family travel

Ways to Survive the Family Vacation Trip
Apryl Chapman Thomas

“Mom, are we they yet?”

Memorial Day is around the corner and you know what that means – summer vacation. It’s time to load up the car with family and luggage and set forth on the open road. Whatever type of transportation you choose – driving, flying, or riding a train; that means your children will spend somewhere around over an hour or beyond, together in a small space, with no escape route.

Before your throw up your hands and settle back inside your house, refusing to travel with your children until they are 16 or 18 years old, there are ways that you can travel distances, beyond the grocery store, with your children, even young ones, and still keep your sanity.

“Are we there yet?”

“I have one word for moms: portable DVD player,” said Debbie Feit of Farmington, Michigan. “I purchased one for our children prior to a four hour trip, and we got our money’s worth.”

Sharon Wren of East Moline, Illinois; and Dawn McBaine of Clifton Park, Ny., embraced the DVD route as well.

“My laptop, with a DVD player was a lifesaver on an eight hour drive home from a vacation in Indiana,” said Wren. “I brought along a bunch of movies that my kids liked. Even my 15 year old nephew paid attention when we put in ‘Monsters Inc’.”

McBaine purchased a DVD in a Bag from Wal-Mart to survive a 28 hour car ride to and from Myrtle Beach with her three girls.

“It really made a difference in the trip,” said McBaine.

“Are we there yet?”

Aside from or in addition to the DVD players, moms pack the “old reliables” in the backseat, such as small games, toys, and coloring books.

“I keep my eyes open in the few weeks before a trip for interesting books and small toys,” said Feit. “Party stores are a good place because they sell small and inexpensive party favors.”

Special in car games tend to work well with children of all ages, especially older children, such as keeping track of different license plates on the road and at the end of the trip, awarded the winner with a special treat.

“A few days before we leave, we each pick a current song on the radio, and count how many times we hear it,” said Julie Sturgeon, of Greenwood, Indiana. “As long as no one in the group had control over the selection, such as bringing that CD along in the car, any part of the song counts, so the best way to win is pick something being used in a movie promotion or television commercial.”

Sturgeon added, “We make the car a real party atmosphere — someone starts This Old Man, and the next person has to fill in the verse with new rhyming words. So for instance, ‘this old man, he played one …’ and the next person in
line says ‘he played knick-knack with a hot-cross bun.'”

“Mom, are we there YET?”

With some pre-planning and creative ideas, and input from your children, your family can also have an enjoyable car ride to wherever the roads lead you this summer. Just remember to bring extra clothes for everyone in case of any emergencies, extra snacks, water and juice; and your sense of humor.

More Family Vacation Tips

from Stacy DeBroff, president and founder of Mom Central, , and mom in Chestnut Hill, Mass.,  she offers this  additional advice:

Sanity Savers: Put a box of toys, a soft suitcase, or a diaper bag between two kids in the back seat. It gives them boundaries and also serves as an ad hoc table for games.

Keep your itinerary flexible. One of the advantages of driving is that you pass interesting sites and signs along the way.

Stop for anything that might be fun or just get you out of the car for a while.

Take a break every couple of hours. You don ‘t have to stop for long, just give everyone time to use the restrooms or have a diaper change, and run around a bit.

When you stop for meals, eat outdoors so your child can play while you relax.  Or find several destinations to stop and explore along the way so you and your child will have something a little closer to anticipate.


Make up stories about people you see in the cars you pass. Have one person
start, and everyone tries to add a little to the story.

Find the Color: For younger kids who cannot read, this game is a bit
easier. The first one to find the color outside the car wins. Or have each
member of your family picks a car color and races to see who can reach fifty
cars of that color first.

Apryl Chapman Thomas is the mother to Shay Thomas, who is three years old. When Apryl is not chasing her around, she finds time to write.

A professional writer for over seven years, Apryl’s articles have appeared in a variety of magazines. In her free time, she enjoys reading and traveling. Apryl and Shay, along with Apryl’s husband and 7 year old minature daschund, Dudley, live in Watkinsville, GA (outside of Atlanta).

Joan McCray

Joan McCray is a travel writer living in NYC. Her work has appeared in the NewYorker,Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Wine,and many local publications.She has published travel anthologies in and Lonely Planet.

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