We’ve done two road trips in the past three months. In January we went to Crested Butte, Colorado, a 20+ hour trip. And this past weekend we drove to Mammoth, a 6 hour trip. I have to say I’m quite impressed at how well P did on both trips.
Dave and I were quite stressed about the Colorado drive. Noni was with us so the adult to kid ratio was 3:1, but even then we worried. Dave bought an ipad for the long journey in hopes that it would save us from major meltdowns. It made the drive easier, of course, but I can’t say it was a life saver. P did well on her own.
It’s been a little tough walking the fine line between going “old school” vs “techno gadgeting” a trip. I remember as a child going on 20 hour drives from Florida to Washington DC. We didn’t have electronic games or movies to entertain us. Even if we did I don’t think my parents would have bought them. My dad felt a road trip was a teaching opportunity. I did many trips with him. He always handed me a map and said “find where we are”. It was all these experiences that gave me a sense of direction and adventure. I also got to see the country. Had I had my head in game or movie I would have missed out on all the amazing scenery.
I want to pass on some of those experiences to P but at the same time I want her to enjoy the trips as well. So, I’m trying to find a middle ground and moderation. I’ve set some limits with the ipad. The maximum amount of time on it is an hour and the minimum time off is at least an hour. I try to stretch it as long as possible. Her time on it can’t only be movies. She must also play her learning games or read books.
The book thing is where the line starts to get fuzzy. I like real books. However, the ipad has made it so easy to bring lots of books without the bulk of actual books. Reading a book on the ipad is still screen time. I worry about her eyes. When is it too much? P figured out that she can extend her ipad time if she reads a book in Spanish. So! When should I draw the line?
I do feel good about some things with her road trip activities.
- She plays well on her own for at least a couple of hours. Dave and I laugh at the conversations she carries on with her toys and the creative use of bags, pillows, sleds etc in the car.
- She is aware of the scenery and we can discuss what we’re seeing with her. She’s becoming more involved in our conversations. It’s very interesting to hear her add thoughts and commentary to our adult discussions.
- She gets use to the routine of travel quite easily.
- She hasn’t hit the phase of “are we there yet” yet. Thank God for that! Towards the end of the day she will start to ask “is this where we live?”. I find that quite funny.
I’m not at the point of handing her a map. However, I have figured out a couple things to play or ask her when we’re on a journey. These are some of the fun questions:
- Does this place look like home? No? Tell me what you see that’s different? When we drove to Seattle the landscape became less desert and more forest. We discussed why more trees grew up there. It was a great conversation.
- We play “I spy”. It’s a very basic version. For example, I’ll say I see something square and green for a road sign. This at least gets her looking outside.
- When she does ask the question “is this where we live” I ask her what did she see that made her think we were home.
On the drive back from Mammoth P did this thing that made us laugh. She started to say “Oh look at that! Oh you missed it.” “Oh look at that tower! Oh you missed it.” She cracked us up! I guess that’s what we sound like to her when we point things out.
I feel so blessed it’s so easy to travel with P. I wonder if all the flights to Florida when she was so young helped to groom her for trips. I wonder if all the 45 minute drives over the hill when she was an infant helped easy her into longer trips. Or maybe our excitement for travel rubs off on her? Who knows. Anyway, each trip seems to mature her in little ways. I’m grateful for these opportunities.