Lessons Learned from a 16-Hour Road Trip

The Coast of Maine is by far one of my favorite places on earth! It is a “Happy Place” for me. Recently had an opportunity to travel to the coast and spend time with family and when the invitation was extended I knew the answer was a big YES. The catch? We’d have to drive the 16-hours, non-stop, instead of flying up. 

As a kid, I made that drive more times than I can count. My parents are originally from New England and relocated to Southwest Virginia when my dad earned his Ph.D. They loved this area so much they decided to make it their home! However, they still made sure to get back to the Northeast 2-3 times every year and that many plane tickets just weren’t in the budget – we always drove.

When I became an adult and established a family of my own, my trips to Maine became less frequent and always were via airplane. This road trip was the first time I have driven up to Maine in over ten years!

My husband already had a week-long work commitment and couldn’t join us. So the kids and I synced up with my brother, his wife, their two kids and sweet dog. We rode up caravan style and journeyed together.

Here’s what I learned as we prepared for the trip, made the trek, and are now back home. 

Choose Your Attitude

After we committed to the roadtrip I instantly felt like I just made a big mistake, a really BIG mistake. A 16-hour road trip!? The longest my kids had previously ridden in the car was seven hours. I wondered if I had just set us all up for a long, miserable ride. As quickly as I had those thoughts of doubt I made an intentional choice to not allow negativity into our road trip experience.

I began an internal marketing campaign (haha!) to get our kids extremely excited for every bit of the trip – from the fun they’d have on the coast of Maine to the time we’d have in the car together. I explained that even airplanes take a long time to get there – a full day of travel – and we just opted to spend that full day in the car. We discussed the movies we could bring and the special snacks we’d pack. I gave them the opportunity to choose to see the road trip as a great thing – because it was the reason a trip to Maine was possible. 

My daughter made a cute countdown poster and each day she checked off a box, indicating we were that much closer to our exciting trip! I love that the perspective offered by the poster helped anticipation build within our family.

I’m so proud of them! They latched onto positivity and made the choice to frame the road trip with excitement and joy. If I allowed negativity to fester I would have set that example for our kids and I am certain they would have joined me in my dread – but that would not have served us well. Choose an attitude that sets you up for road trip success!

Tools for Success

Another key to our success was strategy around the supplies we would need. The little things are the big things! I made sure each of us had tissues, napkins, and hand sanitizer within reach. I packed baby wipes in the car in case there was a sticky mess – and there was! Each child had a backpack full of their favorite movies, coloring books, and little toys. They also had pillows and blankets directly behind them so they could grab a cozy item and rest, if they wanted.

I also packed breakfast and lunch for us in a cooler. We did not want to lose time on long stops! That meant stops could focus on bathroom breaks, stretching, and moving. I also packed surprise treats like sour gummy worms. I wanted the trip to feel full of fun and excitement – that was reflected even in the snacks we had. 

My brother was responsible for bringing one of the most valuable supplies we had: walkie talkies! Since we rode up caravan style it was SO much easier to quickly radio each other than to attempt to use cell phones, especially since I was the only adult in our car for some of the ride. If you are going on a road trip with two vehicles I 100% recommend getting a set of walkie talkies to make communications easier and therefore the trip smoother. 

Team up with Experts

If you are a newbie when it comes to roadtrips I highly suggest you connect with others who are more experienced – that’s what I did! My brother Josh and Sister-in-Law Hannah are pros when it comes to going to Maine! They make the ride 2-3 times a year and have it down to a system. They were able to tell me about some of the states and cities that have the most challenging driving conditions, they also gave me insight into the moments that the trip would feel the longest. Josh and Hannah provided tips and tricks for success and were encouraging about how it wouldn’t be so bad – they assured me it really would go by quickly.

I’m thankful that for my first very long road trip with my family I was able to lean into their expertise and enjoy it alongside them! Hannah rode in the car with me for much of the trip and we had the best time laughing, telling stories, discussing deep topics, or simply listening to music. 

Savor the Moments

You may be reading this and thinking that I’m taking a pollyanna approach to an undoubtedly miserable situation. I disagree! My choice to enjoy a 16-hour road trip is driven from a deeply rooted belief that life can be wonderful, even if it cannot be perfect. Was the 16 hour trip perfect? Absolutely not! 

Here’s a messy example for you – literally! We were in the middle of chaotic traffic in Hartford, CT when a squishy fidget toy burst and green slime went all over my son, nephew, and their stuffed animals. Fortunately, my sister in law was in the car with me and helped get the sticky mess cleaned up (using those baby wipes, napkins, and tissues I packed!). Instead of being mad about the mess we laughed through it – and recognized how fortunate I was that another adult was in the car at the point of the trip. 

I approached the trip with resolve that we were going to have a good time! After all, my kids are two of my most favorite people on this earth and for 16-hours I got to have time with them. They shared random thoughts, asked me funny questions, were curious about my childhood, and dreamed about their future. The amount of “together” time was truly special and enjoyable.

I hope that if you find yourself on a summer road trip this year you will resolve to enjoy it and savor the moments with those you love most! You don’t get a re-do for your summer experience and you may never get to be in that place, at that time, with your travel buddies. 

This is about a road trip – and so much more

As I reflect on the amazing experience we had on the coast, and the trip there and back, I’m full of gratitude for the opportunity. We made incredible memories and spent time with family we rarely get to see. My kids rode boats and kayaks, climbed on rocks and visited a lighthouse. We took a day trip to a small island and got to explore and walk on the hull of a shipwreck. The memories we made were beyond precious and are moments I’ll cherish forever. 

Imagine how much I would have missed if I said “no” because a 16-hour road trip felt hard! I knew it wasn’t impossible – just hard. The ability to overcome challenges is so important and perseverance matters, which this roadtrip proves. 

I hope these lessons learned will help set you up for road trip success – but more than that, I hope you’ll consider how they are transferrable to other challenges you may face.

When you are staring your own 16-hour-challenge in the face I hope you will choose your attitude, identify tools for success, align with experts, and choose to savor the moments. Above all, enjoy the journey!

2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from a 16-Hour Road Trip

  1. Great wisdom for long trips. Our family drove to Vermont every year for skiing and it was also a challenge…but good planning and setting an expectation of adventure won the day…and night.

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