Road Tripping

Now that the girls are getting older and relatively self-sufficient (minus the shoe-tying! Kills me!) it’s easy for me to romanticize the early years. I got a little teary the other day when Andy erased all 3,000 Backyardigans episodes on the DVR to make room for iCarly and American Idol. And carrying Phoebe’s little art table and chairs to the curb outside my house nearly brought me to my knees. But I can tell you one thing I’ll never be sentimental about – traveling with them as babies when they required bottles and pack-n-plays, and snap-n-gos , and breast pumps, and carseats, and crayons and pacifiers that would inevitably get lost or dropped on the airport’s bathroom floor. Traveling has gotten so much easier with the girls — even our bi-annual 13-hour road trip to South Carolina. Thirteen hours! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but packing the car has actually become fun. Here’s what we lined up for the trip.

CDs. It’s crucial to have brand new music for these trips. We burned five CDs for the trip: a mix for the adults (Wilco, Steve Earle, Spiritualized…and Eminence Front!), one for the kids (Taylor Swift, Elton John, Jay Z, Rihanna, etc.), a new, life-affirming Drive-By Truckers mix, the previously-DALS-endorsed You Are Not Alone by Mavis Staples, and, for when everyone was asleep, The Color of Spring by Talk Talk.

Brady Bunch, Complete Season 1. I can’t believe how genius these are. They were recommended by my friend Brooke and I knew that I’d love watching them again (my brother, sister and I were so obsessed with this show when we were kids we made charts and summaries of each season and episode) but I had no idea how much the girls would love them. They are laugh-out-loud wholesome. Cindy is, of course, their favorite.

Easter Eggs. We started this a while ago. Every time we make a stop — for a bathroom break or a killer boxed lunch at Sally Bell’s Kitchen in Richmond — then return to the car, we find that the Easter Bunny has left an egg filled with a small chocolates on their seats. They figured out a while ago who was arranging this, but the deal is that if they don’t believe in the Easter Bunny the Easter Bunny doesn’t come.

Pre-made Comic Pages. We always have tons of regular paper, but occasionally we draw up templates for comic strips to see what it inspires. For this trip, as you can see, it inspired exactly nothing. But we’ve had some pretty good keepsakes come from this tradition. (“Joey and the Evil Car Wash Villains” comes to mind immediately.)

Travel Bingo from Knock-Knock. This was fun and got us through at least a two-hour stretch in North Carolina. And you can re-use them.

Comic Books and Graphic Novels In the car, I find they can sometimes go down easier than a big Harry Potter tome. We brought Owly and the latest Garfield collection. But any of these would fit the bill, too.

Art Cases. How talented is my friend Shivika? She made these for the girls last year and we keep them in the car all the time. We use them for car quizzes and general doodling. I didn’t even have to tell the girls to take good care of them — they could just tell and a year later they are still in perfect condition.

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Traveling is so much easier with older children, I agree completely. The ability to listen to our own music vs. their music…!!!

My 9 y.o. daughter LOVES “The Brady Bunch” series. It is such a treat to see her enjoy something we all loved as children. It’s so wholesome, but the short skirt lengths remind me that today’s fashions aren’t so skimpy after all!


My two kids are a bit older now at 11 and 6 but these are our sanity deliveries.

Audio books with personal cd or mp3 player. These are an absolute godsend ! There may be a time when there is a divergence between interest level and reading ability. Audiobooks are the business during that time, but they are totally awesome when you travel. Quiet time.

Boisterous time- card games. My boys love them. And you can bring the pack of cards in a pocketbook. Be prepared for shocked expressions at the doctor’s office when a 7 year old shuffles like a Vegas pro:)

We also have checkers, scrabble and even Monopoly on an iPad. Nothing falls (hopefully not the iPad either) and no one can cheat.


Sally Bell’s is so worth the stop! Homemade mayo for the deviled eggs. Then there’s the cupcakes that weigh a ton and are iced on the sides and bottom =more icing. Sigh. Need to go to there again soon.


If you can get a hold of some Jim Weiss CDs, they are road trip gold. Our favorite is Galileo and the Stargazers, but he’s got a lot of great titles – he’s a phenomenal storyteller, and great for all ages.


You just brought back memories of my own childhood, when my mom would magically pull out a new toy from the back of the 1970-style station wagon for my sisters and me. Good times!

But wait a minute — do you have any leftover Backyardigans stuff? The show is now discontinued, as is most of the licensed crap, so naturally my daughter is obsessed.


sigh. most of these (reading, writing, drawing, or close viewing like an electronic device) are NO-GO when you have a car-sicky kid. sad but true. and a 13 hour trip anywhere would absolutely do me in.


Wow, 13 hours in a car! Luckily we typically don’t have to do more than 3 or so hours at a time (we do this trip several times a year to my parents’ house), with an occasional 4-5 hour trip to DC. I am struggling though, with this spring/summer when we have two plane rides with our 5-yr old . The first one is just 4 hours, not too bad. The second one is cross-country though – a 6 hour plane ride each way just might do me in. Frankly I get pretty antsy on any plane ride longer than 2 hours, so I can just imagine how a 5yr old feels. I am on my way to Target to stock up on cheap stuff to keep him entertained, and maybe a pillow pet to encourage a little sleeping on the way!


Lots of wonderful ideas here. We played a lot of find the license plate and word games in our younger traveling years. I’ve always thought cars with built-in movie options were a shame because of all the missed family time. On the other hand, I remember fondly when everyone had his/her own walk-man and we had a hour of silence while everyone grooved to his/her own beats. That was okay too. 🙂


Jane has an obsession with Cindy that has almost reached Annie proportions. We have all the BB songs on a CD in the car, too. Gregg’s sis gave us the 2nd season for Hanukkah last year and we blew through it in a couple weeks. Now we have to get season one! Pure comfort food…


Ok, this is brilliant. My kids are in college now, but I would have loved these ideas for them when they were little. The Brady Bunch–how perfect!! Way to share childhood memories…

Lisa Clarke

That egg idea is great! And as for comic books, I recently introduced my boys to Calvin & Hobbes and they were very well received. Definitely need to remember the Brady Bunch…