My Best Tip for Traveling with Kids

Our 700 mile trip. Jackson isn't much for photos . . .

Our 700 mile trip.
Jackson isn’t much for photos . . .

“Are we there yet?”

“He hit me!”

“Mom, I’m so bored . . .”

Do you ever hear the utterance of these words whilst on long road trips?  Traveling with a child can be tough, but traveling with more than one child can be torture.  Worse yet is traveling with more than one child when you’re the only adult on the trip.  

That’s like inner-circle-of-hell bad.

My family travels.

A LOT.

We live in Kansas but make frequent trips to visit family in Ohio, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Colorado.  While the average driver puts 12,000 miles on their vehicle every year, we put an average of 22,000 miles on our trusty ol’ minivan yearly.

Driving is certainly much cheaper than flying—especially if you’re able to utilize fuel points—but it can ensure certain agony.  Even though I separate the kids . . . even though we play games . . . even though they watch movies . . . they find a way to drive me crazy and each other crazy.

Most of the time, my husband is with me on our road trips, so one of us can regulate the offspring while the other drives.  However, every once-in-a-while, I have to go solo as the parent.

A few years ago, I drove 700 miles to Ohio with my {then} five-year-old and seven-year-old by myself to surprise my mom for her 60th 39th birthday.

 I would have rather used a baby porcupine as a stress ball than do that again.

It’s a pure miracle we all made it back home alive.  Before our trip back, I thought there had to be a better way.  That’s when I had quite possibly the best idea of my life.

QUARTERS.

kidtravel

Here’s What I Did:

I went to the bank and got a roll of quarters {equal to $10}. Each child received $5 worth of quarters in a labeled baggie at the beginning of the road trip.  Every time one my children:

  • asked, “Are we there yet?”
  • complained
  • didn’t pick up their trash
  • hit their sibling
  • yelled
  • didn’t share
  • or just plain disobeyed,

that child owed me a quarter.

Whatever money they had left over by the end of the trip was for them to keep and spend on whatever they wanted. Whatever they had to fork over to Mommy was Mommy’s to keep and spend on whatever Mommy wanted.  Each child had an opportunity to earn their quarters back.  If they were good for an hour straight after losing a quarter, I returned a quarter to them.

This summer I made that trip to Ohio again—by myself with my now seven-year-old and nine-year-old.  This time I gave each child $7.50.

The result?

Mommy only ended up with $0.75.

mommytravel

Cherubims, I tell ya.  My children turned into sweet cherubims.  I was kind of looking forward to having enough quarters to buy myself a fancy venti frappuccino or something, but it looks like I’ll only be getting a small black coffee from a gas station. {Can you even get those that cheap these days???}  Seriously, though—I’d rather them act like cherubims for our 12-hour motor marathon than me collecting quarters while pulling my hair out.

For the critics of this tactic, I’m sure you’re wagging your finger at me and exclaiming, “But isn’t that just bribing your children?!”

Yes.

Yes, it is, and it is lovely.

Trust me, I have many discussions with my kids about the fact that good behavior is expected at all times.  This “bribe” is only for an isolated event—an event in which an exhausted mother needs to do something for her sanity.  Besides, isn’t the real world full of incentives?

Here’s the beauty of it:

  • it practices positive and negative reinforcements
  • it gives the kids a visual to see the consequences of their behavior
  • its consequences are immediate {and the end result is within hours}
  • kids realize they can control their behaviors
  • the effects are gradual—it’s not all or nothing
  • kids realize there is a second chance and can work to earn it back
  • kids can be proud of their good behavior and have fun with their earnings when they reach their destination

Do you have any suggestions for traveling with young children on long road trips?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Happy traveling!

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM

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3 thoughts on “My Best Tip for Traveling with Kids

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