A Recipe for Smooth Road Trips with Kids

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A couple of times a year, I drive the kids by myself to visit my parents.

It’s a 5-hour drive.

Did I mention that I go by myself?

It has gotten so much easier now that I don’t have to stop to breastfeed a baby. And, I’ll be honest, once we got the minivan with the built-in DVD player, it has pretty much been a piece of cake.

But this week, mid-way through our drive north, my DVD player stopped. My radio didn’t work. I had absolutely no way to entertain the kids.

Back in the pre-DVD player days, I used to pack bags full of toys for the car. I would pass out stickers and sing songs and get creative. But for the past two years, I haven’t packed a single car toy – just a giant stack of movies and snacks.

So when our DVD player stopped working, with more than 2 hours still left to drive, I was afraid that it was going to be the longest two hours of my life.

At one point, I found myself saying,

So help me God, don’t make me pull this car over!

And then I cried for the next 45 minutes because I have officially become my mother, as this statement used to come out of her mouth on a weekly basis when I was growing up.

And then I spent the rest of the trip trying to make the kids laugh and wishing for the good old days – you know – when there weren’t so many rules.

When I was a kid, it was common for my mom and great-grandmother (Nanny) to take my brother and I on roadtrip vacations to Florida and North Carolina when my dad had to work during the summers.

They had a “Road Trip Recipe” for kids that never ever failed.

Nanny used to pump my brother and I full of NyQuil so that we would sleep in the car.

I’m not talking about a sip here and there. I mean, she would set her watch, and when we were getting close to four hours, she would say,

“I think it’s time for the recipe!”

My mom would stop the car. They’d get the “recipe” out of the trunk, and then they would WAKE US UP to give us more.

God forbid they wait until it wore off enough for us to wake up on our own.


For the longest time I thought that Florida was just around the corner because I would fall asleep in the driveway and wake up in Florida (20 hours later).

What parenting “techniques” do you miss from the old days?


  1. Madison

    July 15, 2011 at 6:34 am

    LOL! The "recipe" does sound like a good idea. Three kids, four hour journey, driving solo? Not sure if you're brave or insane. Glad you survived.

    Madison xxx

  2. Mom

    July 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    First of all – it wasn't NyQuil it was Dimetapp and it would have been perfect if we had used the teaspoon instead of the serving spoon…live and learn! Love Mom

  3. The Tall Chick {Mary}

    July 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Love your mom's comment… Hysterical! Glad you survived all of your trips. 😉

  4. Liz

    July 21, 2011 at 5:51 am

    I just laughed until I cried! That is too funny!!

  5. Barb @ A Life in Balance

    November 9, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Too funny! I've avoided long car trips for just that reason.

  6. Suzanne

    November 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I love that your mom commented! Can we get her to comment more often? It's hilarious!!

  7. Serene

    October 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm


  8. Christine

    October 18, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Uh, I’ve done the same with Benadryl.

  9. Grays Mom

    March 12, 2013 at 12:27 am

    M parents did the same thing except they used gravol on us! Knocked us right out and we’d sleep the whole way!

  10. Vanessa

    March 28, 2013 at 5:29 am

    I have pulled my car over on a 15 minute road trip. Seriously.

    Years ago, when people(me) still had vehicles of a certain age without a passenger side air bag then had to all of a sudden have 2 children together in the back seat when they(I) upgraded vehicles, things were not fun.

  11. Janine Huldie

    March 28, 2013 at 7:01 am

    This recipe sounds like heaven to me!! Seriously your mom’s comment above had me cracking up. I love you two and you never fail to help start my morning off on the right foot!!

  12. thedoseofreality

    March 28, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Every time I read about the “recipe” I laugh out loud! I swear to God, if our car DVD died on a road trip my children would go insane!

  13. Beth

    March 28, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I took my boys on a 10+ hour road trip last year. They were 2 y/o and 4 y/o. Half way home the DVD player broke. I called my husband and left him a message “don’t be surprised by an unexpected credit card charge at Wal-Mart. I bought a new DVD player for the car and 2 new movies.” I think I would have charged our mortgage payment. Total necessity.

  14. Pam

    March 28, 2013 at 8:33 am

    This is too funny. If my DVD ever stopped working I’ll make sure to have a “recipe” on hand as backup.

