08. July 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
Easter 2011.

I’ve gotta admit it — my boys travel VERY VERY VERY well. From Jacob and the Amtrak Auto Train to see family at 9 months old, to Timmy and a trip up to North Carolina to find a new house at 4 months old, our boys have learned that long automobile trips are part of the military lifestyle…

I also have to admit that I really enjoy traveling and I like to think that I travel pretty well. But probably not as well as I used to travel, when I’d work a full Air Force day and then hop in the car and drive from Fort Polk, LA to Keesler AFB, MS to spend the weekend with Dave while he was TDY.

(Oops, did I say that out loud?)

Right after Christmas 2006, I took the boys on a 2-week trip to New York and New Hampshire to give Dave some time to prepare for his comprehensive exams while he was at NC State. People thought I was CRAZY, but it turned out to be a really great trip.

January 2006.  Jacob has always been such an angel in the car!

Last month Dave and I parted ways about halfway through our vacation.  I continued northward to Vermont, while Dave caught a flight out of Harrisburg back home since he had to return to work.  Again, folks commented about how brave I am…or how crazy I am to make such trips on my own.

I love driving.  I guess I get it from my Dad.  My sister is the same way — after all, she and her husband drove with their THREE sons from North Carolina to Nevada, taking a “southern route” westbound and a “northern route” (including our house in Nebraska) when they returned eastbound.

In every other way, traveling solo with my sons was great.  I only had one issue: rest stop restrooms.

I’ve put up a blog poll about this before: At what age is your child old enough to go into a public restroom on his/her own?

I believe most of my responses were in the 7- to 8-year-old range.

So here I am, stopping on I-81, the New York State Thruway and I-65 rest areas and was just sending my sons into the restrooms.  But I was GLUED to the exit door waiting for them…my ears were really close to that doorway listening for them making sure they weren’t abducted.

Since I made it back to Florida with both boys in tow, it’s safe to assume that my sons survived the rest area restrooms.  But this leg of the trip certainly got me thinking about how single parents do it — traveling and trusting their babies in roadside restrooms.

Some other tips on how we handled the 50+ hours in the car with two young boys:

  • I will admit, we have the built-in DVD player.  But we put some planning into how much the kids use it.  For starters, we have a “30-minute rule” in our SUV: no movies unless we’re traveling more than 30 minutes.  But on longer road trips, I insist that the boys put some space between their movies, especially of there are particularly scenic parts to the trip (such as driving through downtown Atlanta or crossing the Hudson River on this last trip).
  • I will also admit (boy, I’m doing a lot of “admitting” here, aren’t I?) that my boys have Nintendo DSi’s (pardon the apostrophe, not sure whether it’s used here like this or what….).  On the first day of our road trip, I didn’t give much thought to Jacob having played his DSi for nearly the entire day’s worth of driving!  And that was a long day!  Oops…
  • Don’t rule out good-old fashioned road trip games: The License Plate Game, Auto Bingo, and I Spy are all family favorites!  
  • I’ve heard of other families doing this with success, you could try using the rest area or fuel stops as break points between media: perhaps 2 hours for a DVD, then 2 hours of Nintendo, then 2 hours of “looking out the window”.
  • With young kids, don’t forget to try to work in some activity time to make the hours of sitting less terrible.  Stop for lunch at a Chick-Fil-A with a kids’ play area, or find a rest stop on your route with a playground and pack a picnic lunch.  Dave and I used to frequent the Amtrak Auto Train station in Lorton, VA as a rest area when we’d make our drives from North Carolina to Pennsylvania or New York: there’s a nice playground, and at lunchtime the kids would enjoy seeing the vehicles getting loaded onto the train cars.