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Traveling the Mountain Highs and Valley Lows: Part 1

Part 1: The Trip South

Last summer I took time off from work because my job was not covering the costs of my daycare bill. Since I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be working in the coming summers I decided to take my two girls, ages 4 and 2 at the time, to visit my mother in western North Carolina while my husband stayed behind to work. The car ride from northern Virginia (where we live) to North Carolina is about 11 hours. The final two hours of the drive takes place in the mountains. Without the mountains, the drive west from Asheville would probably only take about 30 minutes to an hour at most. The closer we get to my mom’s house the more switch backs we encounter, which invariably means everyone in the car gets nauseous. Those in the back suffer the most. This, of course, means my children, seeing as how they are too young to ride in the front and are required to remain strapped into their car seats.

When I was a girl I did not ride in a car seat. I don’t think car seats even existed for babies back then. My mother held me in her lap when my father drove her home from the hospital. Whenever we drove to visit my grandparents in western North Carolina, I could stand in the middle of the back seat so that I could see the lines on the twisting road. Or, I was allowed to sit in the front seat. This prevented the nausea, though not always.

I began the journey down to North Carolina early, knowing that we’d have to stop halfway through at a hotel. I wanted to make the trip in two days. Before I even got out of our suburban neighborhood, however, I discovered that our DVD player was not working. I thought it was because it was broken. I stopped at Target and purchased a new DVD player, desperate to have some form of entertainment for the troops for the long journey ahead. Little did I know at the time that the fuse to my lighter had blown, as the new DVD player had about an hour of battery that enabled us to play a movie while I scooted down the road. We hadn’t even made it to the next interstate when the DVD player shut off suddenly.

I called my husband in a panic. Should I turn around and head back home? How would I drive 11 hours without a DVD player? How did my mom make the trip back in the day without one? My husband couldn’t explain why the DVD player wouldn’t play, but he agreed to look into it and get back to me. I kept driving. Surely I could manage to keep the kids occupied for a couple of hours until we fixed the problem. If my mother could manage, so could I.

About this time I suggested we channel Wonder Woman. After all, the girls had been watching her on the DVD player when it quit. Wonder Woman didn’t need a television to survive. We were brave souls and we would cope. The girls agreed. So, on we went.

To my surprise, they managed quite well without the DVD player. We had CDs to listen to and books to read and games to play. We stopped for lunch and played for awhile. They napped in the car after lunch.

Despite the late start and several stops we actually made it to the halfway point while there was still daylight. The TV didn’t work in the room we got, but I requested a new room and they switched us. We played in the pool after eating dinner at the Mexican restaurant near the hotel. All in all, we survived and even laughed now and then.

I should’ve been deterred by all the hurdles, but for some reason I just wouldn’t let them prevent me from giving up. Maybe it was Wonder Woman. Maybe it was something else. But, clearly, this vacation was a series of what my mother used to call “adventures.”

The next morning I woke early and left the room to get a cup of tea. My oldest daughter woke up at some point when I was downstairs. She woke up my younger daughter. They opened the door, but they didn’t see me in the hallway. They didn’t think to keep the door open, which meant they locked themselves out. They searched in vain for me, but they didn’t venture beyond the confines of the floor, probably because they were too scared and needed me to guide them. When I came back upstairs I found them lying face down outside our door sobbing. They thought I had left without them.

I nearly died.

“I just went to get some tea!” I cried. “I would never leave you! I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I promise it will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever happen again.” By this point I was crying, guilt oozing out of my every pour. Clearly, I had failed them. I should’ve just sat quietly in the room while they slept and, I don’t know, pushed through the hunger and need for caffeine. They usually sleep for at least another hour. I thought I had time! I was devastated by my poor parenting skills.

Needless to say, the girls refused to let me out of their sight for the rest of the morning. A stop at the local Wal-Mart enabled me to purchase a pair of needle nose pliers so that I could swap the old lighter fuse for a new one. The stop also involved the purchase of two new dolls for each of the girls, as the auto parts were conveniently located behind the toy section. Given my mishap that morning, I allowed them to pick one doll as long as it was no more than $20. Thanks, Wal-Mart.

