Roadtripping with Children and Other Modern Plagues

It's not funny, guys. Let me out of the car seat to play, now!

It’s not funny, guys. C’mon, let me out of my car seat to play now! (

The Israelites spent 40 years wandering in circles in the Sinai. Strong youngsters walked ahead, while the elderly, infirm, children, and their parents followed. After this year’s Passover family road trip, winding through the wilds of New Jersey’s back roads, I understand why. Everything simply takes longer with children, including travel.

My husband and I thought driving to see family in New York would be ideal. It’s not terribly far from Washington, and it would offer greater freedom in terms of timing and luggage, because, let’s be real: When Lila travels with us, we carry enough baggage for six.

This was the longest drive our family has taken since we moved from Boston in September 2011. We didn’t know how it would go, but we were (mistakenly) optimistic. In the end, you could have called it the Murphy’s Law Road Trip: We hit traffic everywhere. Unexpected rain reduced road visibility. Lila soaked through her diaper. We got a speeding ticket.

Veteran road trippers and more experienced parents may shake their heads, but I’d like to share some of my lessons, so other families don’t suffer similarly. Eight breadless days are painful enough.

1. Travel Time Gallops Faster Than Desert Sand Falls. Check your trip’s driving time on Google Maps. Now, double that number to calculate your family’s expected travel time, especially if it’s not a trip you’ve already driven a hundred times.

2. Strawberries: The Other Red Plague. Lila tossed her cookies (breakfast’s strawberries) as we drove in circles, searching for gas. Motion sickness had never been an issue, so I didn’t even think about preparing for it. Now I certainly will. Always tuck emergency burp cloths into the diaper bag, along with wet wipes to clean all toddlers and car seats.

3. Frogs Shouldn’t Be Everywhere. I’d always considered frogs a cute plague. Lila loves the song about frogs jumping on Pharaoh’s nose and toes, for example. But after this trip, I totally get why it was a plague. We left New York with a new musical frog cup for Lila, and I mistakenly stowed it in the car, rather than the trunk. The cup cued its repetitive musical repertoire any time it was jostled – in a moving car. Lila still loves it, but I loved it more before the 500th replay. Pack any musical toys in the trunk before you drive. Your sanity will thank me.

4. Be a Meal Taker, Not a Matzah Baker. We hit the road to New York later than we intended, meaning it was lunch time. We had to pull off the road near Baltimore (early in our trip) for lunch, and, of course, we got lost. Plan ahead and pack lunch.

5. The Wise Child Plans Ahead. We rely on our iPhones for directions. It was a great plan until we drove through areas with poor cell reception. My phone didn’t update, and the map suddenly placed us on small town streets rather than our highway location, while directing us to rural not-our-destination places. Don’t be the simple child. Bring a back-up print-out of your directions (or buy GPS).

6. Part the Sea of Cars With E-Z Pass. You can tell our car is used to local driving. We drove to New York without an E-Z Pass, and oh, did we pay for it. We sat in the cash line at every single toll booth between Washington and New York. Don’t be us. The Israelites had the Mighty Hand and the Outstretched Arm to part the Red Sea; you should buy an E-Z Pass for a speedier trip.

7. A Long Car Ride Makes You Thirsty Like a Lengthy Walk in the Desert. Lila was very thirsty on our drive. We bought a small water bottle at lunch that first day, and Lila proceeded to spill much of it on herself, before protesting persistently that she was thirsty. Pack water bottles, preferably squeezable bottles you can easily pour into sippy cups while the car moves.

It’s a miracle we Jews made it to Israel and that Moses didn’t just shout he was turning around. Family travel with toddlers is taxing. But if your next trip is tough, just remember — it could always be worse.

This article appeared in altcatholicah.


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