National Lampoon’s Motherese Vacation

One of my favorite movies as a kid was National Lampoon’s Vacation.  You know, the one where the Griswold Family hops in their “Family Truckster” and ambles their way to Los Angeles’s “Walley World” theme park, leaving a dead aunt, a petty crime spree, and a scantily clad Christie Brinkley in their wake.

As much as I enjoy the movie, I hope it bears no resemblance to the journey I am about to undertake.  That’s right, the Motherese clan is about to set out on a road trip to my sister-in-law’s wedding.

Three kids in three car seats in our Family Truckster minivan for 626 miles of driving pleasure.

I’ll be posting while I’m gone.

If I make it to our destination in one piece, that is.

In the meantime, please wish us luck.  And send caffeine.  And Tylenol.

(Is it legal to drive while wearing earplugs?)

Did you take any long road trips – ill-fated or otherwise – as a kid?  Any tips for keeping an infant, a toddler, and a preschooler happy in the car for 12 hours?

Image: Vacation 1983, copyright Warner Bros. Pictures.

32 responses to “National Lampoon’s Motherese Vacation

  1. Holiday ro-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oad, holiday ro-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oad!!! (Now that song will accompany me all day long….)

    Happy and safe travels. Sending another virtual DD iced coffee, many large Magic Diet Cokes and a 12 pack of ear plugs. (We’ve done it. Don’t know if it’s legal, but it sure cuts the edge off.)


  2. Good luck! I don’t know where you’re headed, but if you don’t mind the plug, my travel site might be able to help with places to stop along the way? I certainly know how road trips with little ones go. 🙂

  3. I wish you great luck, plentiful caffeine, boundless patience, and I find Excedrin Migraine works wonders around noise-boys. Just sayin’…

    Have a wonderful time!

  4. I always remember road trips from my childhood (pre-dvd players) and wonder how we kept each other entertained. Aside from my sister and I fighting about who was on whose side of the back seat I mean.

    Now we have portable dvds, Leapster, and other things to keep Finn occupied. I also try to pack his favorite snacks, small books that are easy for him to look at himself, and his Spiderman guys that are also small enough to play with in his seat. We have also had some good luck with the magic coloring markers that show up clear unless you write on the special paper… no mess, but still entertaining.

    Good luck!

  5. May the force be with you sister!


  6. Oh, boy. Good luck. We shy away from car trips because I and the baby have motion sickness. It’s better for me when I drive, but the 2-year-old isn’t getting her license any time soon 😦
    Books, stickers, and if you are not opposed to it, a videogame like the Leapster. That’s what we do. We don’t have a DVD player in the car, but I know lots of people do. The 5-year-old loves to play DJ, and we bring lots of music she likes. Safe travels!

  7. The best advice I can give you is to drive at night! Granted, you have to be pretty wired on coffee, but if you let the children stay up late, jammy them, and them plop them in the car, your odds of complaints, fighting, and crying all drop dramatically.

    Just be careful about the one who may barf– because something has to go wrong on a road trip! And have fun!

  8. Wally World was one of my hang outs, except we knew it as Magic Mountain in beautiful Valencia, California.

    Have fun on your trip.

  9. We’ve never done 12 hours. I know friends who swear by the startling at night (or 4am) method. We’ve never gone more then 350 miles. Little ones stuck in their seats are the hardest to please.
    I grew up taking some mighty road trips (pre car seat), and the only thing I can say is be flexible. Bring surprises. Little new things to discover (my mom kept ours in a magic bag, plain brown paper, but new things appeared as needed). Good music. A sense of adventure. A willingness to stop when you must.

  10. Oh my. You’re a braver soul than me.

    We made long treks in our family station wagon when I was a child. One spring we did the entire length of the eastern seaboard. But that was long ago when the kids could just roll around in the back of the car.

    Good luck and God speed.

  11. I highly recommend either a DVD system or, as we did in my childhood, a CB radio. We used to take road trips from CT to Chicago every summer to visit my grandparents. I remember those trips with great delight. My sister and I had so much fun listening to the truckers talking back and forth and trying to figure out which trucker was talking (like that was even possible!)

    We did a trip to San Diego from SF when we had our third – he was 5 months old at the time – the thing I recall the most was all that driving really disturbed his sleep pattern. I hope that doesn’t happen to you! Good luck!

  12. I have no tips…but I expect that you may have some for me in the future after this experience. Thank you for being the guinea pig 🙂

  13. Oh, lordy. Someone once told me that babies are cute (and yours certainly are from what I see on your header!) so you think twice about abandoning them on a road trip. Hope they sleep a lot!

  14. Err, I think you’re going to need something stronger than Tylenol… A friend of mine once told me of a road trip where her young son cried (screamed) the whole time the car was moving, all 500 miles of it. And when I took my kids to visit my family in France for the first time last year, they only slept for the last 2 hours of the 16-hour plane trip… so I have no good advice for you.

