A 10-hour drive to the in-laws to celebrate the holidays is one thing. Doing it with kids is another. Doing it without generating lots of trash and headaches? Next to impossible, I’m convinced.
Family travel with a baby and preschooler in tow is an interesting experience, one that I’m increasingly amazed that my parents managed (and much better able to understand why exactly my dad seemed so darn insane). We’d pile into the car, the three of us crammed into the backseat, and my brother and I would elbow, knee and shove my poor sister into that middle “spot” that was reserved for the armrest (and her). Each of us had a backpack stuffed with things to help us navigate the 12+ hour drive to Grandma’s house.
Flash forward three decades, and I’m shaking my head.
Traveling responsibly with kids means, quite simply, keeping Mom’s sanity intact. There’s the large cup of Diet Coke from QuickTrip. Boxes of crackers and plastic rolls of cheese sticks to stave off hunger and help us milk an extra 15 minutes without stopping the car. CDs and books and toys littering the floor by the car seats. Bottles, emergency formula, baggies of defrosting “milksicles” in the cooler, disposable diapers and wipes crammed nearby.
You find as a traveling parent that all bets are off. You toss aside your lofty expectations of being environmentally friendly in everyday life and grab that extra package of baby wipes, which you lean on heavily for every clean-up catastrophe.
You pay a buck for a plastic-wrapped, pre-sliced package of no-taste half an apple at McDonald’s, simply because it’s the closest thing there to healthy and the kids had to stop for the bathroom and since have decided that McDonald’s is here, so we must be hungry.
You graciously accept that plastic grocery bag from your emergency stop just in case you need one at a later date.
You think, “Just maybe this once,” as you carefully consider the soda you swore your child’s lips would never touch before the age of 5 or a Happy Meal for lunch.
And that portable DVD player that you swore you would never let enter your home or car? It looks better all the time.
But then you look back, and you see your two little ones grabbing for each other’s hands in a silly impromptu game, and you realize that, sometimes, simple is OK.