Tip #3: Respect all your passengers.
We wanted to make the best time down the highway, but when Bryan needed a pit stop (or when Libby complained about car sickness on the drive back), we had to heed the request. Doing so makes for a much more pleasant trip for all involved, believe me.
After the unexpected stop in Delaware, it was pretty smooth sailing through Maryland. We hit the D.C. area just about rush hour and ended up eating breakfast in Virginia.
Tip #4: Choose a real restaurant.
Go someplace where someone will wait on you and clear your place, not a fast-food joint. Let the grandchildren have a real meal, complete with dessert if requested. Let them know when the next food stop will be, so they know to clean their plates and fill up while they have a chance. (Of course, there's also an addendum to the food tip: Stock a cooler with kid-friendly snacks, fruit, sandwiches, and juice boxes for between-stop noshing. This will save time and money.)
We made great time through the Carolinas, playing I-Spy with the South of the Border signs and taking full advantage of the increased speed limit. We played a few guessing games as well, but because two of the kids were preschoolers, we didn't do any "spot the license plates" or "find something that begins with a T" games. We made up Disney games, such as, "What ride do you want to get on first?" and "Whose autograph is the one you want the most?" These allowed us to pass the time while getting an idea of must-dos on our itinerary once we arrived.
We planned to drive nonstop, and we succeeded in doing that on the way down, arriving at our rented villa 17 hours after we left home. Once we passed the Florida border, the group voted to bypass a dinner stop to go straight through. Again, the key is respecting the passengers' wishes. We did grab some snack food at the last fuel stop to tide us over. Just remember, keeping up everyone's spirits is more important than making the drive in record time.
–Which brings me to the ride home: We planned to do it just the same way—one fell swoop, plenty of snacks and videos and rest stops along the way. But I came down with a sinus infection while in Florida, and there was no way I was going to face that 4 a.m. alarm.
So we changed our plans and ended up eating brunch in Downtown Disney and staying in the Sunshine State until after noon. Then Libby's aforementioned car sickness kicked in, and coupled with my inability to drive a whole shift, we had to stop at a hotel in North Carolina for the night. No failure in that, just remember to expect the unexpected.
Tip #5: Roll with the punches.
The goal of the road trip is to enjoy the scenery and each other, so don't let your agenda (or a traffic jam) stand in your way. Sometimes, road trip "disasters" are the very things grandchildren recall when they look back on their trip with you—and it's all good then.
This article originally appeared on Grandparents.com. © Grandparents.com LLC.