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Long Distance Holiday Travel Doesn’t Have to be That Bad

Long distance travel with kids is about as much fun as drilling a hole into your own leg. I know, since I’ve done both. Sheesh, I don’t even like to take long distance trips by myself, let alone with the kids. Nothing seems to bring on long distance travel like the holidays though, especially when your family lives a long ways away.

With each long distance trip my family has taken, we’ve learned a few tricks here and there that have helped make the trips not so bad. Since my family of converted Hoosiers is originally from Utah, when we make long distance trips during the holidays they’re quite long. In fact, they’re around 30 hours long if we’re driving by a car. That’s only going only one way. Try 60 hours long if you’re driving by car and going round trip.

Here are a few inevitables that I’ve learned after making these long distance holiday drive. First, by the time we get to Wyoming, we’re all going to look like we’re only days away from death. Second, we’re all going to smell like we’re only days away from death. Third, we’re all going to feel like we’re only days away from death. (Do you see the pattern?) Who knows, maybe that’s just what people feel whenever they have to drive through Wyoming—the lower half of that state that is.

The night before we take off, I come straight home from work in the evening and go to bed. I sleep from 6 p.m. until about 11:00 p.m. That’s five hours of sleep, which is less than what I get on a regular night. I wake up at 11:00 p.m. and load everyone into the car, I flip on a good book on MP3 while the rest of the family sleeps the night away, and I drive West. Outside of one gas stop in the middle of the night, I frantically drive as long and as legally fast as I can hoping to cover as much ground as possibly before the kids wake up and realize we’re all stuck in a car for a significant period of time.

Eventually the peaceful night driving will be over and we’ll make a stop at a local McDonald’s or Burger King that has a play place where the kids can get their wiggles out, as Casey calls it, and we’ll have breakfast. Once breakfast is over we head back out onto the road and Casey drives while I sleep the morning away. Eventually we’ll trade back and I’ll drive the remainder of the trip.

Driving a good chunk of those long miles during the night seems to trick everyone into believing the trip is only half as long as it really is, and it leaves everyone only half as miserable as they would be had we driven only during the days. A word of caution though, there’s something about 5 AM that causes the human brain to demand sleep. I worked nights for 5 years, so I’m pretty accustomed to being awake all night and falling asleep isn’t much of a threat. But for those who aren’t used to it, be sure to pull over for a good nap at the earliest signs of drowsiness.

Another thing we make sure to do is make stops about every two hours (during daylight hours) where the kids can get out and run around. We’ll spend thirty minutes at various parks or parking lots letting the kids run and run and run. Sometimes I’ll even join them and challenge Addie to a few obstacle course running races.

We also have lots of books, coloring books, stickers, and DVDs in the car for the kids to keep themselves entertained. I thought having a DVD player installed in the car would make these holiday long distance trips heavenly, because that’s what a DVD player would have done for me as a kid, but truth be told, Addie and Vivi rarely use the DVD player on long trips. They’re much more likely to color and read than to watch movies.

Casey is also very good at putting together a bag full of snacks and treats. The snacks and treats bag isn’t just filled with chips, cookies, and other types of junk food, there’s also celery, blueberries, carrots, crackers, and other healthy snacks.  I’ve found that snacking on just junk food during a 30 hour road trip brings about that death-like feel much faster than when I snack on celery sticks. Plus, I hate getting out of the car only to learn that I no longer fit in any of the clothes I brought on my trip.

Those are some of the tricks we’ve used when traveling with the family for the holidays. What are some of the things you do when you go on long distance trips with your family for the holidays?

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