Road Trips With Small Children: Help Me Survive

We live in Seattle; my husband's family lives in southern Oregon. Several times a year, we gear up and make the 400-mile journey to spend time together, and while it's always worth it once we get there, the drive itself is never easy.

It's not as bad as it used to be, because at least I don't have to repeatedly crawl into the backseat to take care of a squalling infant, but toddlers aren't exactly known for the their patience and tolerance of discomfort either, you know?

No one likes to sit in a car for 7+ hours, no matter how many granola bars they have access to. Our older boy is pretty good about limiting himself to the occasional dramatic sigh and announcing that THIS SURE IS A LONG DRIVE, but the 2-year-old ... well. Around hour 4 or 5, he's had enough, and by god, you're going to hear about it.

We'll be heading down to Oregon this week for the 4th of July holiday, and I've been looking forward to the vacation but kind of dreading the journey. Dylan is in that stage of toddlerhood where his emotional controls are basically run by meth-tweaked Rhesus monkeys—up! Down! Angry! Happy! Hey a cow! I WILL BURN YOU WITH FIRE!—and short of dropping him with a Benadryl-loaded tranq dart as soon as we buckle him in, I'm going to need some distractions.

My go-to items include 40 million snacks, a decent selection of books, a bunch of crappy new toys from the plasticky-smelling dollar store, and a DVD player read to blat forth the one movie they can both watch over and over: Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron. Which features a throaty never-ending soundtrack of Bryan Adams, but whatever, I don't care if I have to listen to eight hours of Justin freaking Bieber as long as it keeps the backseat audience happy.

So, smart people, what other kid-calmers have you successfully deployed during a road trip? You know, when you've exhausted your family repertoire of "The Wheels on the Bus" and you've played the I Spy game to death and all the cookies have been eaten and you've still, dear GOD, got two hours to go?

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