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Survive Your Family Road Trip

By: Maria Smith

Five easy tips to help Young Urban Moms make road trips as fun and painless as possible

This past Spring Break, my family of five jumped in the car and headed to Myrtle Beach, SC for a weekend beach getaway.

Knowing it would take us about 7 hours with stops for the potty, food, gas and the prerequisite Starbucks, I tried to plan for the unexpected.

And we made it!

Both the kids and the grown-ups survived.  Now if I could have just ensured warm, sunny weather… But I digress.

Since we travel by car pretty often, I created five easy tips to make road trips as fun and painless as possible.  Here are my family-friendly road trip tips:

  1. Have food… Lots of food. Along with “vacation foods” like sweets, bring healthy snacks like baked chips and fruit. Save special treats (Twinkies, anyone?) for when the whining is getting too much.  Also, pack lunch fixings in case the kids get hungry and you are 75 miles from the nearest Chick-Fil-A.
  2. Set up expectations. Is this a one hour jaunt or an all day 600 mile trek?  Even your youngest kids will appreciate knowing how long your trip will take.  You can tell little kids you’ll arrive “after lunch” or “after three movies”.  Older kids can use their math and help calculate the time of arrival if you give them your distance and speed. (And don’t speed!  If you’re caught going over 85 mph in Georgia, you get an extra $200 tacked on to your fine!  Don’t ask me how I know.)
  3. Be prepared with games. Actually, be prepared in general… That should be your motto.  Have new movies for your DVD player.  (And if you don’t have a DVD player, get one STAT!)  Bring one bag of car-accessible toys and make sure they have new batteries.  Also, don’t be afraid to go old school.  Play “I spy”.  See how many different states you can count on passing license plates.  And when all else fails, join in on a full-on family sing-a-long.  No one can whine when singing the “Wheels on the Bus,” right?
  4. Pack extra clothes for everybody (Mom and Dad included) and make them accessible. It is inevitable that someone will spill their juice box and someone else will get car sick after downing a milkshake. A fresh change of clothes means everyone looks presentable when you get to your destination, and will keep the kids from stinking up the joint.
  5. Have the right frame of mind. You are not embarking on a pleasure cruise.  Your kids will not sit quietly with their hands in their laps for 8 hours.  There will be fights, mess and stress.  Accept and embrace the chaos that will be your car.  But, remember your vacation starts the moment you pull out of your driveway. Make it fun. Be silly. Leave your to do list at home and have fun on this new adventure.

Maria Smith resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and three kids. In her pre-baby days, she was a TV producer for shows like Oprah, and now fills her child-free time with freelance writing and public relations projects. You could reach her at or on Twitter @MariaRSmith.

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