Ah, the joy of long summer holiday trips by car, when even the happiest and most well-adjusted families can be reduced to a sullen mass of cramped limbs, unmet bodily needs, and resentment as the miles fly by and everyone wonders who thought this was a good idea. Herewith are a few tips to help you get through the trip (remind yourself that justifiable homicide is a difficult defence to pull off).
Controls: Today’s vehicles offer many options for individual passengers to control their own environment, so if you have a switch available to you and you alone then feel free to have at it. If, however, the switch (or dial or knob or button) is only available to the driver, ask yourself a simple question: “Am I driving this vehicle?” If the answer is “No,” then do not touch it. Drivers: keep a map handy. Yes, I know you are relying on GPS to get you to your destination, but a sharp smack with a map will dissuade most people from trying to meddle with the controls more than once.
Front seat passenger: You do not have a brake pedal available to you, so do not keep mashing your right foot down as if you are trying to kill a cockroach. Also, do not keep clutching the doorframe and/or gasping audibly, unless a semi-trailer is seconds away from hitting you.
Other passengers: You may think you are being helpful, but if you are not sitting in one of the front seats then the odds are good that you do not yet have a driver’s licence, so any suggestions you might make are not likely to be taken in the friendly and encouraging spirit in which they are undoubtedly offered. An exception would be “Dad, I think that semi-trailer is about to hit us”, although I suspect Dad already knows this.
Bathrooms: One constant of travelling by car is the need for bathrooms at regular intervals, so the Golden Rule still applies: when you find a clean bathroom, use it, even if you don’t think you need it. You will; believe me, you will. Also, having everyone use the bathrooms at the same time will prevent you stopping every 15 minutes.
Keep track of everyone: When I was much younger, and travelling long distances with my family, my parents could be reliably assured that my brother and I were still in the car by the squabbling, pleas for bathroom and/or refreshment stops, and the constant litany of “Are we there yet?” and “How many more miles?” as we tried to entertain ourselves. (True story: my mother once attempted to play records on a battery-operated record player during a car journey from Richmond to Okanagan Falls one summer. The result was . . . unsatisfactory.) Today, with each member of the family probably supplied with earbuds and a personal entertainment device, it can be easy to lose track of everyone due to the silence. A periodic head count (especially after bathroom breaks) will help prevent a potential Home Alone scenario (“I’m pretty sure she was still with us when we stopped in Williams Lake. . . .”).
Arrival: Congratulations! You all made it in one piece (I hope), and are ready—as soon as everyone is speaking to each other again—to enjoy a fun-filled, relaxing vacation designed to allow you to forget the strains and stresses of everyday life. Far be it from me to rain on your parade, but I will just whisper three small words: the drive home.