Like the time, some years back now, when I chaperoned an elementary-school field trip to the Kennedy Space Center. The students, my son included, were loaded onto one of those enormous luxury coaches with the air-conditioning and the adjustable padded seats.
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Even the teachers seemed nervous.
It all seemed incomprehensible to me, as I pulled a battered paperback out of the back pocket of my jeans and adjusted my comfortably padded seat. (If you know me, you know that most of the time I have a battered copy of some book in my back pocket. Like cartoon rooster Foghorn Leghorn keeps his feathers numbered, I keep one there in case of just such an emergency.)
Anyway, I couldn't believe that these kids weren't equipped to occupy themselves the way I once did on field trips: by looking out the window, imagining and dreaming.
Yet the problem of averting boredom on the road is as old as the phrase "Are we there yet?" — and parents are waging new battles all the time. On a road trip back from Atlanta, my buddy Joe, a single-dad, found himself the lone adult in a carload of four kids aged 4 to 12. A Sponge Bob Square Pants CD saved the day, but I think Joe might have "accidentally" tossed it in a dumpster after the trip.
Boredom isn't just for kids and music ought to top the list of mental diversions. Pack an assortment (thank you, iPod) because even that new favorite album is going to drive you insane after 10 hours. With kids in the picture, it's wise to break a trip into digestible bits. Bring along portable music and video players, old-fashioned board games (for family time) and healthy snacks.
There are other strategies: My colleague Dewayne plays the old state license plate game and makes a mental map in his head!
Or there's always looking out the window, imagining and dreaming.