Do you have childhood memories of road trips with your parents or grandparents? Mine were always with my parents and my little brother. All of them included some whining and that incessant question "are we there yet?" along with some of those "he's touching me" cries. The cycle repeated itself when I took my own children on road trips. It’s just what kids do.
But when it comes to the grandkids, everything is fun…as long as you plan ahead and follow a few road trip rules.
While you might like to tackle a 10 or 11 hour day in the car with as few stops as possible (like my dad), the grandkids aren't going to be thrilled with this plan. Who says you have to cover that much territory in a day? Make the ride part of the adventure with frequent stops for a picnic and playtime.
Or make the trip a roadside attraction scavenger hunt and have them take photos. I found the world's largest Dalmatian fire hydrants in Beaumont, Texas, "Car-Henge" in Nebraska and the world's largest baseball bat in Louisville, Kentucky. The grandkids will remember the experience for years to come. Trust me, I've never forgotten the Corn Palace in South Dakota…and I've tried.
You need to pack snacks for you and for them. But choose wisely: You don’t want to load the little ones up on sugar and have them bouncing all around the car. Instead, choose healthy snacks but make sure it's something they like. Good options are nuts, beef sticks, granola bars and grapes….you get the idea. And make the snacks special by packing then in a personalized snack box for each kid. It's a little more work, but that's what makes grandparents so much cooler than parents, right?
You can count on it: someone is going to spill something at some point. And while Mom and Dad might get all upset about a mess in the car, you're a cool grandparent and you need to handle it in stride. It helps though if you're prepared with a few essential clean up supplies.
I never leave home without hand wipes and sanitizer, paper towels, and a plastic bag for trash. All of these things keep the car from becoming an icky sticky mess. The trash bag prevents everyone from having to climb through food wrappers and drink bottles when you're trying to get out of the car for that emergency bathroom stop. Plus no one wants to ride around in a smelly car.
At the risk of sounding like an old person, I have to say things are much easier these days. Most minivans and some SUVs come with built in DVD players. You can plug in a movie for the kids, give them headphones and roll along on your merry way. And if the DVD players aren't built in, a portable DVD player or a tablet will do the same thing. But this is your special time with the grandkids, so don’t rely on electronics to keep them entertained. Save that for when everyone needs a little quiet time.
Pack some surprise travel toys like crayons, coloring books, puzzles and books. Get a list of their favorite songs ahead of time and make a playlist mixing their songs with yours. I'm sure they'll have plenty of things to say about your choices…mine do. I also like to get my grandkids to play the games I played as a child. Games like trying to find a license plate from every state or looking for the entire alphabet on billboards. Yes, these are old school and not techy at all, but that means we actually talk to each other…and isn't that the point of spending time together? Of course my grandkids are 6, 7 and 9 so they still like these things. I'll rewrite this when they are teenagers.
Have you taken a road trip with your grandkids? How'd it go?
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Terri Marshall is a New York City based freelance writer whose work includes travel, spirits, and all things chocolate. Terri's work appears in several publications. She has been a featured guest on Peter Greenberg's Worldwide Travel radio program and Denver's KZKO Radio Morning Express show. Terri will not hesitate to go to the source for great chocolate - even if that means hiking through the jungle and picking cacao pods herself.
Happiest when she's globetrotting, Terri has covered destinations all over the United States, Europe, and into Central and South America. Favorite adventures include reindeer driving in Norway and fishing for piranhas in the Amazon jungle of Peru. You can keep up with Terri's adventures on her website www.TrippingwithTerri.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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