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Family road trips and preparing your vehicle

Holiday road trip tips and how to be safe

It IS Important To Keep Your Sanity During Holiday Travel – Someone Has To Drive, Right?!?

How to Keep Your Sanity With Holiday Travel and Be Safe Too

Traveling with kids of all ages can be a challenge. Being prepared is the key. Meaning your vehicle maintained and you ready with entertainment of sorts for the family.
Yet sometimes even the best laid plans… Well, let me share with you a little family story about a cassette player and our adventure.
1- I’ll also give you some SURE FIRE ideas of how to keep the kiddos entertained without technology so everyone can visit and spend some time together. That’s what this road trip is all about right?!
2- And I have some GREAT tips to help make sure your vehicle is ready so you can be safe and have the best trip possible. 

The Cassette Player
It’s that time to go see family during the holidays, which usually means travel. This is a story of a little get-away some years back for our family.
With five kids, and back in the day of truly ‘old fashioned’ entertainment (not a bad thing really) while riding together, I said a lot of:
Do NOT breathe on each other
Do NOT touch him/her
Do NOT bother him/her
Do NOT throw anything, including your sister/brother out the window
Do NOT look at your brother/sister

And of course no road trip would be considered worth any consequence, or even packing the first bag, if it didn’t include the obligatory Kijillion times of me hearing a voice whining/moaning/complaining:   ‘Are We There Yet’
Yeah…sometimes the joys of parenthood….
However, we have AMAZING memories we wouldn’t trade as a family of road trips and that made it ALL worth it – and I’m sure you do too! 
Actually road trips are the perfect opportunity for families to bond, talk, visit and learn about each other; being in a confined space an all:)
Putting away technology and talking, playing games and listening to books will provide experiences that will be cherished and bring a closeness that cannot be purchased or planned; I promise. Give it a try for just a portion of the drive at least. We still talk and laugh about the times in the cars or trucks on road trips we had as a family years later. Such as listening to the Orson Wells radio broadcast of War Of The Worlds which of course was decades before even Stan and I, but we all were enthralled and you could hear the kids holding their breath at times the story was so captivating. Wonderful imagery of incredibly story telling. GOOD TIMES!!!
I have  put together some ideas for you to keep everyone busy and HAPPY, no matter the age, while traveling. Also some car safety tips before beginning your drive.
However, I first want to tell you about one of our little road-trips that involved a cassette player and a another book we were listening to as a family. 
We had traveled quite a ways on a particular road trip and to keep everyone happy and content, I had brought along a book series on cassette tapes (do you know what those even are? If you don’t – Google it) which ALL my kids were enthralled and captivated in the narrative. The story was actually holding the attention of all my kids! Then, the unspeakable happened – – – – –

Our deck cassette tape player in the old suburban broke right when we were about three-fourths through the book!
See, I had carefully timed it so the book would end right about the time we would be close to our home….oh the awfulness of our situation was almost too much for a list-making, sticky-note-ticking-off-to-do’s mother to bear!
It seems to me, in my world anyway, that Mom’s ‘take on’ the responsibility of making events fun, and dang it we were going to have F.U.N! I wasn’t sure how now….

This was downright tragic on many levels and I’ll tell you why:

  • See, it was as though we had achieved bliss, happiness and peace. The trip had been AMAZING and we were on our way home. 

When you are traveling long distances in a vehicle with five kids ranging in ages from a young child to teenagers; that fact alone was enough to give anyone stomach acid of large proportions.

  • I had longed for and dreamed of this very type of road-trip as we drove in the heat, with the windows down (ok,  I would have dreamed of a new vehicle since the air conditioner usually didn’t work at this point) andthe deck tape player blaring at the top of the vehicles small speakers capacity. But ALL five kids insisting on quiet so they could hear the story with anticipated excitement to see how the adventure would unfold. (MY kids insisting on quiet!!! Unheard of!)


