Ten Pitfalls of Taking Kids on a Road Trip

Want to experience a road trip with your family? By all means, parents, go ahead. But you’ve been warned.

Waiting at a construction stop during a 2011 road trip with our friends The Dellers.   Photo by Michael Deller .

Waiting at a construction stop during a 2011 road trip with our friends The Dellers. Photo by Michael Deller.

     As a Colorado native, I’ve driven many times through the southern part of my state but never really stopped. So I’ve missed experiencing numerous rites of passage for Colorado kids, including the nation’s largest archaeological preserve and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Mesa Verde National Park.

     As one of my high school classmates asked on Facebook, “How have you not seen this yet?!!!!” (Exclamation points to indicate the depth of my offense.)

     I know, I know. Just revoke my native status already! But for the record, it is a 7-hour drive from Longmont, Colo., to this world-famous, Southwestern Colorado destination.

     At any rate, to right that wrong, we thought our kids, 8 and 6, were the perfect ages for an extended road trip. And after a week cooped up in a car, logging more than 1,000 miles in our great state, here are 10 reasons why my husband and I may never, EVER take another road trip with our children.


1.     All that “together” time. Yes, it’s great that our kids know we care about and want to spend time with them. But that close proximity only allows more opportunity to become annoyed with one another. Sitting in a car that long reminds me of the song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” a 1980s power ballad by Bonnie Tyler that chants, “We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.” That was us. One-thousand miles of powder keg, threatening to blow at the next exit.

2.     Limited activity. Kids on a long trip will eventually act like chained-up animals attacking their captors (parents), taking out that angst on the nearest target (each other). “Stop chewing loudly!” “Brody is annoying me!” “Those are my headphones!” “No, you’re the dumbest!” Before long, it degenerates to strained efforts at kicking and punching from their respective booster seats. As a fellow mom I recently met described, it’s the equivalent of "watching a cage match.” (Thank you, Holland. Brilliant!)

3.     The whining. Enough said.

4.     Twenty existential questions. Nothing allows time for random questions from kids like a road trip, inviting inquiries like, “Who was the first person to die?” “Who would win: an avalanche or 4,000 skeleton cows?” “Do earthworms have mouths?” For eff’s sake, child. Who taught you to talk?

5.     Basic pleasures mean nothing on the road. You’d think that allowing your child four straight hours of television would amount to childhood utopia. But, despite access to endless apps and movies, they grow tired long before you arrive at your destination. “Isn’t there anything else to watch, Mom?” You mean the 20 DVDs I stocked in the backseat won’t do it for ya? Sigh.

6.     Sitting that long is painful. It’s a drag for adults. So imagine how NOT fun it is for kids who spend most of their waking hours expending energy turning order into unsurpassed chaos.

7.     Seriously. Could children find a more irritating question than, “How much longer?” or “Are we there yet?” I know it’s trite. I know I asked the same of my parents. But it’s agonizingly irritating when you’re the adult.

8.     Road trips create ill-behaved children. They’re off schedule, they don’t eat or sleep like normal, and they are often bored. If you ask me, parents who take kids on road trips deserve to deal with monsters. It was as if Michael and I begged our two boys every day for a week, “Please act like you’ve been raised by cavemen every time you exit the vehicle!”

9.     A gift shop at every stop. Oh. Em. Gee. How many adorable stuffed animals, faux fossils and coin collections does one child need?

10. The mess! For you parents who don’t allow your kids to eat in the car, I applaud you. Truly. But I am not among you, and that applies infinitely more on road trips. One of my favorite Mom Bloggers Jen Hatmaker describes in her viral 2013 post, “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever,” (view post here) that kids’ year-end backpacks look like “they lined the den of a pack of filthy hyenas.” But instead of nine months, it takes approximately one hour of a road trip to net that result. And not only does your car look like it lined the den, you’re actually riding with the filthy hyenas. Oh, and as my friend Kimberly Ray reminded me, those hyenas are prone to vomiting en route. 

Road Trip Must-Have Items from Amazon: