Growing up, going on vacation included hours of sitting in the "way back" of a station wagon with my sister until we got “there." "There" could be anywhere from Florida to Gettysburg to Niagara Falls.
This was the 1970s, and unlike today's parents, adults didn't spend too much (any) time or energy fretting about entertaining children. As we weren't a license-plate-game-playing family, a road trip meant my sister and I were on our own to manage our boredom. We were expected to be quiet about it. Typically, we played Barbies until we got "there." Sometimes we’d pass the time not throwing up.
My dad enjoyed pointing out historic locations. He expected us to revere their historical significance as we zoomed past at whatever maximum speed was achievable in a Mercury Villager Compact Station Wagon with a luggage carrier strapped to the roof. (So, maybe we were doing 45 mph?) My dad would become agitated when we did not appear to appreciate history.
"This is HISTORY!" he'd exclaim in frustration. He'd gesticulate out the window toward a battlefield or landmark. My mom struggled to keep the peace by telling my dad we were playing "Revolutionary War Barbies."
That's how we road-tripped in the 1970s. No seatbelts, cup holders, or screens. So basically, a nightmare.
My own kids had screens, of course. I can report that Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" can be viewed 13 times while driving from Michigan to Florida. I did not do the license plate game with my kids, either. But lest you think it was all screens, we have devised a great way to pass the time on a long road trip. This is something family members of any age can enjoy.
WELCOME TO ROAD TRIP DEBATES!
That's right, find a topic and spend hours debating it. The license plate game can't hold a candle to this discourse. Now I'm not talking about religion or politics. If you want to get "there" with all your digits, stay away from those hot buttons.
Here are some examples of our road trip debates. Adapt them to suit your family!
First up, which fast food chain is the best fast food chain? You are going to have an answer immediately. To you, this answer is immutable. Scientific. Logical. Correct. But I guarantee if more than two people are in the vehicle, someone will be diametrically opposed to your truth. This debate over the best fast food chain began, for our family, in 2013. It's ongoing.
Those with sons might understand how this next debate topic emerged. The question is: Who would win in a fight…Dad's friends or the youngest son's friends? My husband affirms that his friends are tougher, stronger, and larger than my son's friends. I have pointed out that if it was a time-travel situation, my husband's friends could likely win in a fist-a-cuff with my son's friends. But my husband insists no age allowance be granted. His position is that his friends, all in their fifties, could "wipe the floor" with my son's twenty-something chums. This is bold, considering it is typical for several of those twenty-somethings to be in the vehicle during this pronouncement, while none of his fifty-something friends know they're in this hypothetical fight. Speed, street smarts, strategy, and disposition are all considered in the matchup.
If you prefer not to debate about a hypothetical fist fight, we've also turned our attention to settling more peaceful matters.
As miles roll by, we've hashed out a ranking of the top three Disney cartoons. We've asked: What side dish is expendable for Thanksgiving dinner? We've outlined extensive data to organize our favorite actors into two categories: movie star or artist. We've ranked all movies starring Tom Cruise. None of these topics are officially resolved, as dissent lives on.
The goal is for each person on the road trip to reflect on the topic, defend their position, never compromise, and then contribute to beating that topic into the ground. Engage the family in a road trip debate and you'll be "there" before you know it. You'll never want to talk to these people ever again, but time will fly. Remember that "these people," may very well be your closest loved ones.
On second thought, maybe just do the license plate game or play Barbies.