When my husband suggested driving to Florida for spring break, I was not exactly supportive. And I wasn’t alone. Sympathetic friends tried to dissuade him, then pondered what might be included in the inevitable column about the disasters of travelling 2,400 miles in the car with two children. And I pondered how I would tell our tale without damaging our marriage.
On top of the long car ride, the destination was one that we had just visited last month after our stumble through Disney. “It’s all about the journey,” said my idealistic spouse. I half-listened while thinking about how the children barely make it through twenty minutes in the car without fighting, teasing, screaming. Twenty hours? Yes, that will be a journey all right.
His one convincing selling point was our children’s interest in hotels. They love hotels, riding the elevators, swimming in the pools, and sampling assorted pastries at the free breakfasts. In addition, they have recently proven that they will actually sleep in hotels (though I still find myself awake most of the time primed for one of them to wake up or roll off the bed). So I gave in and packed up the car.
For a moment, it seemed as though this trip might not happen, or at least that it was cursed. My son was ill the day before the journey so we moved our departure from night to very early the next morning. Then, after a successful pre-dawn launch (note that the one day my kids don’t wake me up at 4 am, I have to get up at 4 a.m.), we almost had to return home with car troubles. When that turned out to be a false alarm, I was a little disappointed. We were still going.
My husband handled the bulk of the driving without complaint. When he drove, he kept himself alert by asking me questions about the local geography, and doing mental math to calculate our average speed, how far we had traveled, how far we had to go, and how far we would have been if we had left at various different times from various different places. When I drove, I kept alert by drinking Diet Coke and singing every song that played on the radio. Trust me, after 2,400 miles, I can tell you which songs are overplayed, no matter how much I like them. Taylor and “Hey-Ho” guys, I’m talking to you (though for some reason, I never get tired of Adam Levine).
We were driving my husband’s sedan instead of my SUV, a decision I questioned until I witnessed another father at a rest stop trying to shut his SUV hatch over a wall of belongings while random things kept dropping out of one side or another. Then I was happy to have our (much more limited) stuff contained in the trunk. Not only could it not be seen, but it also could not be accessed on a whim by me or the kids climbing over the back seat while cruising in the left lane of the highway. And my children didn’t think they had a large rectangular cube to fill up before we left.
But the stars of the week had to be the kids. They were outstanding passengers. They never said, “Are we there yet?” In fact, they never wanted to get out of the car. Of course, this was not our parents’ road trip, where we had to entertain ourselves looking for assorted state license plates, and playing magnetic checkers. In fact, any magnets would have destroyed our entertainment, which was all electronic. We had so many cords and chargers strung out in the back seat it looked like a spider’s web.
In all, we were on the road for two days down and two days home. Stops at “South of the Border” and Savannah satisfied my need for some small adventure (though these “long” stops tortured the others). And finding a Rainforest Café on the way home was a bonus for the kids. As for the hotels — well, that was a bait and switch. On this trip, there was no relaxing poolside. We arrived in time for bed then departed as early as possible to get back on the road. After all, we wanted to have vacation days left to spend at our destination before we had to turn around and come back. I did draw the line at moving our children from the bed to the car before sunrise and missing the breakfast bar too.
When we arrived home, I admitted to my husband that “it was not as bad as I thought.” To me, this meant “At least we are all still speaking to each other.” My husband has translated it as, “Let’s go again!” I’ll keep you posted.
Rebecca Martorella, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author, and mother of two. She works with individuals, couples, and families, and can be reached at email@example.com.