Ah, the family road trip. There’s nothing like an 8 hour car ride to get your family vacation started on the right foot! If your climbing family is anything like ours (ie you don’t have an unlimited supply of cash, frequent flyer miles, or world-class climbing in your backyard) you are probably racking up more mileage on your bumper-sticker laden SUV than you’d like to admit. And all that mileage adds up to a lot of hours in the car together…very close together, maybe even touching, since your tent, camp stove, and climbing pack are taking up the majority of the backseat. Sitting in rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon watching the minutes slowly tick by can be painful enough for an adult jonesing for fresh mountain air – add in a young baby/toddler? You might as well have the whole family committed now because if you’re not careful, it’ll make everyone go crazy.
So how do you make all those long cramped, hours in the car manageable? The following steps won’t get you there any sooner, but hopefully will help the time fly by faster.
1. TIMING IS EVERYTHING -Most young children are champion car sleepers, if given the right opportunity. Try to log most of your car hours for when your little one would naturally be taking a nap. Hopefully this will give you at least an hour or two to read through the guidebook and pick out a couple of projects for the upcoming weekend.
2. PROVIDE ENTERTAINMENT – Be sure to have a near endless supply of books, toys, snacks, music, and other time-consuming activities freely available. It’s amazing how long a half cup of Cheerios can last a 1 year old perfecting his pincer grasp! One fun car ride tradition we established early on was to make personalized books for C, using our own pictures and the pre-made templates from Shutterfly. He has a “Let’s Go Climbing” book that we always break out on the way to the crag, as well as a “Meet My Family” book that is perfect when we are on the way to see relatives! Now we have a family tradition that not only has sentimental value, but also gives the C-Monster something to look forward to on a road trip (we only read those books in the car.)
3. GO WITH THE FLOW – Throw away the schedule and allow for flexibility on your road trips. If Cragbaby is sleeping, we sure as heck don’t stop unless we are running on fumes or someone (usually me) is about to wet their pants. But if he’s awake and getting antsy, we don’t hesitate to stop and let everyone stretch their legs, even if its just in a small patch of green space at a truck stop.
4. THE BUDDY SYSTEM – Put yourself in your baby’s little wee shoes for a moment. You’ve been in the car for 30 minutes of grown-up time (which in toddler time is probably closer to 2 hours). You hear your favorite voices, so you know Mommy and Daddy are nearby, but you’re stuck in the backseat, facing the wrong direction. Its not surprising that you might get a little cranky back there all by your lonesome! If your tyke tends to get fussy, try playing musical chairs and sending the non-driver back. The extra company might just be enough to take the edge off until you get to your final destination.
5. START EARLY – No matter how you look at it, children and car rides will never be a fantastic combination. But if introduced early, hopefully they will be able to view the “road” part of trips as a necessary annoyance they must tolerate to get to the “trip” part.
What secrets do you have for maintaining your sanity on road trips?