Keeping the Thrill of the Road Fresh Every Time
In the 80s-glory-days of my childhood, the forms of entertainment available in the car were limited. Lying in a sleeping bag in the way back of our wood-paneled station wagon, my sisters and I could fight, make faces at the drivers of other cars, or play I Spy. Today, minivans offer many more entertainment options, making my kids much more eager than I ever was to embark on road trip adventures.
Since the minivan was introduced by Chrysler in 1984, finally letting larger families drive in comfort, automakers have packed more and more features to keep kids entertained. The latest models offer satellite TV, video games, and multiple monitors to enable different movies shown in different rows. Parents can almost drive their kids around in a moving multiplex.
Although I'd love to equip our minivan with the latest bells and whistles, I don't have an unlimited budget. To maintain the thrill of the road trip, we have a set of rules we adhere to in our economy minivan. It keeps things fresh and exciting, even when we're about to set off for a 10-hour car ride.
- Make TV a special treat. If my kids were allowed to watch TV every time they got in the car, I'd feel like a nameless, faceless drone, an unpaid taxi driver. TV is only turned on for trips of an hour or more.
- New DVDs. We begin any trip with a stop at the increasingly bare Blockbuster to stock up on new DVDs. Each kid gets to select one movie, including Mom and Dad. I prefer to purchase the DVDs because the kids really enjoy watching them over and over again. And the price of a purchase is usually less than I'd rack up in late fees with rentals.
- Map it. Although we rely heavily on our GPS to get to our destination, I like to provide each child with a printed out map so they can follow along as we're traveling. It helps them learn some geography, take an interest in their surroundings, and select local sights they're interested in visiting.
- Snacks! When we're traveling, the kids are allowed to get many special snacks they're not normally allowed at home. Lucky Charms is a big favorite in the back rows, while Peppermint Patties are the treat of choice in the driver's seat.
- Musical Chairs - Kids nowadays are no longer allowed to sit shotgun, but our car still has its prize spots. To keep things fresh, and to keep any two kids from getting too sick of each other, we change seats at every rest stop.