The "Are We There Yet?" Traveling Blues

Compiled and Edited by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the July 17, 2012 Issue #669 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


They are the words that strike fear into the hearts of road warrior parents everywhere. Uttered by plaintive voices, the words emanate ominously from the back seat of the car: "ARE WE THERE YET?"

Insert the shrieking violins here.

Speaking as the veteran of many a long cross-country car trip (as both child passenger and adult driver), I know just how long and tedious those seemingly endless miles of interstate stretching ahead of you can be. Even when the pot of gold at the end of the asphalt rainbow is a vacation at the wondrous Walt Disney World, getting there is not necessarily half the fun.

So we asked you, AllEars.Net readers, to share your best and brightest ideas for making the long days' journeys into something a little less daunting. Your answers ranged from the common-sensical to the "Gee, I wish I'd thought of that!" with a generous sprinkling of personal observation and experience thrown in for good measure.

Herewith, what we hope are some solutions that will help you endure the next time you and your children are threatened with the "Are We There Yet?" Traveling Blues -- thanks to everyone for your contributions!

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BooksBRING DIVERSIONS
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Anne Marie: My family used to drive from Massachusetts to Disney World once or twice a year. This started when I was about 3 years old. Before every trip, my mother would buy a few little gifts and wrap them individually. The gifts would be put in a bag and tucked under the front seat. When she noticed I was getting antsy, she would grab a gift and toss it into the back seat. These gifts were always small (a package of stickers, a Mad Libs book, maybe a small toy), but they would delight me and keep me busy for hours.
 
Mark Paisley: When travelling from Ohio to WDW (an 18-hour trip), my wife and I always packed individual "travel bags" for our four kids filled with coloring books, stickers, travel games, etc., each geared to the appropriate age of the child. Even a pad of post-it notes became great fun as temporary beards, mustaches, and sideburns appeared. These travel bags have now become tradition and the kids (now 36 to 27) still look for a "travel bag" for both them and our grandchildren. One of the kids even remarked recently, "I wish we could drive to Disney again. We miss all the fun we had in the car."

tektektek: Bring books to read aloud, and take turns reading them. On our last trip, we read "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" all the way down. It was the shortest trip of all.

Lynn: My sister's children are now in their 40s, but when they were little we traveled to WDW by car several times. I don't know if you can still find them, but we loved the old-fashioned cake pans that had a flat cover. Each child had one and inside they had all their favorite toys, books, crayons, etc. The pan kept everything contained and the flat top made a great play or drawing space.

Debbie B.: When our children were young, we usually traveled by van to WDW every year. When we bought the van we knew that there had to be enough space so that our toddlers couldn't touch each other. It really cut down on the "he/she is touching me (or my stuff)" type of whining. The van was also equipped with a small TV, video game system (Nintendo! -- tells you how long ago this was) and a VHS player. We would always tell the kids "it is three movies until we stop." We had such good times. Alas, the kids have all grown now -- and they keep their hands to themselves!

Denise M.: Bring the electronics to share and invest in headphones and batteries before you go. Make sure electronics are charged before you leave and maybe invest in a car charging device.

Paul S.: We're veterans of many, many trips from Upstate New York to Orlando (1325 miles and 26 hours) with four kids. We use a countdown calendar at home to track time till we leave and have used a countdown clock in the car with the number of hours to go. This avoids "Are we there yet?" because they can see the progress.

Deb R: In addition to games (No crayons! They melt in the heat!), CDs and DVDs for the kids, our packing list includes:

-- Fresh fruit, single-serving snacks and bottled water with a sport top to avoid spills. We love the Disney-themed fruit snacks. The Magic begins as soon as that first treat is opened!
-- An atlas for the kids. It's fun to keep track of where they are in the country. Try to find a book with facts about the states they're going through. Sneak a geography lesson in. They can also practice math skills by figuring out how many miles they've traveled and how much further they have to go.
-- Pillows and blankets for everyone.
-- A bathroom bag to take into the rest area to get ready for "bed" and freshen up in the morning.
-- First Aid/Emergency Kit. My daughter and I both get carsick so we always bring Sea Bands with us. They come in children's sizes and we've even used them in the parks when we go on the roller coasters.
--  Bag for garbage.

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... OR JUST TALK
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Karl Kovacs: Bring copies of the maps for the parks for everyone and start creating a "must-do" list. Planning while in the car is amazing fun. Talking about what each family member loves about Disney starts the magic right away.

Patti Redding: We have always listened to books on tape/CD. Even when the kids were small, we would plan our books to listen to (about 16 hours each way). We've listened to classics like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and the Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson. As my kids got older, we listened to all of the Harry Potter books, as well as The Hunger Games trilogy. Most local libraries have these, and nowadays they are available electronically and can be downloaded straight to your iPod/MP3 players. It was like having a book club in the car. We would listen for a while, then turn it off and discuss, then start it back up again. Great way to while away the hours on the drive!