We finally arrived at my mother’s later that day, fortunately without much incident. The return trip home, however, is a different story and one that also makes it into the record books as being unbelievably fraught with “adventure.”

Stay tuned for Part 2…Coming soon!

About the Author: Ruth(aka DoodleMommy) is a happily married woman and mother of two young girls (with one on the way) living in the Northern Virginia area. She is a Beta mom wannabe, an NPR junkie, and studies rocks for a living. Her husband is an incredible cook and does laundry. She is a lucky gal. You can connect with Ruth on her blog or on

Are you interesting in writing a guest travel piece? Do you have a great road trip story to tell, fantastic family vacation destination, or tips to help other parents cope while on the road? Email us at


How We Survived Our 936 Mile Road Trip

Road Trip with KidsAre you planning a long road trip for your family vacation? We did, and obviously we survived to tell about it. Our family of five decided to head cross-country to meet up with some friends for an extended weekend, making the long drive part of the “experience”. I can honestly say that our trip went better than we expected, and we’re even willing to do it again.

That’s not to say we didn’t worry about incessant complaining from our older kids or unstoppable crying fits from our two year old. We braced for the worst and prayed for the best. We landed somewhere in between with some great memories.

I attribute pre-planning (Hey, I’ll take the credit) to making a major difference in how well our trip went, as well as how quickly we were able to arrive at our destination. We crossed five states and 936 miles in 15 hours. We made it both ways with only one stop per state! Yes, that’s right. I’m happy to share what we did, and I hope you have a great trip too!

*Disclaimer: We have a Durango with plenty of room, a DVD player, and allow eating in our vehicle. If you don’t…I’m sorry.

10 Things That Got Us (And Our Kids) Through A Long Road Trip

  1. Early To Rise makes the kids crabby and parents tired, but with some good coffee it worked great. We were on the road by 5am, which means we were in a pool at our destination shortly after 8pm!
  2. Two Coolers of the smaller variety worked great for storing beverages right behind the front seat of our Durango, and putting food toward the back of the truck where our oldest could reach out food for the rest of us.
  3. Fast Food by way of packing coolers, saving money, avoiding extra stopping and eliminating excess calories is the way to go. I let each family member place his/her order ahead of time, and I shopped accordingly. I made up sandwiches and snacks that made everyone happy. Having food ready when someone was hungry was really great.
  4. Clipboards made travel games, writing, and drawing much easier for the kids. I put some crayons in baggies and clipped them to the clipboards. These were really handy and fit easily under the seats once we got there.
  5. Water Bottles with squirt tops that are hard to spill work great for the kids to sip on. We just kept refilling the water bottles or the baby’s sippy cup, as needed.
  6. Movies that have not been seen before by the kids hold their attention much better than those they have seen a thousand times. But you don’t need to spend money. I posted on Facebook to my friends that I was looking for some kids movies for our vacation, and I got an overwhelming response. We simply stopped at a friend’s house and “shopped” their movie selection.
  7. Travel Bingo and other travel related games were a huge hit with our kids.
  8. Mandatory Bathroom Breaks happened each time we stopped for gas. We multi-tasked big time, but it worked great. The idea is simple; every time we NEEDED to stop, everyone went to the bathroom (changed diapers). This way we got gas, bathroom breaks, and a much needed stretch all at once. We also threw away trash.
  9. The Element of Surprise works great and helps break up the trip if you can pack some fun items to pull out when the kids get bored. Some great ideas are pipe cleaners, fun foam, suckers, “I Spy” books, hair bands and barrettes to do each others’ hair (works good for girls).
  10. Kennel the dog. I can’t imagine throwing our dog into the mix. He pulled me aside and thanked me profusely for not subjecting him to the chaos anyway.

What about you? Do you have any tips for surviving a long road trip with kids? Any usual items you packed that came in handy? If you liked this article, you might also like: One Mom’s Story of Traveling: Traveling the Mountain Highs and Valley Lows

Are you interesting in writing a guest travel piece? Do you have a great road trip story to tell, fantastic family vacation destination, or tips to help other parents cope while on the road? Email us at