My first road trip with the kids was 3 years ago. We drove from Indiana to West Virginia. Brad was working out there and we decided to go see him.
It was about a 6 hour drive, according to the GPS. The boys were 7 and 5. Brad had flown to work, so it would just be me driving. I was nervous. Especially since I had never really gone anywhere on my own before, and I had certainly never had to figure it out with two little boys in tow.
I am going to share with you today the two biggest things we’ve done, that we still do. It will sound crazy. Hear me out.
1. Establish the “shut up” rule.
2. Stop, everywhere.
I have always been tense when I drive through cities. Almost on the verge of tears, when we started this. The bigger the city, the worse I was. I explained, simply, to the kids before that trip we now had a “shut up” rule. If I shouted “shut up” that meant EVERYTHING ceased. The talking, the giggling, the fighting, the crunching chips, the kicking the back of the seat. I was not mad, I wasn’t upset. I was stressed, and trying to get though the city as quickly and as safely as possible.They were not in any trouble. I just needed silence. And, I would let them know when they could make noise again.
When we approach a big city, I say “the shut up rule is in effect” and they are on notice, I may, at any point, yell at them. This will only work if you a. don’t say shut up and b.rarely raise your voice. But, it works. They’ve never made me come up with a punishment for breaking the rule. If you don’t like it, don’t think it will work, or don’t use that phrase in your family, that is fine. Find another thing, that you don’t often say, that will get the message across, that as of this moment the car is silent.
And, actually the rule was used on me last week! The GPS was messed up, there was a lot of traffic, debris in a road from a shredded tire, etc. I was talking to Brad, and he finally shouted “shut up!”. And, I didn’t say another word until he had things under control, several minute later.
Next, make all the stops.
I told the boys this was a 6 hour drive. We had 12 to get there. We could stop EVERY TIME they asked, as long as they never fought, whined, or asked if we were there yet. They also couldn’t abuse the privilege. They might not be long stops, but we would stop. Everybody has to get out at a stop, and everyone has to attempt to use the bathroom. I explained, if they drove me crazy in the car, I would need to get where we were going as quickly as possible and there would be no more stops.
After thousands of miles and more hours than I care to count in the car, I have realized, they naturally ask to stop every 2 hours. But, they have never complained about the trip, or asked if we were there yet.
Where do we stop?
We’ve stopped and ran through Toys R Us.
We’ve spent a bit of time wandering Game Stop.
We’ve gotten drinks at McDonalds. I stand in line, they rush to the play place and play for 5 minutes while I order and pay.
We’ve stopped at rest stop playgrounds.
Once we stopped at a musical distribution center, that happens to have a free arcade in it, and they played pinball for 5 minutes.
Sometimes they say things like “We are good, but we’d really like to stop at the next Starbucks.” (Yes, they are a bit spoiled, but, for no complaints for an 11 hour drive, they can have a frappachino.)
We’ve packed bubbles and jump rope and spent 10 minutes in the Walmart parking lot.
We’ve stopped in parking lots with grassy areas and they’ve ran for a few minutes.
We almost never use the drive thru when we get food. That 5-10 minutes out of the car, and to throw out any trash, makes them happy for another couple hours.
There will be more tips soon, but these are the two big ones.