The Dad and Daughter Road-Trip Survival Guide


Edie and Papa recently made a road trip. It was a substantial one. About 13 hours each way. In fact as I begin to write this we are at yet another hotel and still have about 6 hours to go tomorrow depending on how many times Edie has to pee.

I’ve never been a driving person. If my husband is with us it is always his task to be the driver. Always has been. He is steady and reliable in all things. This trip though was just Edie and I. Flying was so expensive and we needed to get to my dad’s memorial service. So, I decided that driving would be a good distraction from grief. It was!

My mom was kind enough to make the first leg with us and that was a huge help. It mainly meant that Nana sat in the back with Edie and kept her entertained, including through crazy heavy thunder snow in the mountains of Pennsylvania. On the way back though it was just the two of us. Here are a few pointers to help you survive. Edie is almost four so some of these could be modified based on age.

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Papa’s Picks for the Perfect Road Trip

1. Break the Rules

No, I am not encouraging you to speed or text and drive. There are plenty of folks doing that. I’m talking about breaking some of the parenting rules that you follow. As I’ve said, we are a pretty low tech family (Set Free From TV.)However, in the car Edie gets to use the phone. She watches some videos, she takes pictures, and she looks at the Target app as she loves to “window shop”. I don’t allow games on my phone. I don’t know want her to know they exist as it is a slippery slope. She doesn’t have it the entire time, but off and on for a good portion. It’s a novelty and it keeps her from going nuts. And my phone is full of super cute selfies afterward.

Same rule applies to food. A road trip means basically non-stop grazing. We do take apples and carrots and peepers, as well as nuts and raisins. But we also eat some chips and yesterday she had her first pop-tart. “It’s amazing”, she said. She knows these foods are just for special occasions and we keep them to that. Today, she was back to the straight and narrow and had a variety of fruits and veggies.

2. Make Sure You Have Good Music

I look forward to the days when I get to pick my own music again. I did sneak in some Indigo Girls for a bit when she was phone distracted. For now though we mostly have one rotation of all the cds from Music Together Class. If you have never take a class from them and you have a little one you should definitely do so. They are wonderful and I actually enjoy all the music too. We did try some podcasts this trip and to be honest, Edie just wasn’t that into them. I’d be curious to hear any more recommendations for other podcasts to try and if you’ve had success with any of them.

3. Pee Outside Once: Preferably in the Snow

At one point in rural Pennsylvania, Edith really had to go. She could not wait. At first, I admit to being miffed. However, once I pulled over and found a spot where she could squat, her giggle made it worth it. She kept asking to do it again and thought it was basically the coolest thing ever. I think this tip could go under breaking the rules, but I decided it needed to stand alone. So, be spontaneous and super cool. Pullover and pee outside.

4. Bring Good Books and Toys

It’s always a good idea to buy a few new things to entertain on a plane or car trip. It’s novel and can be a great distraction. We always pack coloring books and markers as well as some letter practice. This trip we introduced the game “I spy…”. Always a hit particularly at this age when rules are just a suggestion anyway. We also brought along an Etch A Sketch. This classic will probably now reside in our car permanently as an easy and creative distraction.
Finally, bring along some good books. You can use your latest books from your Lillypost subscription. If someone can’t read to your little one they can spend the time exploring the books, or have them make up stories based on pictures!

5. Always Pick A Hotel With Breakfast and Pool

This time we stayed at two different Fairfield Inns and they were great. They had healthy and not as healthy breakfast options. (Even meatless breakfast sausages). Their facilities were clean and the staff very friendly and engaging with kids. The pools were new and perfect size. It gave Edie a chance to play and get some exercise and we had chances to chat and relax. Having breakfast and pool onsite made us both more relaxed and made the stay more fun. Now, to get used to not having waffles every single morning. Man, I live waffles.

These tips are not rocket science, obviously. I think the most important thing about a long car trip with little ones is to be flexible and to be patient. It can be boring and physically restrictive for children. So, make it as exciting as possible. Further, it’s a good time to slow down the pace of life. Point out the cows in the pasture. Talk about where lightening comes from. Eat a pop tart. Sing loudly. Laugh until it hurts. Enjoy the time spent in close proximity with each other. Did I mention eat a pop tart?