The drive between our house in California and the cabin in Montana is about 17 hours (considerably longer when battling white-out conditions and icy roads, but that's another post all together).
Here are my best kept secrets to keep from pulling your hair out on a road trip with kids.
Tip #10: No matter how much they try to convince you that they "don't need to go", make sure EVERYONE uses the toilet every time you stop. This will significantly cut down on pit stops (which add a surprising amount of time to any road trip). Invariably, the one who says they don't have to go when you're stopped at a gas station, will have to go twenty minutes down the road.
Tip #9: Always carry a tupperware (with lid) in the car for the wayward puker. There's nothing more stressful for a mom behind the wheel than to hear these words, muttered from the third row back, "Mom, I don't feel so good..." Shooting across four lanes of traffic to come to a screeching halt on a shoulder that is really much too small for the average SUV, is not the safest of maneuvers. A handy tupperware will not only cut down on stinky car and precious minutes lost rinsing vomit from brother's hair in the Flying J truck stop, but it will also keep you calm behind the wheel. Trust me on this one.
Tip #8: Make sure everyone has their own pillow and blanket. Sleeping kids are the best road trippers.
Tip #7: If you are lucky enough to have an entertainment system (which I can't recommend enough for a long road trip) then you will want to make sure everyone has their own set of head phones. Preferably all the same kind so there is no squabbling over the "best" pair. Establish at the beginning of the drive that Mom picks the movies, and then pick ones that will keep everyone's attention.
Tip #6: Extra batteries for the above head phones. I just can't stress the importance of this one. A dead pair of head phones is a road trip bust.
Tip #5: Have everyone pack a small bag with some car appropriate activities, ie; Gameboys, View Masters, books, ipods, etc.
Tip #4: Snacks, snacks, snacks. The miles melt away when there are munchies to be had. Carrots are the BEST road trip snack. No prep, no mess, no trash, no sugar, no fat, no guilt, not sticky and a seriously satisfying crunch.
Tip #3: Make sure to have water available in the car. I like to pack everyone there own water bottle (that I refill as needed). And please, I implore you, don't let them get a soda with their meal. First, the sugar will cause them to bounce off the walls of your car, subsequently causing you to tear your hair out. Secondly, they will have to pee every twenty minutes for the next hour after guzzling their brew. If water is all there is, they will drink when they're thirsty and they won't guzzle.
Tip #2: Fast food. I am not a proponent of fast food under normal circumstances. But desperate times require desperate measures (remember - no drinks). And, as I figure it, if fast food is limited to road trips (and other desperate times, like when there's 3 and a half minutes for dinner before the next baseball game) then we'll be OK. And when the road trip is already ridiculously long, meals must be limited to the drive-through variety. (Remember to have EVERYONE use the potty when you stop.) Keep in mind, fast food doesn't have to mean McDonald's. Subways are widely available at pit stops along major thoroughfares throughout the country. Also, Starbucks has a great selection of relatively healthy, quick foods (not to mention the caffeine pick-me-up for Mom, often needed for the long haul).
Tip #1: The single most important tip for a successful road trip: Seat kids as far apart from one another as possible! If nothing else, be mindful of who you seat next to whom. You know the combination of siblings that simply won't work out -- "She's touching me!" "He's on my side!" Need I say more?
Drive safely, and you'll be there before you know it.