Boldly going where no one wants to go

So you’re preparing for an extended car ride with multiple young children. Are they holding you hostage? Do they have blackmail on you? If you’re doing this voluntarily, why?

A. To create memories

B. Because my wife said so

C. I just…um…I never really stopped to think about it

At the end of any family vacation, I usually require a friend to re-enact the climatic scene from Good Will Hunting where he is Robin Williams and keeps telling me over and over that it’s not my fault.

Unfortunately, transporter technology has yet to arrive, so you’re likely piling into the family vehicle. The trip can be broken down into the following elements:


Instructing your three-year-old to pack a bag with clothes for an extended trip is enlightening to behold. On a recent trip my son decided these were the essentials:

• A bottle of hand soap

• Two unsharpened pencils

• A toy stethoscope

• A Pop Tart

• Four pennies

• Previously-worn pajamas from the hamper

• An exercise stretch band

• A scary dinosaur

He was ready for pretty much anything.


If you have an entire back seat full of crackers, fruit snacks, cereal, trail mix, candy and an omelet station, congratulations! That’s not nearly enough to make it to any destination more than 60 miles. Scientists have discovered this is due to children only being able to put approximately 13 percent of all food into their mouths at any given time and needing to sprinkle most onto the seats and floor to appease the never-ending hunger of the Shop-Vac.

You could give your children 20 slices of uncooked bacon and by the time you get out for your first bathroom break the seats would be covered in cooked bacon bits and Cherrios. You’ll have no idea how or why there’s Cheerios all over because you didn’t bring any. Scientists hypothesize children excrete Cheerios when introduced to vehicles. Nobody really knows because scientists are smart and know that in order to study this more they’d have to spend an extended amount of time in cars with children.


When I was growing up and on long car trips, I had many delightful activities to choose from. They included:

• Sitting

• Sitting quietly

• Sitting quietly and watching the telephone pole wires pass by, but not watching too loud.

Somehow my dad would be able to tell. One time I remember accidentally asking to pee. Then I saw my dad’s eyes in the rearview mirror.

“Just kidding,” I said. “It’s only nine more hours. I can hold it.”

Making “good time” was the only concern. If we arrived at a destination and a relative DIDN’T say, “You made good time” my dad would eye my mother and me as if to figure out how to make us more aerodynamic.

Today, children have the unreasonable expectation of needing to be acknowledged. Not only that, they seem to insist on talking and being entertained. Some of my children’s favorite games include:

• Peeing Every Four Miles

• Dropping Toys Just Out of Reach and Yelling Until They’re Returned Before Dropping Them Again

• Grabbing Things From Gas Station Shelves and Walking Out With Them

• That Smell You Smell Is Me!

• Yelling “I’m Hungry!” with Two Fists Full of Fruit Snacks That Are Slowly Melting And Bonding to My Hands At The Molecular Level

The Main Attraction

If your travels allow, stop at the one place your children will always get excited about: the hotel pool. You could go to see Mount Rushmore, the Eifel Tower or Grand Canyon OR you could drive around the block 26 times and stop at your local Super 8. They won’t know the difference, will have a blast and you can save yourself a few hundred dollars. If your older one seems a little disappointed, which is unlikely, pull up the Grand Canyon on YouTube. Not that they’ll be amazed at the breathtaking view, mind you, it’s because they know they can con you into handing over the iPad after showing them the boring video.

I devised the best way to travel with small children. Pull them behind you in a motorcycle sidecar. It’d be like a nine-hour amusement park ride. Unfortunately, this idea never gets clearance from Management. Now I know how all those genius artists unappreciated in their own time felt.


Kelly Van De Walle can be reached at or at a car wash vacuuming out his car for the next four weeks. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny and please mutter “It’s not your fault” every couple of blocks. He needs it.