First Family Road Trip

May 27, 2014

Road Trip
I have an aversion to traveling on holiday weekends, but when friends invited us to use their lake house in northern Pennsylvania this past Memorial Day weekend, we couldn’t say no. It was a good chance to get out of the city for some special family time and soak in some nature.

It was, technically, our first road trip as a family. We’ve taken our time hitting the road with S and H; they don’t love being in their car seats for long, and for their first year home, we preferred to avoid unnecessary meltdowns. But we figured the “about three hour” trek to Eagle’s Mere, PA, would be a manageable baby step. Of course, that driving-time projection was according to our friends, who are not only familiar with the myriad winding roads you have to take to get there, but never have young children riding in their back seat. It took us five hours each way, which included stopping to eat, and some unexpected road work.

Lake House
Also, I forgot how long it takes to pack for a family — and for this trip, in addition to our personal belongings, we were bringing groceries, bedding, games and art supplies in case we had rain, snacks for the car, etc. (I realized when we got there that I have a ways to go when it comes to mastering road-trip packing: We brought way too much — especially in the clothing department.)

Hiking in PA
All this meant that we left later than intended and arrived later than expected, which gave us only one full day there. But we made the best of it and had a fantastic time: We hiked (there are so many beautiful parks up there, with waterfalls and hiking trails galore) got some beach time at the lake, had a first-class cookout, and roasted marshmallows in the fire pit. The weather was gorgeous the whole time, and our friends’ house was the perfect getaway place. If there’s a next time, we’ll make sure to spend at least two full days up there, but we’re still glad we went.

S at the Beach

Mom, Girls and Marshmallow Sticks
The girls had a blast, and while the trip there was a bit of a bear — they began whining “Are we there yet??” about an hour into the trip — the way home went much better. Napping helped; so did stops at Cracker Barrel. (I think the girls may have enjoyed the rocking chairs out front more than the biscuits.)

Cracker Barrel
We’re already looking forward to our next road trip, but I think we’ll keep taking baby steps. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll find ourselves on a cross-country adventure…

Are you a road-tripping family? What are your tips for making them enjoyable — or at least tolerable — for young children and parents?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul and B

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1 Anna May 27, 2014 at 9:31 am

The biggest thing that makes road trips happy for us is having music our son loves – and of course, it also has to be music that doesn’t drive us nuts. (So no “Wee Sing”!) I recommend Elizabeth Mitchell, Burl Ives, and early Raffi albums. At your girls’ age, I suppose audiobooks might be even better.

Also, I now keep a general packing list for us on my computer that can be used as a template and customized for particular trips – an idea I believe I picked up from one of Ann Waterman’s posts.


2 Zoe Saint-Paul May 27, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Music, yes! We’re thinking of trying audio books, too.


3 Nolo May 27, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I did my first long-distance road trip last year w/my then 3 1/2 and 5 year olds. The trip was ~700 miles over two days. We rented a car where I could put the music in the back only (my car doesn’t do that so it was a BIG bonus w/the rental car!). Anyway, to minimize the “are we there yet?” questions, we have a rule that we don’t ask that question! Anytime it came up, I would simply say, “We don’t ask that question. I’ll tell you when we get there.” It made a huge difference and, while it didn’t eliminate it, it was only asked a few times.

I would also second the standard list to refer to for future trips. I use the AnyList app for the iPhone and find it works great. I’ve got a list for me and each child. The app also makes it easy to add things to the list as they occur to me.


4 Zoe Saint-Paul May 27, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Your kids sound a little more complaint than mine are right now :-)

I’ll check out AnyList!


5 kate May 27, 2014 at 3:31 pm

How funny to read this post as my family and I are currently road tripping!!
Half-way through a 9 hour, cross-boarder road trip with a 2 and 4 year old!
(Made it over the boarder back to Canada with no problems. Yay)
This is our second major road trip with our boys and what helps us most is lots of snacks, stops to stretch every 2 hrs or so and music and IPad with shows. When they’re older we’ll do audio books too. For me, lots of magazines and a good book! We also use a GPS for stress- free navigation. As far as packing goes, my husband is a master after years of planning
camping trips and I’m pretty organized too so we do well in that department. Recommend making a list when you return home from a road trip with tips and reminders for your next trip (like what you wished you had, what you didn’t use, etc)
Well, back to my book!
Glad you had a fun Memorial Day weekend. We sure did!! Wish we could have seen you guys too!


6 Zoe Saint-Paul May 27, 2014 at 11:43 pm

Can’t imagine doing 9 hours in the car with our girls, but hopefully we’ll get there some day. Wish we could have joined you!


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