Growing up, I wasn’t an “Are we there yet?” kind of road-trip kid. My obsession was with location.
I was an “Are we in the same state?” kind of road-trip kid.
I asked this question so much that it’s solidly in family vacation lore - folks have already placed bets on when my first kid will ask that.
In my defense, I wasn’t trying to be annoying. Our vacations were more like marathons, so crossing state lines could happen multiple times in a day. I was genuinely curious about where I was. Why couldn’t someone just explain it to me?
(I also didn’t know that people could hear me when I was humming. Super shocker to learn that the sound wasn’t in my head. But I digress.)
Of course now I understand why my family got annoyed. Trips are tiring. Adults are wrangling directions, bags, crabby kids, and dealing with stiff muscles. “Are we there yet?” can make even the calmest parent white-knuckle grip the steering wheel.
But what if we treated “Are we there yet?” as a signal of a child’s curiosity instead of an incredibly annoying question (which of course it is!)?
Here are some tips for surviving a road trip with your kids (and your sanity) intact.
1) Prep them with a map.
Give your kid a map - on a piece of real paper! Before the trip, print off the route you’ll be taking. Then get interactive and creative! Have your kiddo highlight the route or trace it with their fingers. Talk about how maps work, ask what states you’ll drive through. Put stickers on major cities where you might make a stop. Boom! Your child now has their very own navigational system and advanced knowledge of your trip, complete with a happy memory of hanging out with you.
2) Give them a timer.
As a former classroom teacher, believe me when I say that a countdown timer does wonders for combatting questions about time. You don’t have to get fancy here (although a quick search tells me you certainly can.) You could even bring your kitchen timer. Just something that they can look at quickly and see how much time is left before ______ happens. Suddenly they’ll have a smaller benchmark to look forward to. You can even have them set the timer themselves - boom! A task AND independence. Look at you go.
3) Speak in numbers.
So say you do hear “Are we there yet?” Take a deep breath. Numbers are a concrete way to help kids understand time and distance.
Number alternatives to saying “NO WE’RE NOT THERE YET I’LL TELL YOU WHEN WE’RE THERE OH MY GOD I WISH WE WERE THERE.”
“We’ve got ________ miles to go, which should take us around ________ minutes. Why don’t you set your timer?”
“We’re looking for mile marker / exit number _______. Let’s figure out where we are now.”
“Well, so far we’ve gone ________ miles. Can we figure out how much farther we have to go?”
Boom! Number awareness AND clear headed parenting for the win!
4) Pack books.
When I was a kid, I could read anywhere. I took a special tiny purple suitcase on vacation that held solely books. Before your trip, sit down and pick out a few favorites. Not only can they help in the car, but they’ll serve as a piece of home if your child doesn’t like sleeping other places. Boom! Double duty!
Now I’m well aware that books and cars and kids can be a wicked combo. The struggle with motion sickness is real (just ask my husband.) Nobody wants to clean up vomit at a rest stop or gas station...or anywhere, really.
So how else can you snag that storytime?
5) Download audiobooks.
Yessssssss. Blissful entertainment for you and your kiddos. Find the right book and it’ll hold their interest AND give you something to talk about once it’s over. Boom! Double duty again!
Want a curated list that won’t make you want to claw your adult ears off? Check out my post on supergreat audiobooks for kids!