Here & there: 5 rules of road-tripping plus a bonus

Stock Image | St. George News

OPINION — Picture it: Four wide-eyed kids, two frazzled moms and one urine-soaked minivan on a deserted Nevada freeway off-ramp at 1 a.m. Whatever you are imagining, this was worse. I promise. You can’t possibly account for the smell.

My sister and I ended up in this particular predicament due to three things: advice to travel at night; a little boy who wouldn’t sleep; and an ill-conceived plan to bring a potty chair on our road trip from Utah to California.

The Dayton Family road-tripping to Southern Utah, Fall 2015 | Photo courtesy of Alan Dayton, St. George News

Following a frantic clean up on the roadside, I placed a panicked call to my husband. This whole “drive at night while the kids sleep” plan was not working and we needed a hotel STAT – and he had to find it for us.

Unfortunately, the only room available turned out to be an adventure of its own; we’ll get into the roaches and drug paraphernalia another time.

Road trips can be messy and stinky and fun. That’s kind of the point. When you set out, luggage partially obscuring the rear window and full tank of gas, there is a sense of adventure. Who knows what can happen on the open road without the TSA, PreChecks and expensive airport food?

Through the highs and lows, I’ve learned a thing or two about road-tripping and a few more things about road-tripping with children. Here’s my advice:

Rule No. 1: Never bring a potty chair.

No matter how tempting it is to provide your child(ren) with a dignified alternative to squatting over a bush in the middle of nowhere, resist the urge. The potty chair will undoubtedly 1) be used as a toy (which will gross you out) or 2) be used properly but somehow it will spill and urine will get everywhere (see urine-soaked mini van reference above).

Instead, go ahead and let them water that sagebrush. Make a “pee on a plant” bingo sheet before you depart and see how much roadside fauna they can cover.

Rule No. 2: There is no “best” time to drive with kids.

Someone will swear that driving in the middle of the night is THE BEST. Someone else will promise you smooth sailing if you wake up at 6 a.m. and travel while everyone is fresh. One person’s golden hour is another person’s hell. The first time I tried driving through the night, my then 4-year-old announced in regular 15-minute intervals that he WOULD. NOT. GO. TO. SLEEP. Period. And he didn’t.

Do what works for the driver.

Rule No. 3: Jump on the hotel bed.

I know, I know. But do it anyway.

Rule No. 4: Travel with water.

Ideally, carry a jug in the car with enough water to hydrate all of the passengers on the trip – and a little extra for the unexpected. You never know when you might need some for a busted radiator or to flush out an eye when a brother “accidentally” throws sand right in someone’s face.

Rule No. 5: Do something unexpected.

Pull off the side of the road when you see an interesting rock formation and let the family explore it. You might be caught in a tumbleweed storm on the path, discover a hole in the rock that you can walk into or find a 4-inch gopher snake.

Eat at a local joint, even if it doesn’t have 50 positive reviews on Yelp yet. You might discover the best kept secret in town or you might hate it – but at least you tried something new and you’ll likely live to tell about it.

Finally, enjoy it. Enjoy the unpredictability. Enjoy the adventure. Enjoy eating Funyons and other junk from the gas station, singing in the car, getting lost, getting found, or spotting an elk in the woods. Experience the journey in the trip. Don’t forget the final bonus rule.

Bonus Rule: Make a few of your own rules along the way.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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