Driving is probably the most dangerous thing that we do on a regular basis. Not only are you flying down the street in a big metal box hoping not to hit anything, your other goal is to avoid all the other people out there zipping along in their own big metal boxes. It’s like running a 5K where everybody is holding a pair of scissors. And many of them are using their free hand that isn’t holding scissors to put on makeup or look at Facebook on their phone or eat a breakfast burrito.
We made the 6+ hour roadtrip to see Diva Girlfriend’s family this weekend. We made it there and back like pros, 12+ hours in the car. We diverted around some holiday traffic, managed to avoid tickets, and didn’t get into any trouble. For example, I successfully avoided a drunk redneck trying to engage me in an impromptu race or perhaps some kind of roadside fight just east of San Antonio. He seemed pretty upset about me ignoring him (even though he was in an old pickup truck and towing a boat). I need a sign that says “I’m not going to race you, I have a friggin kid in here.”
Making long roadtrips with a kid can be a challenge, but here are some tips to making it work for you.
1. Bring good kids
This seems like a simple tip, but you’d be surprised how many people overlook this important detail. Not all kids are great travel companions. Jules is awesome on trips, but some of your kids are little monsters. If your kid shrieks like a chimpanzee everytime they want something , or they can’t go five miles without squirting a Capri Sun onto the back of your head, or they fight with each other like they’re in a UFC-octagon back there, you might want to leave their little butts at home.
2. Play some roadtrip games
Kids always like Simon Says because it’s a chance for them to be bossy. Jules tries to get me to do stuff that’s hard to do while driving, like “Simon Says close both of your eyes. Close them, Daddy.”
Another good roadtrip game is “I spy with my little eye…” You give a clue and the rest of the car blurts out guesses. Jules said she spied “something green” and it ended up being “envy.” Weird.
I made up a new game where you have to sing everything you say. Diva Girlfriend wouldn’t play. There is also the Quiet Game, which was probably originally borne out of desperation for a silent moment in the car.
3. Stop often for the potty
Kids have bladders the size of a quarter. And even if you’re lucky enough to have one who will tell you when they need to make a restroom detour, you only get the heads-up after it is Mission Critical. The first time you hear about it, they’re doing the Pee Pee Dance and begging you to stop the car immediately. That’s a recipe for ending up in some low-quality restrooms. It’s better to get out in front of this one and be proactive — make them go often, so you don’t have the mad scramble to find a place to pee.
One time I tried to point the Ol’ Supersoaker into a Dr Pepper bottle when my friend Evan was driving — we got the giggles and spilled Dr Pepper and urine everywhere.
4. Bring geeky gadgets
I can’t tell you how great it is to have the Leapster Explorer. Jules will spend hours back there, creating and feeding her little electronic pets or playing monotonous Princess-related games. Diva Girlfriend claims to get barfy if she tries to read in the car, but it’s a selective kind of nausea because I’ve seen her do marathon Facebook sessions without any issues.
5. Keep your eyes on the road
After staring at your hood and relatively similar scenery for hours on end, you might be tempted to let your eyes wander. Kids especially encourage this. ”Daddy, look at this picture I drew of you! Look over here, I drew your face on a flower!” But remember back to the scissors analogy — there are thousands of other people rocketing down the road, just feet away from you, with only a very loose command of their vehicles. You have to be ready at all times to swerve into a different lane to avoid them. So be on your toes, people.