Ryan Thomason

Geek Dad Report: Long Car Trips Are Not Fun

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As I reflect on my recent experience with traveling for close to 10 hours in a car with a three year old and a one year old. I thought that I might as well dispense some information on you other parents out there so that your trip might go a little smoother than mine.

First off, if you have to travel with two little kids, I suggest you take the approach that we use nearly every time. Leave your house a couple of hours after the kids bedtime, this way you are ensuring that they are still sleepy so that you can put them into car seats. Now, as you start your journey, the only noise you get from the back seat will be snoring! This has worked every time for us, except two nights ago. We’d gotten about 3 hours into our drive, and since we had crossed state lines and knew a town had a fast food joint that we LOVE (Jack in the Box) only because they don’t have any in Utah. We figured we’d top off the gas while we were in a major town and didn’t have to stop at some seedy looking place. Well, my one year old woke up, started bawling, like huge crocodile tears bawling. Woke up the three year old, who then HE got grumpy. We had to abandon the night drive and plop down 74 dollars at hotel so that the kids could attempt to get some sleep. Of course we get into our room, and it’s like the kids all of a sudden have super energy, because of a 5 hour power nap that should have been bedtime sleeping. So at 1:30 my wife goes to Jack in the Box, brings back our food and the kids snack on fries from 1:30 in the morning until they finally pass out again at 3.

Not the best way to start the car trip.

Now, we had to attempt something we always try to avoid. Driving for another 6 hours during the day. If you have young kids, forfeit your seat up front, and suck it up. Cause you’ll save yourself a lot of pain, and yelling if you just squeeze your but into the back seat with them. If you only have one kid and don’t have to be a dad sandwich between two car seats, you’re a lucky bastard. First of all, I’m the type that makes sure that the car seats can’t move because they are so locked down tight. That doesn’t help when you find yourself having to squeeze between them. What happens is you end up in a weird half sideways sitting position when after a while you leg starts cramping up so you have to stick your leg across the center console and let you wife admire your stinky feet. Bonus points if you slowly inch your foot toward her while she’s driving.

Now that you’ve managed to put yourself into some weird kind of torture position you get the fun part of being the entertainer! Ohhhh who wants to play look silently out the windows?! Nobody. Great. This is the true test for dads, coming up with ways to entertain a kid who is strapped into a seat for hours on end with no chance to move around except for pit stops. You can only read so many stories and come up with weird games to play. Portable DVD players come in handy, (just don’t forget the car charger like I did) and snacks help, but my best trick was just boring them to death so that when you suggest they just rest their head on a pillow, they fall for it and take a nap.

If you don’t have any major time constraints, just stop at every rest stop, yes, every single one. With diaper changes and potty training, the best way to ensure that you have a more pleasant long drive is dry butts and more importantly car seats. No kid wants to sit down in a car seat they soaked in their own urine. At least at rest stops on the side of the road you can just stretch, and burn off those crazy kids ample supplies of energy, so they can take more naps during the drive. Pass up Historic scenery or museums, no little kid really gives a crap about what happened in some desolate stretch of road. Only make them suffer when they are old enough to know what’s going on.

On the issue of drinks, every parent knows that apple juice might as well be forgotten. We all know that this magical elixir just makes everyone have to go massive amounts of pee pee at the worst times. Trust me. We learned the hard way. Make them drink water, there are enough people in the world who can’t get the good stuff, so kids can just suck it up and have it.

The only way to suffer through a long drive though, is to just relax, and remember that no matter what, it’s going to be a pain in the ass. Nothing is going to go as planned so just roll with the punches. As long as you keep a smile on your face, even though that tall bridge overlooking the river looks inviting. Kids play off our emotions, so just put on a happy face, teach them some “eye spy” and “Slugbug”, while you introduce them to classic rock. Yes, Classic rock, it’s some of the best road trip music out there. You damn hippies.

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