A Family Trip to Washington, D.C., Part 5: Life in the Car

In case you missed the first few posts in this series, we will be chronicling our family trip to Washington D.C. over the course of the next couple months. The first post in the series is here. You can find the rest under the travel menu on our main page. Last week’s post discussed our choice to drive instead of fly.

DC treasure map

When we decided to take a family adventure across the country together in our car, there were several people who questioned our sanity.  There were many questions, a few odd comments, and lots of smirks sent in our general direction any time we shared our plans.  Some people even offered helpful advice.  In general, we could boil the basic responses we received down to the following:

  • How long will you actually be in the car?
  • Do you have a DVD player in your vehicle?
  • Are your kids really on board with your idea?
  • Have you lost your good sense?

We had answers for all of these questions.  Our time in the car would be somewhere between 40 and 50 hours, depending on traffic, road conditions, detours, and the occasional wrong turn.  We do not have a DVD player in our car.  The kids were not super thrilled about driving–at first, anyway.  And no, we had not lost all of our good sense.  We were just feeling very, very brave.

Our family has pretty successful trips together in the car, generally speaking.  Our trip to D.C. was the first that involved car travel more than nine hours from home with kids, but we really felt with proper planning and preparation we would be just fine.  And we were right.  Our time in the car, to and from D.C., was enjoyable and mostly drama free.

So, how did we do it?

1. We were prepared to deal with motion sickness.

Our family is plagued with motion sickness difficulties.  I am fairly certain that one of our daughters only has to look at an innocently parked car before feeling ill.  While the rest of us do not have quite the response of this one child, we must be careful.

Sometime soon I will write a full post detailing the methods we use to fend off sickness in the car.  We only had one incident during the entire trip, and that was in the Allegheny Mountains.  Needless to say, even the most hearty-stomached individual might struggle there.

2. Everyone was kept well-fed.

Strategic meals and snacks are very important on any road trip.  Timing and quality of food are vital to keeping children happy.  This is especially true for one of our children, who is constantly on the lookout for something to eat.  Todd and I will provide our tips and tricks for travel food in an upcoming post.

3. Entertainment was strategically planned.

Todd invested a great deal of time researching pit stops on the way to and from D.C.  I was responsible for keeping the kids entertained while we were in the car.  We borrowed an extensive collection of Adventures in Odyssey CDs from friends.  We also checked out several audio books from the library.  Todd made sure the kids’ iPods were updated with their favorite music.

For our youngest daughter, I knew it was very important that I pack activities that would hold her interest.  Real estate in the car was very valuable, though, so anything I brought along had to be small and highly entertaining.  I researched “busy bags” extensively and found several that I thought she would like.  Paired with travel tickets, these bags were invaluable.

4. We incorporated school in the car.

Since we homeschool, we had the freedom and flexibility to make our two-week family adventure into an awesome field trip.  It was important to me that our car travel time be just as educational as D.C.  Each day of our vacation, the girls had assignments and journaling activities to complete.  Many of these school assignments related directly to things we saw or did in the car.

Incorporating real-life school work was an excellent way to reduce boredom and fighting. Plus, the kids had something specific to do while hanging out in the car.

Over the next few posts on our trip to D.C., we will dive into some of the finer details of bringing kids in the car:  What are our favorite ways to prevent motion sickness?  What are our go-to car snacks?  What goes into our busy bags?  What did we use for lesson plans on the trip?

We hope you will join us.  And, just in case you are worried that our tricks and strategies won’t really work, feel free to join us tomorrow.  We will share what happened this weekend when we failed to follow our own travel advice and barreled down the road with no preparation whatsoever.  It was a complete and utter disaster.

How do you keep your kids happy in the car?  Send me an email or comment below!