Stressing About Holiday Travels

holiday travel with kidsActually, I’m not. Not stressing about it at all, even though we’ve planned a fifteen-day vacation by car, over lots of little rivers and through much woods, across many miles to Grandma’s House, and Nana’s House and Uncle Weisenheimer’s … You get the picture, many relatives we rarely see will be on the itinerary.

How could I possibly plan such an adventure without getting all stressed out? What about the driving conditions? How to keep the kiddos occupied for many hours in the car? How to make sure Santa knows where we’ll be on Christmas morning? How will the boys behave at all the various relatives’ houses (none of them will be childproof, guaranteed)? And how to decide where to spend Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, and let’s not forget about New Year’s Eve?

First of all, for a long car trip you need the biggest, most comfortable car you can get your hands on. Fuel economy won’t make up for sore backs and whining children with no leg room. Of course, if you’re a two car family, you also need to choose your most reliable vehicle. Nothing’s scarier than being broken down on a lonely stretch of highway in a snowstorm. Don’t forget the auto club card for those unplanned emergencies. We’re also signed up with our state’s electronic toll collecting scheme, which is in synch with a few states we may be passing through. That will save us searching for change when we unexpectedly come upon a toll booth. Well, at least some of the time.

Since our traveling time will cover at least a couple of overnight stays at roadside hotels, we have a little plan there, too: suites and pools. We stick with favorite chains. Their quality tends to be pretty close no matter what state we are in. We pack a cooler and some staples, get a room with a fridge and microwave and always go for the free breakfast. Once settled in, what better way to stretch out and unwind after being cooped up in a car all day than playing in the pool? Sure beats trying to keep the kids from bouncing off the walls and annoying other guests with their noise in a tiny inexpensive motel room. And it doesn’t matter how late they stay up, after all, we want them to need a nap the next day.

When it comes to saving money vs saving our sanity, as travelling parents we choose our sanity every time. Because we still have the visit with relatives to come. Another sanity-saver, particularly for those early evenings when it starts to get dark, is the DVD player. We used to be a VCR family, but this year we’re upgrading to DVD, with each child getting their own screen mounted on the back of the seat in front of them. It’ll be easier to store more DVD’s, so we won’t be watching the same movies for the whole trip. Maybe this year I won’t be humming the Scooby Doo theme as we pull into my parents’ driveway.

Once we get to our destination, there’s the issue of how will the children behave. I stick to the main rules that we keep at home, such as treat everybody with respect, and then let the grandparents spoil them a bit. When I see them getting out of control, I simply remove them from the present company. Sometimes that means taking them for a ride to the nearest playground to blow off steam before joining the family for dinner, but it sure beats a food fight.

One reason our trips are so long, besides travel time, is we always schedule in “down time”, days that are set aside to just hang out and play. Both kids and parents need time to relax, and this is supposed to be a “vacation” after all.

The holidays are a great time to get together with family members we rarely see. And with plenty of pre-planning and reasonable expectations, and only a few headaches, our road trips are making lasting memories for our children, for the entire family.

Patti Hermes

Patti Hermes, Parent to Parent, is living the dream with her high school sweetheart, raising their boys in the Midwest because it's a good starting point for epic road trips. While writing, reading and homeschooling take up most of her time, she still blogs at HermesParent to ParentParentingStressing About Holiday Travels by Patti Hermes Actually, I'm not. Not stressing about it at all, even though we've planned a fifteen-day vacation by car, over lots of little rivers and through much woods, across many miles to Grandma's House, and Nana's House and Uncle Weisenheimer's … You get the...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids