alot. It seems that I recall we were usually singing the last hour or so, right after Mom threatens our very lives and existance. Kinda the “savage beast: thing.

  25. brooke says:

    We play a revised version of the alphabet game. Rather than looking for letters as we drive along, we come up with topic lists. For example, you can start with fruits & veggies: You: Apple, DY Dad: Banana, Laylee: Carrot, etc. When the kids get older you can graduate to topics such as professional sports team mascots and B-List movies.

  26. Kim C. says:

    We did the training-potty-in-the-van trick too, after a 2AM side-of-the-interstate incident that involved a crying groggy naked 2yo and a state trooper.
    We lined the cup of the potty with plastic bags and plenty of paper to absorb liquids, then folded over and tied them. like a bagged diaper, minus the diaper. Of course we dumped them at the firsst opportunity.

  27. joel says:

    “He is happiest, be king or peasant, who finds peace in his own home,” – Johann von Goethehome.
    Link to this site: parenting education

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