10 things that will likely happen on your family road trip

Summer is the perfect time for a family road trip—but long car rides can sometimes test the patience of parents.

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Photo: iStockphoto

I just survived 10 hours in the car with my family.

We drove down to see my parents in Virginia last week, a trip we take almost every summer. That makes us grizzled veterans when it comes to extended car trips with the kids. We once did a 13-hour car trip home from PEI, when I loaded everyone in the car at 6:00 a.m. and vowed to get home before sunset.

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And I’ve realized that almost every long car ride we’ve taken with the kids has been virtually the same. There are patterns that repeat themselves, making these trips somewhat predictable.

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So here is my list of 10 things that will probably happen on your family’s summer road trip:

1. Husbands will only be concerned with “making good time”

I really don’t like to generalize or make blanket statements, but I do believe this to be true: Every guy is obsessed with making good time on a family car trip. It’s like this strange badge of honour we have with our friends, where we bask in the glory of shaving 45 minutes off a nine-hour drive.

Everyone in my car runs the risk of a urinary tract infection when I’m behind the wheel, because I only like to make restroom stops when it’s absolutely necessary. When I see those highway signs saying, “Next Rest Area—78km”, I don’t see that as a warning; I embrace it as a challenge to keep going.

2. Kids will want to eat junk food right away

My wife always packs healthy snacks for our extended car trips, making sure we eat some fruit and vegetables. But nobody has fond memories of childhood car trips with raisins and carrot sticks, right? So inevitably, I enjoy having some Twizzlers and beef jerky along for the ride to have some fun. And when the kids know that there is some junk food on the trip, they want to crack into it right away.

The car will have barely backed out of the driveway when they start looking to eat some of the treats. I’m pretty sure I’ve uttered the phrase, “No, you can’t have Cheetos at 8:04 a.m.” on multiple occasions in my life.

3. You will second-guess whether you locked the front door of the house

About 90 minutes after leaving the house, we usually have this conversation:

Me: “You locked the front door when we left, right?

Wife: “I think so.”

Me: “You think so?”

Wife: “I don’t remember doing it. But I must have, right?”

Me: “I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you!”

Wife: “And I’m pretty sure I turned off the stove.”

Me: “Pretty sure?”

4. Your child will drop something in the Bermuda Triangle

On almost every car trip we take, our daughter Lily will accidentally drop an item into an area that nobody can reach while the car is still moving. Usually, this is her favourite stuffed animal and she loses it in that small area of space just behind the driver’s seat and in front of her own. I can’t reach behind and get it while I’m still driving and she can’t reach it while she’s still buckled in her seat belt.

It’s even too awkward for my wife to try and retrieve it from the passenger seat. I refer to this area as the Bermuda Triangle and without fail, somebody loses a key item there on every car trip.

5. Car games will go sour

In the 1980s, many kids had a long-standing car game called “Punch Buggy” (Or “Slug-A-Bug”), where you were allowed to punch your sibling in the shoulder any time you saw a VW Beetle on the road. The game was universally held in such high regard that you were actually granted immunity from getting in trouble with your parents for slugging your brother or sister. But nowadays, you rarely see a VW Beetle on the roads, so the game has slowly died for this current generation of kids.

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We have tried playing “20 Questions” and “I Spy”, but each of those games is riddled with landmines. My favourite controversy is when an “I Spy” item is some landmark that we passed 15 minutes ago. And once the game goes off the rails, you can never get it back. In our vehicle, car games have a shelf life of about 10 minutes before they turn sour.

6. Somebody will pass gas—and try and blame it on something else

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but there is almost a 100 percent chance that someone in your vehicle will pass gas and try and blame it on:

a) Another passenger

b) Surrounding farmland

c) An 18-wheeler that just passed by

7. Your toddler will fight sleep

Traveling with tiny infants is often a breeze because they fall asleep rather easily in their bucket-style car seats. Toddlers, however, are a totally different story altogether because they never fall asleep easily on extended car trips. And you only make matters worse when you suggest a nap to them—making them more defiant and sleep-resistant.

Parent: “Why don’t you close your eyes and have a rest?”

Toddler (while rubbing eyes): “I’m not tired!!!”

8. Mom won’t be allowed to sleep

Not only do toddlers resist sleeping, but they seem to make it their life’s mission to ensure that nobody around them takes a nap either. My wife has tried to fall asleep in the passenger seat on numerous occasions, only to have her hair tugged or her seat kicked repeatedly.

This ensures that everybody is sleep-deprived and agitated when you reach your final destination.

9. There will be a DVD controversy

File this one under “first world problems”, but if you have a DVD player in your car it can often be the source of tension. There is a better chance of peace in the Middle East than your two kids agreeing on a movie to watch in a timely fashion. One child will want to watch Bee Movie for the 50th time in two weeks, while the other will be demanding Diego’s Dinosaur Adventure. It’s at moments like these when you fantasize about having the partitioned glass from those fancy limousines.

10. You will realize there is a return trip home

This can often be the most hurtful realization, as reality sets in that a 10-hour return trip awaits you in about 10 days. On the plus side, you will finally find out whether or not you actually locked the front door when you left.

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

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