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Summer road trip survival tips - words of advice from a Mom of five

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When I mentioned to people that we were headed to Boston to visit friends for Memorial Day weekend, I was met with a consistent chorus of "All of you?!"  I'm not sure if the stunned responses were aimed at us for being brave enough to battle holiday weekend traffic with five kids in a minivan or our friends, for being brave enough to invite the Lyons Family Circus to town.  Again.

These are very very good friends.  We have been visiting them once or twice a year for as long as I can remember -- including those dicey days when we had five kids under five and would roll in with a car full of pack and plays, strollers, high chairs and, more often than not, at least one smelly child who had been sitting in his or her own stink (from either a diaper or projectile vomit or both) for hours in the aforementioned traffic. 

How do we do it?  Well, for starters, we've gotten pretty good at planning and packing -- and, we've learned over the years that rarely do we leave when we plan to, arrive when we hope to or survive any extended road trip without pulling over at least once for a roadside bathroom or vomit break. That's just the way we roll.  Here are a few tips to help you roll to wherever the road takes you in Summer 2012.

  • Pack extra everything.  Or plan to do laundry. Or both.  Perhaps most of all, pack your sense of humor.  You'll need it when you're on the side of 95 with a crying kid peeing on your foot.  Or when the projectile vomit hits the back of your head. Or the bag of snacks in the backseat.  You get the idea. Family road trips aren't pretty but if you leave your sense of humor at home, they will be downright dismal!
  •  Learn to tune them out.  By "them", I mean the kids in the backseat.  Whether you have one of them or five or more, they make a ton of noise.  Ours start to ask for a snack before we turn off our block.  Then it's on to a relentless cacophony of "Are we there yet?" "He's kicking my seat" "She's bothering me" "I have to pee." "I think someone farted.' "Are we there yet?" and so on.  We've discovered it can be really fun to taunt them the way they taunt you.  A few of our favorites are to:
    • A. Put all the windows down when you're doing 65 on the highway so the wind literally knocks them silent or...
    • B.  Blast your favorite classic car tunes (for me it's Don't Stop Believin' by Journey; for my husband it's anything Led Zeppelin) and sing along at the top of your lungs.  They will be momentarily stunned into silence upon realizing that you have a repertoire beyond "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." You can and should use this to your advantage and feel free to keep it up until someone starts to cry - which in our experience is typically well into the last refrain.
  • Reset your expectations.  Remember when a bathroom break took five minutes?  Or when you'd stop for dinner and be back on the road in fifteen minutes?  Well, those days are gone.  If you've ever hit a roadside rest stop with your tots in tow, you know that it takes longer and is a far more menacing place.  Everything is dirty and everyone is a stranger-danger.  You will hold your kids close, your Purell closer and wonder how you lost a half hour of your life in a filthy bathroom. And you may only be a few minutes away from home!
So, it may take longer and there's no doubt that it's messier but, if life is all about the journey, I say go for it and enjoy the ride!  Happy travels!  

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