Traveling with kids is never easy. But times sure have changed.
When I was a kid, every summer my parents piled my two sisters and me into the car for the three-day road trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to visit the grandparents.
We left at the crack of dawn. It was usually dark when Mom woke us up, got us dressed and into the car. The three “girls” (Laura, Margo and me) sat in the backseat, without seatbelts, of course. Since I was the youngest and didn’t know any better, I always got the middle seat with the hump.
Anyway, we usually began the journey around 5 a.m. We traveled north on Liberty Road until we turned west on Route 140 towards Westminster. Interstate 70 nor Beltway 695 weren’t constructed yet. Route 140 eventually led to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the turnpike Dad hated. We were on our way to the first overnight stop in Cleveland.
Why would anyone get up that early to get on the road? Simple. Back then, cars weren’t air conditioned. The drive to Cleveland was at least eight to nine hours, and probably more with bathroom and lunch stops. We traveled in August where the afternoon temperatures could be in the 90s. The car windows were rolled down, and dust and grime blew everywhere. The smells of the numerous Iowa hog farms were legendary.
Meanwhile, Mom and Dad were more or less comfortable in the front seat. We three sisters were smushed in the back with lots of stuff. Besides at least two brown grocery bags of snacks, bed pillows and who knows what else, I remember the large water cooler on the floor filled with Baltimore water. Dad’s stomach didn’t agree with the “hard” water found out west. Back then there was no bottled water to buy.
Our “pit stops” were often the pits. Smelly, dirty bathrooms were the norm. Back then, one had the indignity of asking the gas station attendant for the bathroom key. Everyone knew your business, so to speak.
The roads were slow, often only one lane each way. If we got behind a truck or a tractor in a no-passing zone, we were “stuck.” And if we got delayed in traffic, there was no way to call ahead to let the relatives know we were running late.
These days, when the kids and grandkids travel, it’s a whole different scenario. If woken up at 4:00 a.m., it’s to put the little ones into their approved car seats and head out to the airport. Water bottles are emptied until everyone has gone through security. Then, they are refilled because today, kids drink water all day long. Everyone schleps a backpack. The ones for the kids include, perhaps, a change of clothes, but more importantly—devices!
Once on board and in the air, out come the devices to entertain the kiddies. They watch movies, play games or listen to music on their personal headsets. Drinks are served by smiling flight attendants, while mom provides snacks and sandwiches.
When getting restless, the travelers don’t have to pull over to stretch their legs. When possible, they can walk up and down the airplane aisle.
When it comes to traveling in cars, what about those minivans?! The seats don’t touch! Instead, the van comes with “captain’s chairs,” an individual seat for each tushy. Need something to do? Just turn on the entertainment center console that’s attached to the seat in front of you.
Too hot or too cold? Not a problem. Adjust the personal vent besides your seat. Finally, need a place for your drink? There’s always a conveniently placed cup holder within reach.
Bathroom stops are better, too. Lone gas stations have been replaced with mini-marts with multitudes of hot and cold snack options as well as men’s and ladies’ rooms (usually clean). If you don’t like the food at the mini-mart, one can usually find a McDonalds, Wendy’s or Burger King right off the highway exit ramp.
So, when the adult kids of today complain about traveling with their kids, I roll my eyes. Then, I again tell the story about when I was a kid, I walked to school in three or four feet of snow. So there!
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Read more by Eileen Creeger.