Surviving the Road Trip Blues: Five Things Kids Do that Could Ruin Your Road Trip (If You Let Them)

Two children fighting in the backseat of a car

Road trips with kids are fun, right? They can and should be, but beware of these five annoying/distracting/exhausting behaviors.

Behold, the warm weather is upon us. That must mean that long family road trips are on the horizon. I love these outings, as they provide a welcome change from everyday life and a golden opportunity to spend time with some of my favorite people. There are, however, certain things that make long trips with the kids a less than pleasant experience.

While I typically like to focus on the positive side of things, in this post I am going to discuss five things that you should be aware of as you embark on your trip. In short, these are five childish behaviors that can absolutely ruin your trip. Take note and prepare yourself, lest your vacation be unexpectedly spoiled from the get-go.

Bathroom breaks: Yes, at some point we all need to go. It’s life. But nothing can be more frustrating for you, the adult driver who used the bathroom right before you left, than hearing the dreaded “I need to go!” 15 minutes into your trip. You ask the seemingly rhetorical question “Did you go before we left?” – knowing full well that no, your little one did not go before you left. You just got past all the dreaded traffic of the city, and you finally made it onto the highway. And now the kid wants to stop? Ugh!

Fighting: This one is pretty much inevitable if you intend to travel any longer than, oh, I don’t know…20 LOUSY MINUTES!!! It’s going to happen, despite the generally passive nature of even your calmest/coolest/sweetest kid. If kids are traveling together for any extended amount of time, expect anything from mild bickering to, God forbid, a WWE bout in the backseat.

And yes, this brawling usually happens just as you are attempting to navigate the most stressful traffic situations. Stuck between two massive trucks on a frighteningly narrow overpass? That is exactly the moment when your son will let out a piercing scream because his brother has pinched, bit, or smacked him. It’s going to happen, so be ready to remain calm and focused, knowing that you will handle the dispute once you are safely off the road. Barring a headlock that is depriving one of your children of oxygen, nothing that happens in the backseat should steal your attention from where it needs to be: the road.

Whining: The least pleasant sound in the entire universe is the long and drawn out whine of a road-tripping child who has decided that he or she is ready for the trip to end. It might be a high-pitched whine, or it could be a low and rolling grumble. Either way, your kid wants out.

Whining is usually a bit more predictable than the other behaviors on this list, as it typically happens after several hours on the road. And beware: The whining often starts off innocently enough with a simple “Are we there yet?” Those are some of the most dreaded words heard by any parent who has ever taken their kids anywhere. If your child has not been taught the fine art of biding his or her time while you travel, you might be in for a hellish ride.

Personal space concerns: Most of us adults grasp the concept of personal space. As you probably already know, kids do not. And the concept seems even more foreign to them when they are stuck in a car for an extended period. “Molly is on my side!” or “Paul put his feet on me!” are the types of nerve-wracking refrains you should prepare for.

It almost seems as though the longer your trip goes, the more space each kid wants. Set clear and easy to understand boundaries for your kids, reminding them that respecting each other’s personal space always works both ways.

Noise galore: There shall be noise. Lots of noise. If you are like me, you occasionally encourage the overwhelming surround sound by leading a sing-along or by blasting your favorite song as it comes on the radio. Our intentions are good, but we often unleash a sonic beast that could take hours to tame.

Kids love to yell. They love to sing. They love to bang on toys. Anything that makes noise, they love. Keeping your kids from indulging in loud and oftentimes annoying sounds is next to impossible, so indulge them once in a while. When you have a nice open stretch of road (and you’re not being sandwiched by two massive trucks), let them make noise. But they need to understand that nonstop yelling is both inconsiderate and dangerous, as you need to be able to concentrate to guarantee the safety of everyone in the car.

These five road trip behaviors have, time and time again, proven to be major headaches. I adore my kids and I love spending time with them. But these five negative behaviors often leave me wondering: “Should we have just stayed home instead?”



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