In order for a four hour road trip to be successful when traveling with children, I stick with one rule. It's a rule I learnt from my Father, perhaps you could call it a family tradition. It is this:
If you are under the age of 21, all rights are surrendered upon entering the vehicle.
You will travel much like a hostage, your gag may be invisible but trust me, it's there. Your vote is null and void. Don't bother suggesting a radio station, a toilet break or a possible chance of hot chips. Do not ask questions, do not ask about the music. All suggestions are futile.
For me, a road trip means a chance to turn up the radio, maybe listen to a bit of Richard Fidler, grab a take-away latte and enjoy watching the The Little Travellers tortured faces in the rear vision mirror. If I want to crank up the pain factor I only have to find a classic rock station and belt out a few favourites from the 80's, preferably at the traffic lights with the window down.
Although, my favourite part of the journey is listening to the conversations coming from the back of the car. Someone will inevitably try to pick a fight to liven up the trip. "Stop looking out of my window" is a personal favourite of our youngest little traveler. This, of course, will ensure the other three travellers will find exciting objects only visible through his window for the next two hours.
The second little traveller will torture the third with the fact that she still has her electronic game while he has lost his. She will not share. With a perfect exhibition of I'm willing to make myself look like a complete idiot to get up your nose, he will tell her "I'm wearing your underwear". She will ignore him until he backs it up with "I just farted in it". She will raise her eyes only long enough to give him the death stare. He will then be forced to go for the jugular. His best shot. "And I used your toothbrush....while I was farting in your underwear".
I know I should find these comments frustrating and juvenile, but I actually really enjoy them. Perhaps because they take me back to my own childhood, of drawing a line in the middle of the back seat that was never to be crossed....and then crossing it. Guessing the colour of the next car to drive past, the number of licence plate, the next piece of road kill. Pretending to see a streaker running on the side of the road (that was my personal favourite).
I agree that sometimes when the noise level escalates and the "Mum he's touching me" is on high rotation, a road trip can be about as much fun as a pap smear, actually a pap smear is far more relaxing. However, when it comes to family memories, those trips to Granny's house will always be about more than just the milkshakes.
Just remember the rules.
Do you have any memorable road trip stories? Or your own set of rules?