  15. Camille

    March 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Funny story. I remember the days BEFORE DVD and I drove 14 hours alone in one day. I will have to say I used no recipe at all and my kids were great as long as I stopped every so often to let them run around. Just lucky I guess.

  16. Anna

    March 28, 2013 at 10:40 am

    We take the five hour drive to the beach a few times every summer, and we always drive in the middle of the night so the kids will sleep. Kids awake + long car drives is one recipe I don’t want to try. But your mom’s recipe…

  17. Erika

    March 28, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I’m planning road trips this summer to visit family while my husband’s TDY. 8 hour car rides. 4 young boys (including a baby who’s 3 weeks old right now). I must be crazy! Totally going the DVD route. Won’t help with the baby though, I just hope he sleeps instead of crying the whole time. Maybe I will go the nighttime driving route instead.

  18. Mommypage

    March 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I love your “recipe” idea! Also, it’s a lifesaver to bring DVDs to entertain the kids…as long as the DVD player still works!! 🙂

  19. Angela

    March 28, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    I’m driving solo with a 2 & 3 year old on Monday… 8 hours. I pray to God the DVD player doesn’t quit. Otherwise, I might need to stop off and get some “recipe”…

  20. freelsda

    March 29, 2013 at 7:22 am

    When we lived in Florida when the kids were small, we drove “home” to Ohio every summer to visit the grandparents. We had our box of “road trip” toys which were never used any other time, but their favorite was that I would buy small items and wrap them up, and every time we crossed a state line, they each got to open one. To this day, I believe my children love Tennessee and detest Georgia.

  21. Vicky

    March 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I miss having a kid in the front seat. My oldest is 9 and sure there’s all the technology that will turn the air bag off if he’s not heave enough, but I know it’s just safer in the back seat. And Lord knows I don’t want the judgy glances tossed my way when we roll up to school with the kid in the front. Not to mention the fact that we’d spend the entire car ride with my 6.5 year old whining about not being able to sit in the front as well. So, it’s Backseat City for both gremlins.

    I have great memories of sitting in the front seat of my grandparents’ Ford, between the two of them on the white leather of the bench seat. Of course, now that I’m a grown up, I can’t help but wonder if they wished I was drugged up on Nyquil and sitting in the backseat…?

  22. cheri

    April 1, 2013 at 9:51 am

    The “Road Trip Recipe” is too funny. I know that when we go on the road my iPad is such a lifesaver just like your DVD player. I was just telling my friend when I was working my shift at DISH how the kids loved playing with the iPad on the road. With the DISH Anywhere app the kids can stream live TV on the road, so they can watch all their favorite shows while we get to our destination. I just hope that nothing happens to my iPad like your DVD player.

  23. Sue

    April 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Amazing what our parents did to us in the bad ‘ol days…and yet we survived. :p I don’t have a recipe for road trips — we just stop every 45 minutes or so and do something, anything. Stretch our legs, buy a bag of chips, pee. It makes the trip somewhat longer but at least we’re all in one piece (more or less!) at the end of it.

  24. lilmrsmchenry

    April 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    I want to start off by saying that we car seat it up here at our house. Extended rear facing, extended harnessing, etc, etc, etc. Everything short of zip tying them into the seat every time they get in a vehicle. All that said, it’s getting kind of rediculous when they want my 10 year old in a booster seat. She is nearly 5 feet tall and wedged between two of the car seat monstrosities in the back seat. When does it stop? Do they want her in a booster until she gets her driving permit or what? I don’t think I was in a car seat past my first birthday and before than it was more for my parents convince than anything.
    Also, remember riding around in the back of a pickup truck? It was amazing and our kids will completely miss out on it.

  25. Ashley

    February 26, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Wow! I regularly drive my kid across Texas to visit my mom. It takes three days. We don’t have a DVD player, and I don’t give my kid medication unless he’s sick. We talk, we tell jokes, we have picnics in parks… Sometimes I take my niece and nephew too. Three kids in a Pruis, still no DVD. I ran across this because I was looking for road trip recipes, you know, things I could pack in my ice chest and have when we stop for a picnic. A little bit of playing goes a looooong way when you’ve got little ones strapped into a car!

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