Our Tuesday Fox posed another topic for this week: “When on a trip (either a long vacation or a day trip) how do you occupy the travel time, or keep the kids occupied?”
Growing up, my family took very few trips. My mom tends to stress easily, so she never enjoyed traveling with kids, although after Dad retired the two of them went all over the world. As a group of five, we took one trip to Washington, DC together and I think that was the end of it. Apparently, I married a guy with the same affliction. Even when hubby was healthy, he didn’t like traveling – he just wanted to be at home in his comfort zone. With his blessing, my daughters and I decided we’d just go without him, and we had lots of fun adventures together. Every summer, we’d drive to a Northwest Chicago suburb and spend a week with my college roommate. We’d attend her church’s Vacation Bible School in the morning (I usually helped out with crafts), and in the afternoon we’d visit one of the many attractions in the area. Palatine, Illinois is about a four-hour drive from our home, and we’d alternate between chatting, singing, playing games, and napping (the girls, not me). We’d play games like finding all the letters of the alphabet on highway signs, or seeing how many different state license plates we could spot. Sometimes I let them take turns being charge of reading the map. I always had workbooks, puzzle books, and coloring pages in the car.
When the girls were a bit older, I let them each take a friend along for our annual week-long trip to Chicago. Some of my friends thought I was nuts, but this actually worked out great. They each had someone to talk to who wasn’t likely to argue, and who had pretty much the same interests. And I, as the driver, was able to concentrate on the roads. By that time, I’d made the trip several times and pretty much knew where I was going, even though GPS devices hadn’t yet been invented.
The three of us drove to the New Jersey shore one summer when the girls were twenty and seventeen. At this point, both of them were able to help out with the driving, so I was able to relax even more. That was actually the summer I started writing The Samurai’s Garden. I spent a lot of road time brainstorming and plotting. And then several years later I used the Jersey shore as the setting for Searching for Lady Luck.
Back before smart phones were such an integral part of our lives, I always had a paperback book in my purse. I’d read at the doctor’s office, at the piano teacher’s studio, at gymnastics, ballet, marching band, tennis matches, and everywhere else I shuttled kids. Other than one summer when we took the train to Chicago, I couldn’t read while traveling, because I was always driving. But we’d have to stop occasionally to eat or find bathrooms, and after the girls reached an age when they didn’t need mommy with them, I’d read while waiting.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve gone on a trip with family members. My youngest is now in her mid-thirties, so when I go away, it’s with friends or alone. I know a lot of people like to listen to audio books, and I suppose that’s a possibility, but I’m not sure that would be a good option for me unless I’m driving across the country. If it’s a good book, I won’t want to stop. Most of my driving destinations are less than two hours away, and that’s not enough time to listen to the whole book. Listening while NOT driving tends to put me to sleep, so I wouldn’t hear the rest of the story until I was on my way home.
The last trip I took was last summer, and I flew. I always have my phone with me, and on this particular trip, I had my laptop as well. So, when my trip home was delayed several hours by a weather issues in the Midwest, I had plenty to keep me occupied in the airport. When we finally boarded the plane, I packed up my laptop and settled in. Then the plane sat for an hour before moving. I took out my phone and opened book app and started to read. By the time I got to my first layover, I’d read an entire book. I boarded my second plane and settled in, only to discover my trip was delayed again. By the time I reached Grand Rapids, I’d read another novella, caught up on all my correspondence, and had beat several opponents at Scrabble and Words With Friends. Of course, the next day my eyes were sore and I stayed off all my devices for a day or two, but I’ve always got plenty of other things to keep me busy.
I have several college friends in Illinois, and a few of us have batted around the idea of taking Amtrak to visit a mutual friend in Delaware. If we do, I’m sure we won’t be bored. When the conversation quiets, we’ll all take out our phones and settle down with a good book, a podcast, or a recording. And then there’s another possibility – a nice nap.