How To Get Through a Six Hour Car Trip with the Fam

Every year we make the trek to a distant relative's house for some holiday or another—my dad, my mom, me, and my four younger siblings—and every year I pack heavy, sleep light, and start the ride with a lengthy inner pep talk.

When we first started making our annual holiday trip, we had a rusty, white Fifth Avenue. The brakes were bad, the seats were cracked, and the heat didn't reach past the dashboard. Luckily, with more kids came the need for more seats, so we upgraded to a van. The next upgrade was from bench seats to coach seats. Ahh to have my own personal space!

Over the years, I've come to embrace this trip as a meaningful family tradition in which I rediscover the values in my parents and siblings. Whose eardrums can withstand the highest noise level? Who has the smallest bladder this year? Who can complain the loudest?

To the newbies who, up until now, have always had the luxury of waking up in front of your own tree Christmas morning, and to the veterans who just need a refresher course to get pumped for the drive ahead, this how-to is for you.

Step 1

Fully charge your iPod and load it up with songs and movies. Pay careful attention to movie length in order to maximize the movie-watching segment of the trip. Pull out (or buy) the really big headphones to drown out everyone's whining, asking, and snoring.

Step 2

While the iPod is charging, pack. Make sure to grab Advil for the headache you will definitely get from the bickering of younger siblings, the Dramamine for eventual carsickness, and a Sharpie to mark your water bottle. You don't want to wash your Advil down with someone else's backwash.

Step 3

Get almost no sleep the night before.

Step 4

Make sure to get up earlier than everyone else, and claim the back corner seat. This crucial act puts you in a position where you are unable to help make lunch out of the cooler, hand anything out, hold the DVD player, or run into the gas station.

TIP! It helps if you're a bad driver so you won't be asked to share in the driving responsibilities. Even if you are a good driver, I would consider getting into a slight fender bender the week before to shirk driving duties.

Step 5

Skipping breakfast and coffee in the morning to win the corner back seat should have boosted your confidence level, so once everyone's seated and the drive has begun, suck up to dad so he'll stop for donuts. This step not only guarantees you a free breakfast, but also fills you up so later in the drive you can pass on mom's early lunch of soggy tuna fish sandwiches.

TIP! Sucking up to dad is tricky, but I always start with music. My dad loves country, so I brush up on the country hits a couple days before the trip, and then I chat him up. Good convo always works up an appetite.

Step 6

Mom and dad have been battling over the radio, the kids have started watching movies (sans headphones) on the portable DVD player, and the sibling next to you has thoroughly soaked the shared pillow in drool. This is the climax point of the trip, so rub those bloodshot eyes and power through it in this order: 2-hour movie / crawling over seats for a bathroom break / crushing the competition at the alphabet license plate game / negotiating for a dry pillow / passing out.

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Hannah-Love Shibley ©2014