Usually my Disney-loving family flies to sunny Florida every other year to visit Mickey Mouse. This summer, however, I will be driving with my wife and two teenagers from central New Jersey to Orlando. My 17-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter merely tolerate each other’s company, at best. Right about now I can hear some of you saying, “Are you crazy?”
Well, maybe I am crazy…but we have people and places to see this year during our journey south. We will be traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit close friends and attend their son’s Bar Mitzvah. Rather than make this just a very expensive weekend we decided to turn it into a family vacation. Here's how we plan to stay sane along the way.
Research Travel Options
I spent considerable time researching all of our travel options. What made the most economic sense was to rent a car for the drive down so that we can then fly home after our adventures. We determined a minivan would be the most desirable vehicle, not only because it provides ample room to separate the kids but also because a van allows us to bring along a lot more STUFF! I scoured the internet for online coupon codes and car rental deals but I was surprised by the lack of available minivans.
I began having nightmares about our journey: I pull out of the driveway and my daughter screams at the top of her lungs that her brother is staring at her. Then my son starts with, “Her foot is on MY SIDE!” It ends with my wife yelling so loud that I can see the veins popping out of her neck as I pull on to the shoulder of the freeway and slam on the brakes.
As the nightmares continued, so did my search for a minivan rental. Persistence pays off! I finally found a minivan through another car rental agency. An added bonus was the price, which was approximately $100 less than the last-resort SUV I had reserved, just in case.
Preparation is Key
It will take us approximately 12 hours to travel to Charlotte for our two-night stay. Then it should take us roughly 10 hours to reach Walt Disney World. How can we possibly enjoy such a long drive in a confined space without our children killing, or at least, maiming one another?
Even with the kids sufficiently spaced apart in our newly booked minivan, on such a long trip there are bound to be some edgy nerves and arguments. Young or old, kids are still kids. The success of this trip will depend upon how my wife and I manage our expectations (perfect behavior isn’t possible) and our children’s boredom (by providing a multitude of entertainment options).
Over the last couple of weeks I have asked friends, relatives, and co-workers if they have ever driven double digit hours to reach their family vacation destination. I asked in-depth questions of those who had embarked on such a journey to get some tips for success. I got very similar advice from all, regardless of the children’s ages.
Keep Kids Busy
Of course, the most important factor of any long car drive is keeping your children occupied. So, what will we do? We’re going to try family favorites like 20 questions and iSpy. Plus we’ll ply the kids with their favorite snacks and drinks (being careful to limit the amount of liquids so we don’t spend the whole trip seeking out rest stops for bathroom breaks!).
Then there are the toys and electronic gadgets. Suggested items to bring along for teens include: travel versions of board games, a DVD player and plenty of movies, hand held video game players, and iPods.
All of the parents I interviewed said their kids handled the long drive better than they expected with just a few, but very controllable, episodes of impatience. Surprisingly, many parents said traveling with younger children was easier than travel with tweens and teens because the little ones were easier to keep occupied with simple toys or diversions and because they napped longer than big kids might!
Although my wife and I aren’t exactly looking forward to the long drive, we plan on making it a safe and fun-filled family experience. I’m bringing some earplugs along though…just in case!
What do you think – is a road trip with teens a crazy idea or a fun way to spend time together? Let us know in the comments!
Travel Daddy Stuart Sternberg and his wife, Michele, live in New Jersey with their two children, Bret and Haley. Their favorite vacation spot is Walt Disney World. Outside of work the only things that distract Stuart from thinking about Disney (besides his family) are Yankee baseball and seeing Bruce Springsteen live in concert. He writes a blog on all things Disney called Disney Geek Dad and he contributes a weekly blog post to the Disney Driven Life, home of the Neurotic Disney People.
Top photo purchased from istockphoto.com.