Occupy the Travel Time

Since Ordinary Driving Can Be Boring, Break It Up With Something

By Jeff Salter

I’ve covered various aspects of family vacations in at least three previous 4F1H blogs (see links below), but never this particular focus. Namely, how to keep the kids occupied when the travel part – those MANY hours before reaching each destination – is tedious.

As you’ll read (if you check those links), my own young family didn’t go on many of what might be considered “vacations.” When we traveled together, it was usually to my in-laws (first in Texas and then in Kentucky). I only recall two times we went anywhere else: once to Hot Springs for a couple of nights and once to Corpus Christi for a couple of nights. Our youngest was in elementary school for that AR trip and our oldest was in high school for that TX trip. In neither case, did we – the parents – exert too much energy on keeping them “occupied.” We didn’t have a radio in our vehicles in those early years and the kids didn’t have expensive gadgets back then (to play music or games) — so often, I’d relieve the boredom by singing to them.

Yes, you heard that correctly. And no, I don’t have a voice that would win any awards. I sang Beatles songs and others that I’d learned over the years. Why, you’re asking, would I sing to my children on a long trip? Because my dad sang to us, when we were kids, on long trips. He had a nice tenor voice and knew many cool ballads. I never tired of hearing them. I don’t know if either of my children sang to their own kids on long trips, but I wish they would… or could. These kids – our grandchildren – have access to DVD players and individual I-pads (or other electronics), of course, so it would practically be an intrusion to have them shut off those forms of entertainment just to hear their parent sing, “Rocky Raccoon.”


My Solo Travels

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of commuting: from Covington to Hammond (20-plus miles) to college and back, from Covington to Baton Rouge (75 miles) to grad school and back; from Covington to Biloxi (90-plus miles) to Air Force Reserve Unit Training twice a month. Many of those trips involved at least one leg at night (for the Keelser AFB run, both legs were at evening/night) and it was imperative for me to stay alert.

I didn’t usually feel like singing to myself, though I would sometimes “play” a song inside my noggin. What I did to stay alert was to watch the odometer and give myself a “reward” for every particular chunk of the travel. For example, I might eat a lifesaver every 10 miles — a pack would get me between Biloxi and Covington. Or, I might pour a few sips of hot coffee from my thermos every 20 miles.

In more recent years – driving between Shreveport and Memphis… or between Somerset and Memphis, I’d occupy my mind with arithmetic — checking my truck’s odometer and gas gauge to see if I could squeeze the first 100 miles out of the top quarter tank and the first 200 miles out of the top half tank. Why, you may ask. Why not, I may reply. It kept me alert… and the predictability gave me some degree of satisfaction. Do you know how many highway miles YOU get from a quarter tank? I do.

Finally, let me say that even though I haven’t traveled much at all since 2010 – when my stomach issues suddenly developed – I used to jump into my truck and go 400 miles whenever there was some reason (like grandparent day at a pre-school). Back then, I found solo travel relaxing. Oh, sure, it was tiring to drive 400 miles… but during those 8 hours, I was able to snack every 10 or 15 miles. And run a few old songs through my noggin. But mainly because I was able to THINK.

I can remember a few of those solo trips, where I’d spend the first 100 miles in almost constant prayer — praying for situations (personal and professional) and for people I cared about. You’d be surprised how many of those can use your prayers.

# # # # #

Some notes about why I haven’t taken all that many family vacations:


Our first family “vacation” in 1958:


A survey of some of the cool – and not-so-cool places – my family visited when I traveled as a kid:



What about YOU? Have you traveled a lot with your family? What helped keep people occupied during the dull parts of the trip?

[JLS # 480]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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16 Responses to Occupy the Travel Time

  1. We pray, too, Jeff. Sometimes, quite a bit. There are a lot of things going on in the family and in the world. Good for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jbrayweber says:

    I don’t like road trips. Perhaps it’s the tedium and the traffic. The farthest I’ve ever gone would be from Houston to Orlando, generally a 16 hour trip. That was with the family. And I’m thankful for the devices to keep kids busy.
    Solo trips have been 4 to 8 hour jogs. I don’t mind them too much. Time to reflect. I enjoy being alone. But I did once fall asleep a few times while driving in the early morning hours on my way to New Orleans once. It was very hard to stay awake, and I’m not a coffee person. Once the sun came up, and I got to a more populated area, I was fine.
    Some of the shorter trips with the kids were spent on a A-Z game. We’d take turn naming particular animals going through the alphabet (ex: dogs – Alaskan Malamute, bulldog, cocker spaniel, Dalmatian, etc.) or we’d have to guess what kind of animal one was thinking about with the clues given.

    Great post, Jeff. Always, enjoy learning about you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Thanks, Jenn. That A-Z game sounds pretty good… but did the kids require a referee? Or were they self-supporting as they played?
      Night driving can be rough. These days, with my ancient eyeballs, I rarely drive at night… unless it’s VERY familiar territory.


      • jbrayweber says:

        Kids didn’t play together, They are too many years apart. Sp no referee. I was the one they tried to beat. LOL!
        Yeah, my eyes have gotten bad, too. I’m supposed to wear glasses but never have. Driving at night is a real challenge so I don’t drive long distances at night anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jeff Salter says:

          on one of my eye dr. visits — not too long ago — the dr. said, “I recommend you don’t drive any strange places at night.”
          to which, I replied, “I don’t drive to strange places in broad daylight!”

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Going through a prayer list is a great idea – but probably not a good idea if I’m driving alone, if I have a long list I’d need to refer to. I suppose I could just run through my entire list of family members, and then close friends, etc. I’ll have to try that next time, although it looks like most of my trips for the next few months have been canceled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      yeah, consulting a written list could be hazardous. What I was doing was just praying for my extended family, my friends and neighbors, our library employees by name, my library colleagues, and elected officials at every level I could remember. Also — probably — for the world situations at that time. Of course, for the turmoil in our workplace.


  4. In the past, I’ve spent many hours talking to my Lord while driving, or I’ve listened and sung along with hymns on the radio or a CD. Having traveled to almost all the states in American, as well as Canada and Mexico at one time or another through life, I think the only time I haven’t done that is when someone else was in the car, and they weren’t sleeping. LOL I had all kinds of travel games for the kids when they were with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      the single travel “game” I can remember my mom arranging for us was for that very first family vaycay in 1958. She’d found some little cheap copy of “travel bingo” — not certain of the name — in which you place a mark on a page that resembled a bingo card. The spaces were for things like “cow,” “barn,” cement truck, etc.
      As I recall, we both (my brother and I) got tired of it. Don’t recall that either of us ever scored a BINGO.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I remember playing a game where we picked one thing that we knew we’d eventually see on the trip. When we found it we had to find something that started with the last letter of that first sight. There were other things too, but I don’t remember. One of the biggest fun things my daughter used to love to do is yell out “Cows, Fizzy, cows.” Our dog’s name was Fizzy and he would go all excited about the cows, whine and shake. He wanted to go run with them like he did with our neighbor’s horses. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jeff Salter says:

          whenever we’d drive past a feeder lot (for cattle) we’d smell the manure and my little sister would shout, “I smell horse”.


  5. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I think it’s wonderful that you sang to your children as your father did. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. trishafaye says:

    I like your lifesaver every 10 miles method!

    Liked by 1 person

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