Now that the pandemic is nearly over — or people are at least more comfortable with killing strangers by going maskless — we need to scratch our vacation itch. People are getting vaccinated, booking reservations, and making up fake medical excuses for why they and only they can’t breathe through the thing the rest of the world has worn for a year.
If you and your family are itching to get out, even for a few days to someplace other than your couch, you can make your trip safe, enjoyable, and moderately interesting, at least for the grownups. After all, you’re the ones paying for the trip, so isn’t your happiness most important?
Whatever you do, you should probably consider making your vacation a road trip, rather than flying to your destination. This way, you can reduce your exposure to potentially sick people, and you won’t have someone else’s kid kicking the back of your seat, just your own kid.
As a master road tripper, I’ve got a few helpful suggestions to help your trip be more enjoyable for, well, you. If the others want to have a good time, let them make their own entertainment.
Go to the places you’ve always wanted to go to. If you want to visit Colonial Williamsburg or a state park, now is the time to do it. When your kids say they want to go to Disney World, tell them Florida is closed for the pandemic and then change the wifi password so they can’t check. While I normally don’t advocate lying to children, there are times when it’s perfectly acceptable to do so. Lying to them so you can pick the vacation spot for once is one of those times.
Play road games. Do you remember playing Alphabet, where you search for each letter of the alphabet on highway signs? Teach your kids about the seven basic punctuation marks: Quotation marks, apostrophe, exclamation point, comma, colon, semicolon, and (parentheses)/[brackets].
Tell your kids they can’t speak until they find all seven punctuation marks. They’ll probably be able to knock most of them out fairly quickly, but I don’t expect you’re going to see many semicolons on your typical American highway.
Play Awkward Silence Chicken. This game is just what it sounds like. You or your significant other blurt out a (not terrible) secret you’ve kept hidden for years, summarized in a single sentence. Then you sit in awkward silence.
The first person to speak loses, and the other person gets a point. For example, you might say, “One time I accidentally saw your mom naked,” and then say nothing else.
The first person to five points wins.
Warning: This game is not suitable for children under 10, mostly because you don’t want to know the awkward stuff they know about you. Besides, they can’t stop talking long enough to make the game any fun. This is why you should. . .
Get a portable DVD player or Kindle tablet for every kid who doesn’t have a phone. Trust me on this. If your spouse doesn’t think you should, look them dead in the eye, and say with all feeling, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”
Keep doing this until they fully agree.
Don’t get just one for everyone to share, because your kids are horrible at sharing, and I think you know this. You can get a Kindle Fire tablet for around $40 and download movies and games to it. It keeps your young kids quiet, while your older kids will just scroll through their phones and not talk to anyone, the way they have since they got their phones.
Get them all a set of noise-canceling headphones and you and your spouse can enjoy a rousing game of Awkward Silence Chicken, or the follow-up game, Why Would You Tell Me That Bingo.
Don’t waste space on a cooler and grocery store food. You may be tempted, like my parents were, to load up a cooler with lunch food as a way to save money. Don’t do this. You may not like fast food or eating on the road, but this is one thing your kids will enjoy about the trip.
They may say they’ll never forgive you for making them go to museums on summer vacation, but you can make it up to them by ordering McDonald’s at least once a day. Trust me, it will be the highlight of the entire trip, especially if they’re younger.
Road trips are a rite of passage for many people. I don’t know a single adult who didn’t take some kind of multi-day, multi-state road trip when they were kids, and it built character and gave them stories to tell when they were adults. There’s no reason you should deprive your children of the same experience. Just make it more enjoyable for yourselves than you did for your parents.
If nothing else, you could always drive overnight and make your kids sleep through the entire trip. It’s also a good time to play Cold Shoulder Chicken with your spouse.
Photo credit: ErikaWittlieb (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)