  • To add to the complexity of it all, I had talked my husband into this trip. You have to understand that we often took the family on camping trips and outings where they could all get out and run, fish, explore – have space and ‘be free’! Where we could be free too:)

Stan traveled quite extensively for a living; oftentimes he would be home only a few days a month at that time of his career. So trapping him in a vehicle with FIVE noisy, sometimes fighting and arguing kids for h-o-u-r-s and d-a-y-s was not his idea of a vacation.
Seeing the kids enthralled in the story, I was able to snuggle to Stan, with a cooler wedged uncomfortably between us, and a ‘I told you this would work’ look in my eyes, I was happy

But once the deck cassette tape player broke I was screaming inside NNOOOOOO!!!!
We drove a while as I tried to get everyone to sing songs and tell stories. They weren’t excited or too anxious to participate after a little while of that.
We decided to check into the hotel early so Stan and our middle son, who was maybe twelve at the time could try to fix it.
For a little background, this son was always mechanically inclined (like the time he was two or three years old and undid the bent wood rocking chair with a toy screw driver as his grandfather sat in it) and why he wanted to help try to fix the deck cassette deck. 
The rest of us went in to get dinner together from what I had packed in coolers, and settle things in the room for the night.
Meanwhile, Stan and our son actually took apart the dashboard with the few basic tools Stan had in the truck buried under all our ‘stuff’ right there in the parking lot of the hotel.
They did all they could to fix the deck cassette player, working late into the night under the light of the street lamp in the hotel parking lot, along with a couple of flashlights they fished out of the camping gear.
Unfortunately, no luck.
So, the next best thing…Walmart.
We bought a cheap portable cassette player and the kids took then turns holding the awkward shaped bulging box in the middle section of the old suburban, trying not to let it fall on the kid sitting under it or next to it as they turned it up as loud as the thing would play so everyone could hear – the ‘rest of the story’.
***I occasionally go on business trips with Stan when he drives long distances and we will listen to audio books and I really want to listen to the FULL Les Mis. Did you know it’s 26 hours! I LOVE what I’ve heard so far. What are you listening to?


Travel Ideas 2


Get Organized and it’s always more fun

Backseat car organizer (where was THIS when my kids were young!) HERE
Backseat organizer (this thing is seriously cool!) HERE
Car Backseat organizer (lots of compartments!) HERE
If you’re looking for a kid sized blanket, neck pillow and eye mask in a super-hero or Elsa theme click HERE

GAMES & Activities to keep everyone happy and entertained
License Plate and Auto Bingo HERE

 Are We There Yet? game HERE

Car Mad Libs game HERE


It’s ok for the kids to entertain themselves, and really really good for everyone to visit and just talk. 

Ensure your vehicle is properly maintained.

  • If maintenance is not up to date, have your car and tires inspected before you take a long drive.
  • Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads during the most popular times of the year. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.
  • Keep anything of value in the trunk or covered storage area.
  • If you’re traveling with children, remind them not to talk to strangers. Go with them on bathroom breaks and give them whistles to be used only if the family gets separated.
  • Have roadside assistance contact information on hand, in case an incident occurs on the road. Check with your insurance agent. Many companies have roadside assistance as part of your policy .
  • In case of an emergency, keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times. AAA and many other companies offer smartphone applications that enable motorists to request help without making a phone call. (AAA)

Pack car the night before so your travel is not delayed, making you feel rushed and need to speed. Plan foods so you don’t have to eat fast food/drive-thru. Buy healthy snacks in bulk and prepackage in baggies for easy use during the trip. Pack along power foods such as cheese sticks, nuts, dried fruit, and store cold items in a light cooler. Don’t forget the water. Every 2 hours or so stop, stretch and walk around the car a few times to avoid the possibility of deep-vein thrombosis which is a condition that occurs when leg circulation isn’t very good. Everyone in the car, whether driver or passenger should walk, flex ankles and shake out the kinks. Programming or checking gps, phone calls, etc. make driving a hazard for everyone. Plan ahead to know the route, or have another rider navigating the trip. I read that glancing at a map while driving is SEVEN times more risky than texting! Take along games, cds, travel games and holiday songs to help entertain and pass the time.
Car Care:

  • Keep gas tank at least half full. Ask your mechanic if you will need fuel de-icer if traveling to a much colder area than where you start from.
  • Change the oil if it is even close to the recommended mileage, or will be during your trip.
  • Have the battery checked on professional equipment.
  • Check lights to make sure they are lighting bright, or if any lens need cleaning.
  • Have your vehicle checked out: belts, brakes, air filter, hoses, fluids, complete look over and don’t overlook the wiper blades. Invest in really good blades for best visibility and safer driving.
  • Tires: Have them rotated and checked carefully for wear and tear. Make sure they are properly inflated, and it will increase the fuel efficiency by ten percent or more.

A basic list for safe travel:

  • gloves
  • boots
  • blankets, like the space blankets HERE for space
  • flares
  • a small shovel
  • sand or kitty litter (to help get car out of slick or muddy conditions)
  • tire chains
  • a flashlight – THIS is high quality!
  • a charged cell phone
  • “high-energy” snacks 
  • water
  • HERE is a great kit you might want to check out

Plan, prepare and enjoy the ride!
Copyright Carrie Groneman, A Mother’s Shadow, 2018
Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today
Image courtesy of supakitmod, digitalart at


  • Melinda says:

    Thanks for the great story! And allt the resources you’ve gathered for us.

  • Aw, your story totally made me smile as the ending truly was perfect and I do hear a lot of, “Are We There Yets?” from both my girls, so appreciate and all help we can get for traveling and keeping a bit of sanity in check at the same time. Thanks so much, Carrie! 🙂

  • Diane Roark says:

    I get asked all the time “Why are you driving?” We drive everywhere we go on vacation with maybe two exceptions over the past 30 years. It is a 16 hour drive to Disney World and we have been several time. We pass a lot of time by listening to Adventures in Odyssee by Focus on the Family. It gets so exciting that we have often had to stop to go to the bathroom but everyone wanted to just hold it. LOVE LOVE adventures in Odyssee. We had most of the old cassettes and now CD’s. They have been worth every penny we paid for them. Now that my kids are older teens and adults, we still listen to Adventures in Odyssee.
    Thanks for sharing all these great ideas.

    • I agree Diane, that driving gives time for families to bond and talk IF the opportunity is taken that is. I have not heard of ‘Adventures in Odyssee by Focus on the Family’ and will definitely have to look into that one. THANK you for suggesting that for all of us to have. I really appreciate your insight and advice, it really is great!

  • Tasha says:

    You were in quite the predicament, weren’t you? lol YouTube is a great resource for travel busy bags as well! When we went on our last road trip last Christmas, I made busy bags for the two year old while the 7 & 9 year old played with legos the entire trip. It’s a lot more easier to travel with kids nowadays than it was before all this technology. You’ve provided a great list of resources that will keep lil ones engaged and busy as well! Great job!

    • That is a GREAT idea Tasha! Thank you so much for giving us the tip of YouTube and the travel busy bags and other resources there. I sure appreciate your compliment and always your visit!!!

  • Delsi says:

    Haha I remember our car rides 🙂 great memories!

  • You’re a life saver Carrie! We decided to take our 3 boys (leaving our daughter home) on a family vacation road trip from MN to GA next month for their Christmas present! I love the links you shared for games etc. I need to check them out so we can actually enjoy this trip and it wont be a headache!! Thanks for sharing with us at Throwback Thursday!

    • Thank you Alli:) You are so welcome and I’m thrilled the timing is right to help you. Make sure to read the comments from AMS readers, they had terrific suggestions too. Have a safe and fun trip this holiday!

  • Jess says:

    Wow…what a great idea!
    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

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