In the olden days, BK (before kids) the final preparation for a road trip was the race to the passenger side of the vehicle.
The winner became the passenger and chose music, read, ate, and napped while the responsibility of ferrying the vehicle fell to the loser, the driver.
And then- our first child was born. As soon as she was old enough to sit in her car seat and aim a well-placed little kick at the gear shift in our Toyota truck, roles reversed.
The passenger became a gear shift protecting, entertainer-on-demand who was kept hopping by our non-napping toddler.
The driver's right to uninterrupted concentration was indisputable.
By the time the second daughter came along, the race to the driver's side was honed to perfection.
It wasn't the driver who had to deal with a twoyear-old wanting to hear "Oh ho, the Wells Fargo Wagon is a comin' down the street-" for the 15th time in two hours.
When number three arrived, we quit racing and realized that the secret to successful road trips with kids lies in sharing the responsibilities and developing strategies.
Despite what the commercials offer - you know the ones I'm talking about where parents are smiling happily as little ones contentedly watch DVDs in the roomy, air-conditioned back seat - not every vehicle is a movie theatre.
But with some pre-planning and a few tools, a journey can be turned into an adventure.
We learned early on that when planning a trip with small children, it wasn't a good idea to treat the journey like a race.
Here's my advice. Break up the trip and leave extra time for the bathroom and energy-burning runarounds.
Before heading out, check your route for child-friendly stopping areas. Parks, roadside picnic areas, and playgrounds are good safe spots for a quick runaround and often have public toilets.
If your child is in the early stages of learning to use the toilet, remember that when they have to go, they have to go!
Regular bathroom breaks will help prevent accidents in the car.
If your kids are really active, plan on stopping every hour or so to prevent frustration from sitting too long. Out-of-the-car breaks are also a great time to provide snacks and water. It's safer and keeps the car cleaner.
We played a lot of games on our trips.
Even the youngest could play "I Spy," although she didn't always grasp the concept.
After a multitude of guesses and finally giving up, we would find out that she had "spied" a truck we'd passed 10 minutes before.
Counting games were a great distraction too. We counted cars, trucks, cows, horses, and tunnels. As a bonus, looking outside helped quell the occasional bout of feeling carsick.
A couple of toys for each child joined us on our journeys, and the kids chose them.
I liked the puppets. Having a panda puppet sing as she peered around the side of the passenger seat helped stop the whining more than a couple of times.
Apart from taking books and music CDs, we also gave each of our kids a box with surprises like new crayons, a toy that couldn't be swallowed, and tiny books (does anybody remember the Little Mr. and Little Miss series?)
Rattles and soft toys entertained the babies and a tea towel slung over the window provided shade.
All in all, I have fond memories of our trips as a family. We shared a special time with the kids and learned to share the driving with each other.
- Kathy Booth is a local writer addressing the importance of early childhood development, and the work being done in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and with Katzie First Nations.