Kim: Storytelling is also popular. The kids like to say one sentence then it passes to the next person to add to the story. 

Deb Rennicks: As parents, you'll have invaluable time to get to know your kids better. Some of our best conversations happened on those drives to Disney! And best of all, Mickey is waiting at the end of that drive!

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OdometerDRIVE STRAIGHT THROUGH...
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Karl Kovacs: We have done a 16-hour drive four times, and I like to drive through the night, switching drivers every two or three hours (no traffic, no whining). 

Deb Rennicks: Our family has driven from Buffalo, New York, to Disney World four different times. We've found that driving straight through works best for us. When making that long drive to Disney, we have two drivers and switch off every two to three hours. When we switch drivers, everyone gets out and stretches. We've let the kids race each other to and from the rest areas just to blow off steam!

Debbie F.: If you can bring along more than two drivers, that helps as well. One driver would sleep while the other two would keep each other awake! The best time for me was driving through the night with my son as the co-pilot.

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... OR STOP OVERNIGHT

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tektektek: We used to drive from New York to Florida almost every year when our kids were from about 3 to 14. Yes, it would be good to do the drive straight (and our time was about 20 hours), however, we eventually settled on leaving at 5 a.m., driving to South Carolina, stopping for the night, and then proceeding early the next day. Otherwise, you will probably get there very tired, very cranky, and not in the mood to do anything.

DeniseM.: We drive 19 hours from Iowa twice a year to go to Disney World. We try to go 9 or 10 hours to get a large part of the trip under our belt. Sometimes, we let the kids change into their pajamas at the second to last stop. They like riding in the car and watching a movie in their pjs, and then they are ready for bed when we finally stop for the night. We drive until midnight that first night so that we can still get a good night's sleep. The next day isn't so bad, and we are usually at Disney for a nice dinner.  

Michele Munoz: We have been driving to Disney for the last 20 years from Canada, an approximate 22-to-24-hour trip with kids as young as 7 months old, and have survived. We have driven straight through, but I don't personally like doing it that way. I find I am too tired to really enjoy myself in Florida and if going to Disney, I don't want to start my vacation being tired. Plus, finding a hotel with a pool for the one night is usually a hit with the kids.

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GET AN EARLY START...
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Kim: We drive straight through (about 17 hours) from Long Island, New York, to Florida. We leave EARLY in the morning, around 2 or 3 a.m. Driving in the dark on the local roads that we're familiar with is not a problem. This allows the kids to sleep four or five hours of the drive so it doesn't seem quite so long to them. It also lets us avoid the New York and DC traffic, as we get through these areas before their rush hour.

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clock... OR A LATE ONE...
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Linda Brantner: My daughter does a 12-hour trip every year with four kids, now ages 10, 7 and two 4-year-olds. Her husband goes to sleep the day they are leaving around 2 p.m. and then gets up at about 7 p.m. They have dinner and then leave afterward. My daughter dresses the kids in their pajamas for the trip and packs a bag with a change of clothes and their bathing suits. The kids fall asleep about an hour after leaving and sleep through the night.

Ginny Rude: I suggest leaving your hometown at 7 p.m.. This minimizes "awake time" during the day.

Debbie Fritson: We would start around 6 p.m. and drive through the night. At some point, the kids would fall asleep and sleep through the night. When they woke up, it was time for breakfast and the drive was halfway over. 

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... BUT EITHER WAY,
TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS

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Linda: We drove to WDW from Minnesota this past February with our almost 8-year-old son. One of the things we did was stop at least once every two or three hours, just to stretch and move around. It also helped eliminate "I've got to go to the bathroom NOW" when you've just passed an exit and the next one isn't for miles and miles.

Kim: When we stop at rest areas we use the restroom and while my husband fills up the car the kids just RUN! They need to get their energy out and stretch their legs. 

Michele M.: Make lots of stops for bathroom breaks, ice cream and find restaurants with play places where some of the kid's energy can be directed to running up and down slides. Be prepared for tears and lots of "When Are We Gonna Get There?" queries, always answered in our car with "just over the hill and around the next bend."

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Thumbs UpIN CONCLUSION
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Deb Rennicks: Don't forget to bring your patience! You're going to be enclosed in a small space for an extended period of time and you will get on each other's nerves.

There you have it -- sound advice from some veterans.

We hope this helps, and that you don't encounter an 8-year-old like the one who told reader Linda, despite her best efforts, that "being stuck in the van all day is the same as being in prison."

"And," Linda adds, "the way home was much worse than the way there!"

The way home? Oh, no! We forgot all about that pesky trip back home!     

ARE WE THERE YET?!

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RELATED LINKS
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What to Pack: http://allears.net/pl/pack.htm

Activities for School-Age Children: http://allears.net/pl/educ.htm

Searchable Tips Database: http://allears.net/rta/tips.php


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.