Last Updated on March 21, 2018

For the holidays every year we have very specific traditions in our family. For Thanksgiving we load up the kids into our minivan and drive 14 hours to Michigan, where we celebrate with Jeff’s family. Every Christmas we make the 11-hour trek to Virginia to celebrate with my family. And whenever we tell people this, they inevitably roll their eyes, groan and say, “Oh my, I can’t imagine! What a nightmare that would be!” I usually shock them by laughing and saying, “Actually our long car rides are some of the fun times we have together as a family.”

You see, our family travels so much for speaking engagements that our kids have become the best little travelers in the world. From the time that they were little bitty, we’ve had them packing their own bags and taking their Leapfrog, or Nintendo DS, their books and crayons. They recognize that once in the car, they won’t be getting out except for potty breaks and a lunch stop. My son, especially, is usually a pretty squirmy little boy. But once he’s in the car for a long drive, the squirminess goes away and instead something else very fun happens. Instead of 14 hours of drudgery, it becomes a family bonding time!

Jeff and I actually have found that we get some good quality couple time on the road. One thing we do is grab a great book that we’ve wanted to read and take it with us. I’ll read it to him as he drives, and it not only makes the time pass, but it also is something fun to do together.

And then I realized … it wasn’t just him listening. A few years ago, I was reading the book 1776 by David McCullough — about the Revolutionary war. Suddenly, I would hear these little voices in the backseat saying, “Wait, wait, Mommy, read that again. I missed that.” We realized that our first- and fourth-graders were listening to this really grown-up book about our nation’s history and they were interested!

Ever since then, we have treasured the opportunity to read books that all family members can enjoy. So in just a short time, when we next load up the car at the way too early hour of 6 a.m. so my husband can get some “miles under our wheels” before breakfast, instead of dreading 14 hours of drudgery, we’ll all be looking forward to a unique family time. And this year … we are starting the Lord of the Rings books.

How about your long trips for the holidays – what does your family do to pass the time?


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  1. Thanks for the great perspective about making family car trips fun. We have great memories of time spent with Hank the Cowdog. Hilarious and fun.
    Hope you have a great trip this year!

  2. specialmom says:

    That’s like our family. When the kids start road trips young, they don’t mind. Grandma and Grandpa’s is at the other end! We have books on tape, music, and snacks in the van, plus the kids bring their own special things. We play football at rest stops to use up some energy.

  3. We LOVE road trips. Our daughters could not wait until they had driver’s licenses and could “help” us on our way. Some of our dearest memories and deepest laughter have happened while traveling.