My children (who are 5 and 8 years old) have never spent more than 3 hours in the car in a day, and they typically do not nap in the car. So I wondered how they both would do with all of the driving time on our trip. I had quite a few tricks up my sleeve to ensure that our drive time would be enjoyable. In short: my children did brilliantly in the car (and on the whole trip).
How We Made Our Road Trip a Success
Before Our Trip
- Anticipation and Excitement: For several months before the trip, the kids and I talked often about our trip: how much fun we would have, and how amazing it would be to be able to see the Grand Canyon, saguaro cacti, the Navajo reservation, etc. To tie our trip into our homeschooling, we also read books about the Grand Canyon, Navajo culture, and saguaro cacti. Our anticipation and excitement for the trip were high.
- Clear Expectations and Consequences: Before our trip, I talked with my children several times about the fact that there would be lots of driving time. I emphasized that, if the children chose to complain, bicker, or otherwise make the car time un-enjoyable, then we would not be able to take such trips again in the future.
While On Our Trip
- Daily Surprises: Each day that we had a large amount of driving, I had a special "surprise" for the kids to enjoy in the car. I waited until we were about halfway done with our driving for the day before the children received their surprises. Their surprises were:
- Coloring pencils
- Water games
- Grand Canyon Plants and Animals coloring books
- Thomas magazine for Ranger Rick magazine
- Sticker workbooks
- Backpacks: Each child packed along a backpack for the trip with a few small figurines, their Nature Notebooks, and a small stuffed animal. Each day, I made sure the kids packed up all of their items and new surprises into their backpacks so that the car would not become too chaotic over our 9-day adventure.
- Driving Breaks: I repressed my own desire to get the driving over-and-done-with and made sure to take some breaks on long drive days. Our breaks included time for a Mineral Museum, a Deer Farm, climbing around on large rocks at a rest area, an Auto Museum, and a little run-around time at gas stations.
- Expectations and Choices: My emphasis on Teaching Self-Government continued on our trip. I emphasized to the children that their own choices would make the drive time enjoyable or miserable. Through their choices to be content in the car, everyone could have a good day. And by their choosing to be friendly and nice during our drive time, since I would be having a better day I would also be more willing to go to places fun such as the Deer Farm.
- Food and Drinks: We packed along plenty of food and drinks, including a cooler for cold items. These kept our tummies content in the car and also allowed us to have a few easy meals during our trip at times when we didn't feel like going to a restaurant.
- Raw milk (in Thermoses for easy drinking in the car and to keep the milk cold; I find milk to be the best drink for road trips since it doesn't make the kids need to go to the restroom frequently like water does)
- Freeze-dried fruit
- String cheese
- Salted, roasted nuts
- Trail mix
- Fruit leather
- Pumpkin seeds
- Veggie chips
- Sourdough bread and homemade freezer waffles for my daughter (and a toaster to use in our hotel rooms)
- Raw honey (in a squeezable container)
- No-stir natural peanut butter (and a butter knife)
- Berry kombucha
- Squeezable apple sauce
- Cottage cheese and raisins (and spoons)
- Plain, whole-milk yogurt
- On-the-Road Attractions: While driving, we were on the lookout for things that would spark
the children's interests: horses, trains, beautiful landscapes, and unusual vehicles (such as the Smokey Bear hot-air balloon chase truck we passed on the interstate).
- Library: A shoe-box became our portable library for the trip. Each day, the kids chose a new book to read (or look at) in the car. Our library also included reading material for me and our current family read-aloud (we LOVE Brighty!). The books we took on our trip were:
- Brighty of the Grand Canyon
- The Black Stallion
- The Black Stallion Returns
- Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteague
- Pippi Longstocking
- Anne of Avonlea
- One Straw Revolution
- Basher Science: Oceans
- Basher History: States and Capitals
- Basher Basics: Dinosaurs
- Audio Entertainment: We all took turns choosing what to listen to during our drive. Our audio entertainment in the car included the following: