I despise road trips.



Oh let me count the ways:

  1. As an absolute freak about alignment and how I position my body, I obsess about the awful ways my body is crunched in the car.
  2. I get motion sick easily. I mean, like, on elevators. I’ve had the paramedics called on me for motion sickness before. So it’s best that I drive the whole way as I can’t read or even sleep.
  3. But, I have terrible anxiety while driving. Every 18-wheeler is “the one” that’s going to run me off the road with my sweet family inside. So I am a tense ball of nervousness the whole time.
  4. When you are gluten free and fast food isn’t an option, you have to make arrangements for your food which adds another layer of complexity to the whole enterprise.

I hated road-tripping pre-kids, but now that I have three of them, my disdain for taking the highway has grown exponentially. But, sometimes (like yesterday), it must be done. So here are my tips to controlling my anxiety and making the trip less unmanageable.

(Note, I did not say more manageable. I won’t go too far.)

Pack a Picnic and Pick a Safe Spot

I have to admit, sometimes the picnic part can be downright fun. Trouble is, when I am traveling solo with three kids, I don’t want to stop just anywhere. State road stops make me nervous with a toddler on the prowl. Parks can be too far off the highway to make them efficient. And you can’t just plop down on any old patch of grass.

We’ve had really good luck stopping at hospitals. Crazy as it sounds, it’s one place where no one will wonder what you’re doing just hanging around. It’s always open to the public, usually has nice picnic areas, and is a great place to go to the bathroom. When we drive to and from our childhood home in Tennessee, we have lots of hospital options close to the interstate.

The drive I did yesterday, though, through the middle of Georgia, is notably lacking in hospitals. The kids and I stopped at a local university. It made for a fantastic picnic spot with a book store to refresh our water supplies, plenty of green space, and a no one who wondered who we were and what we were doing there.

On a side note, I have searched high and low for a picnic packing tote that I loved. I finally found it in this Lands End number Picnicthat was recently on sale for a sweet $25. It’s insulated and spacious. I love it.

Align Thyself

Car seats stink for body alignment, especially when you are short.

They force you into a terrible C-curve, encourage internal rotation of the shoulders, and put your pelvis in an uneven plane.

This post from Katy Bowman called “Un-pimp Your Ride” hits on some of the basic ways we can make a car ride less unhealthy. For me, the end-all-be-all is the “towel under the bum” trick. I simply cannot ride in a car anymore without a towel rolled under my tail. Check out Katy’s explanation here.

Pay attention to how your body inhabits the space in your car and I know you will feel different after your next long haul.

“Right Now We Are Fine”

You know how they say, “Live in the moment,” and “Be in the now?” That is literally the ONLY way that I can survive the anxiety of being on the road. I cannot tell you how many times I repeated to myself, “Right now, we are fine,” during my five-and-a-half hour with the toddler screaming bloody murder road trip yesterday.

I also used the “right now we are fine” trick when my first child was a newborn and my postpartum anxiety was off-the-charts. It’s simple in theory, can be challenging to execute, but I find it incredibly, incredibly effective at getting me through the really super-stressful experiences.

So there you go. Those are the tricks that I have used to cope. Without them, I don’t think a solo trek with three little ones would be remotely possible for me.

What ways do you make road trips less miserable with the kiddos? What do you do to make them more healthful, mentally or physically?


3 Responses to “I Am Officially the Worst Road-Tripper In the History of Humanity”

  1. on 04 Jun 2014 at 7:19 pmCarmen

    OMG OMG we are TWINS. I am completely convinced now. sheesh. I panic every time I leave for trips…it’s like a monumental event! PETS, FOOD, FAMILY! ack!

  2. on 04 Jun 2014 at 9:02 pmKristine Rudolph

    Well, we do kind of share a maiden name. Something on the Scandinavian genetic line, perhaps? Where’s 23&Me when you need them? 😉

  3. on 06 Jun 2014 at 5:34 pmSusie Peterson Nee

    Kristine, I was amazed to read about your dislike of road trips. You certainly have some very legitimate issues (gluten free diet, road safety, etc.), but, I just have to share the other side – road trips are one of my favorite things ever!

    As our children were growing up, we took a road trip every summer. Each lasted three to four weeks. We all enjoyed a break from our daily routine and it was a good chance for our boys to see Bill in a different perspective, not just after work and on weekends.

    These trips were often planned around Bill’s work schedule going to various Gate’s facilities around the country with us tagging along and then he would take a two week vacation and tack it on to wherever we were. Because of this, Bill and I planned the routes, but the kids were always involved in planning some of the activities along the way. We would look at maps and read about where we were going and the stops we would make. They had input on activites and places we would visit. Oh, if I just would have had the internet in those days, we could have really had fun with this!

    Prior to taking off, each boy got to make his own trail mix to eat in the car. This was one of our rituals. I would buy all the ingredient( cheerios, nuts, seeds, raisins, and the best – M & M’s) and they would each choose what they wanted to put in their ziplock bags.

    We always packed a cooler with food for the trip, but I love your idea of going to a hospital as a safe place to eat and rest a bit on the trip. I’ve also heard that hospital cafeterias are a good place to get a reasonably priced meal if you haven’t packed your own. They offer a wide variety of food to appeal to everyone in the family and often have a salad bar and some healthy choices. We’ve also found local parks in small towns a good place to stop for a picnic.

    As we were traveling, I would read aloud to Bill and the kids. This was our primary form of entertainment and we all looked forward to it each year. I am fortunate because, unlike you, I have no problem reading in the car. One of our favorites was a series of books called The Orphan Train Adventures by Joan Lowery Nixon. The other was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. In fact, we didn’t quite finish this book, so for three or four nights after we got home, all the kids would get in our king size bed with us before bedtime and I would read a section until we finished the book.

    Of course our kids weren’t angels, so to encourage good behavior in the car, each boy received a roll of quarters at the beginning of the trip. If they fought with one of their brothers, didn’t cooperate or were disrespectful, they had to give us a quarter. What was left could be spent on video games or purchasing souvenirs.
    To make getting ready each day of the trip easier, I always packed their clothes in rolls. A shirt, a pair of shorts, socks and underwear rolled up with a rubber band around it. Each morning, they just picked one roll and put it on. Our boys didn’t care too much about how they dressed, so they were perfectly happy with this. I’m not sure how this would work with girls or picky boys.

    At the end of each day or in the car as we were driving, each boy kept a journal of the trip. In those days, we had Polaroid cameras, so we would take a few pictures as we went along and buy postcards at each stop that they would glue into their spiral notebooks. They would write a bit each day about what we had seen and done. I still have all those journals and look forward to looking through them and reliving those trips.

    We played all of the typical games along the way, I Spy With My Little Eye, the license plate game, 20 questions, etc., but our favorite over the years became the “Bubby Hickey” contest. Please bear in mind that I was trying to entertain three young, active boys for hours on end and desperate times call for desperate measures. What do boys like to do best? Either fart or make sounds as though they are farting. After several years of fighting it, I decided to just go with the flow, so to speak, and we came up with our contest. We each took turns making the very best fart sounds we possibly could. This ended in uproarious laughter after each person’ turn, with the biggest compliment being, “Wow, that one even smelled bad.” Sometimes one of them (I won’t name names) would even sneak in a real fart and then we all had to roll the windows down and gasp for air. Believe it or not, this could keep those boys entertained for hours and to this day, I think it is one of their fondest memories of childhood!

    So, Kristine, please try to relax and realize the many benefits of road trips.

    All of our children still love to travel and have traveled all over the world. I think the trips we took with them as children laid the groundwork to inspire them to plan trips on their own as they got older. One of them has traveled to 55 countries and another has lived in three different foreign countries. Travel builds confidence and encourages understanding and acceptance of other customs, people and cultures, not only in children, but in adults.

    Cousin Susie

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