    But I don’t want to scare you, I’m sure your trip will be a lot smoother and I can’t wait to read about it!

  15. You are brave, but we knew that. Have a good time…you will do well, I have faith!

  16. Good luck! If yours is like mine, and I hope they’re not, you’re going to need it. We drove just an hour and a half to a zoo last year and my daughter got sick on the way there and on the way back from crying so hard. I hope your trip fares much better.

  17. Safe travels oh brave woman!
    My pre-schooler loves colors and coloring books. She also loves the I Spy game.

  18. Once my parents purchased their 1970 station wagon when I was a kid (the 70s version of a minivan, right?) we took vacations pretty frequently. In the book the chapter on that is called “Holocaust Vacation” so you can get an idea of how fun it was. They searched out other Holocaust Survivors all over the country to go visit. Excruciating. 🙂 Now, my husband and I take road trips with the kids because we like the process, we like the open road and we like having our own car and a whole bunch of our stuff when we get there!

  19. I did a post once on summer road trip advice with kids, but the bottom line (since you really don’t need to read the whole thing) is:

    Take: DUCT TAPE and statements from character witnesses.
    Hope this helps.

  20. I believe in this: family crisis + time = humor. My family is full of this proof.

    I’m not certain what The Mother’s advice for Duct Tape is, but I will say one of my long car ride favorites is masking tape. I’d tape up my wiggly son with scads and scads of masking tape and then let him fight his way out. He always had lots of jugars to burn off and this seemed to help. He also masking taped up his stuffy friends. Seems weird telling you this…but it sorta worked.

    Then another thing we did: we had this portable magnet board with little shapes and I’d make a pattern and they’d try and copy it or vice versa. Or, if I was the driver, they’d make a pattern and try to describe it to me and I’d guess it. We played a lot of guessing games because I did a LOT of driving solo with no radio.

    I got good at singing those action songs with thumping arms.

  21. We started taking road trips when our oldest was just about 6 months old and it is by far the least expensive way for our family of 5 to travel.

    Books, movies, driving at night and COPIOUS amounts of caffeine. You will survive, you may even have a great time.

    Hoping your travels are safe and that the wedding is beautiful!

  22. My parents waited on “longer” road trips from Minneapolis (Mt. Rushmore/The Black Hills, Washington D.C.) until we were in Middle School, so I have no experience of being trapped in a car with my family for more than five hours at a time. But I was a bit of a prolific reader so it was usually completely fine and uninteresting.

    I’m thinking for your journey? Portable DVD players. In Dora We Trust.

  23. The Family Truckster! We took road trips my whole life and those are some of my happiest memories. And that was before DVD players and fancy video games and such. There was lots of fighting and drama, but it was so great. We designated one of us a “cooler queen” or “cooler king” and that person was tasked with handing out sodas and snacks to the weary parental drivers. Those days were awesome. I saw on Twitter you guys made it, so stay safe!

  24. We did the family road trip last summer: me, the 17-yo, 12-yo and my 9-yo niece. We took nearly two weeks to drive from Portland to Los Angeles (something I’d never try with lil ones, though). Our lifesaver was audiobooks–not sure if your kids are old enough to be entertained by them, but they can be great for adults, too.

    I hope you have fun and make loads of great memories.

  25. We made it! 11 hours and only two breastfeeding/bathroom stops. The kids were shockingly cooperative – as was the weather and the traffic.

    Thank you for all of your excellent travel tips and funny stories.

    Now let’s see how the return trip goes next week…

  26. Funny, we are on a road trip as well at the moment. Grand Canyon! All the above mentioned things have worked well for us and we have done some long hauls from Africa. Typically I just suspend all rules within reason – Elmo on repeat for hours, endless binky, juice and snacks whenever. Since we make long journeys a lot, esp this month, I just try and make it special time to be excited about so we avoid any pre trip meltdowns. Hope the return is smooth as well!

  27. The thing I remember about that movie is the nephew who had safety-pinned his lips together and could only mumble. I still crack up thinking about it.

  28. No tips, but do let us know what ends up working (or not). We’re thinking about a 8-hour trip this coming fall. I’m not sure….

    • Now having survived both legs of the 600 mile drive with several 2 hour drives in between, I think it all comes down to a plethora of snacks, lots of entertainment options (picture books galore and little Playmobil guys worked best for us), and luck. Baby Sister slept through most of our time in the car and was pleasant when she was awake – a real boon. The toughest of our three was the two year old, but even he was a trooper, especially when plied with mini rice cakes. 🙂

  29. HAHAHAHA…the furthest we’ve been is Disney, which is like 5 hours max. We do short trips (2-4 hours) regularly to visit a friend, and I stress each time. I HATE being stuck in the car and I think I project….we swear by the DVD player and snacks. We were going to do our first real road trip up the coast this summer but changed our minds…so I guess let me know how it goes and we’ll take it from there!

  30. Pingback: Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread | Motherese

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