Ah, the road trip. The summer months are not complete without at least one road trip out of the city. People either relish or dread the idea of spending hours in the car with their children–let’s call them backseat whiners–while navigating the roads and insane border lines.
And speaking of insane: we tested our infant on his first road trip (Burlington, VT) at only 6 weeks old and then decided that we were tough enough to road trip our way down to Washington, DC with our then 2-month old for the Christmas holidays. True story.
Montreal is well-located for some great road trips that can be as long as 6-7 hours (Toronto or New York) or as short as 2-3 hours (Ottawa or Mt. Tremblant). Under 2 hours and we consider it a day-trip.
I often think about the pollution we create with our many car trips; while off-setting those emissions with environmentally friendly alternatives won’t eliminate the toxic fumes at least we’ve made our green contribution.
Here are a few ways we cut our carbon footprint (or offset the car mileage): 1. we own a Flexible Fuel Vehicle 2. my husband bikes to work whenever possible 3. we are committed to continually upgrading our home to increase energy efficiency 4. when available, we buy locally grown food and support local-made businesses 5. once we arrive at our destination, we walk everywhere possible.
Parents often avoid road trips until their kids can be sufficiently entertained by a movie or some other device but I highly recommend starting your kids early and enjoying–rather than shrinking from–the time you have with them.
The following is a list of tips I’ve found are helpful while road tripping:
- Make frequent stops. These are not just for small bladders but also for eager minds. Depending on the age of your child, give them goals at every rest stop (how many out-of-state/province plates can they find? can they find their location on the map? etc) or just give them time to stretch their legs.
- Give them rest-stop countdowns and divide time into 30 minute chunks. “Are we there yet?” can be significantly reduced by giving them a a target hour/minute range.
- Talk. Talk. Talk. Yes, this is what I love most about roadtrips. My husband is forced to shut-down the mobile device and I have his undivided attention. Take advantage of the opportunity to discuss school, friends, and activities with your children. Talk about where you’re going and the things you’ll do once there.
- For younger children (not at the talking stage), bring plenty of books and activities to amuse them while on the road. Also, bring their favorite toy/blanket/book/teddy, etc. It’s safe to say that you don’t want to be miles on the road when kiddo asks for his special binky. Diapers are highly recommended for toddlers who are potty-training–just don’t risk it.
- Play verbal car games. Count blue cars, play I/Eye-Spy, name countries from A-Z, or ask your kids to invent an imaginary world. Though silly, these games foster communication, critical thinking and ultimately affection.
- Catch up on some much-needed sleep! While one parent drives, you can doze off to the lull of the highway. Setting aside a time for quiet relaxation or sleep is essential for your kids, too.
- If you don’t suffer from motion sickness, use the time to read. This is something everyone can enjoy and it can be incorporated into quiet time.
- Bring plenty of snacks and refreshments. Yes, drinking leads to peeing but it’s important to keep well-hydrated on car trips as the A/C (or heating) can have a very parching effect on the body.
- Don’t be shy to turn on the portable DVD player, Ipad, Iphone, etc when your child has turned into a fuss monster or when your kids start squabbling over absolutely nothing and start the pinching-rapidly-escalating-to-punches game. As much as I’m an advocate of roadtrip time being family-togetherness time, I also have a low-tolerance for eardrum-shattering screams from the backseat whiners.
- Breathe and smile. You are on vacation! And don’t shoot me for repeating this obvious line: “Enjoy every moment–your kids grow so quickly!”
Sit back and enjoy the ride. In a car, you get to experience the view from a totally different perspective and sometimes the evergreens whizzing by can be a nice time to relax your brain. My secret? I drive so my husband deals with our backseat whiner. 🙂