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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Car Trip (07/18/05)

TITLE: Are We There, Yet?
By Val Clark


If you don’t want to hear irritating repetitions of ‘Are we there yet?’ from your kids there’s one rule to a happy car trip: organization.

I learnt this in year 10 science along with aluminum foil, shiny side in, keeps the heat in. Not bad for 12,800 minutes of class time.

We’ve driven more kilometers around our island continent, than I have the math to calculate; as a couple, with friends, our kids and, most recently, my husband’s octogenarian parents.

Since high school I’ve learnt that prayer is useful too. More than ever before, this trip needed prayer. I asked for help. Church. E-groups. The kids.

‘Pray for my sanity! I’m going to be in a 2 metre by 3 metre container with your grandparents for eighteen hours.’ Mum.

'Sending straight jacket by priority post. I need to sign the power of attorney papers before you leave.’ Son.

Papers posted. The straight jacket doesn’t arrive.

Over thirty three years I have perfected the art of getting organized for a road trip.

Lists are good. Teach the kids how to make lists. Crossing off gives a great sense of achievement

Except for perishable food and the flasks of coffee, the car is packed the day before – preferably in daylight.

Best case scenario: Everybody packs their own stuff. (Training for this starts at birth.)

You forget it; you do without. There are always exceptions: if weather conditions are arctic, and Master 10 leaves his parka at home, he pays for a new one out of his allowance. OK, it puts the kid in debt for the rest of his life. He’ll bring his parka next time – even if it’s to the Sunshine Coast.

Gear is packed into soft bags because they stow more easily.

For an early start with toddlers send them to bed in their tracksuits. Not so easy with untrained octogenarians who object strenuously to traveling in their PJs.

Packing the car the day before is important in case someone’s over packed. If Miss 10 is forced to leave Big Bear behind she has a night to get over it. The trip doesn’t start off with a pout you could land a 747 on – well, that’s the theory anyway.

Food on the road is crucial. If you’ve got kids, avoid milk and anything with food colouring or you’ll need to do the old plastic-bag-in-plastic-container routine, for the inevitable gastronomic reaction. Fresh fruit is great but check for quarantine rules between states. Fresh fruit salad usually gets past.

Medication? Always over supply with migraine and cold and flu tablets, then you’re sure not to need them.

Bring plenty of good, sing along, music. Though this is problematic once the kids hit puberty and the line between what they think is good and what you do sharply divides, but then who’d willingly subject themselves to driving with a Neanderthal/hormonal thirteen year old? Avoid relaxation music, especially if you only have one driver and you all want to arrive in one piece.

The Lego bucket, weighing in at 3 tonne, always comes in useful with a few new additions. New is novel. Drawing and colouring-in equipment is essential. And, if you’re a bit dramatic, finger puppets with long flexible arms and legs, held over mum’s shoulder with a running commentary, keeps kids happy for hours. Best done when she’s not driving, though.

For the oldies. The hope is they can entertain themselves. Just be prepared for lots of stops to stretch the legs and see copious men about dogs.

Then there are the party games: ‘I Spy’ is good but requires rudimentary spelling skills and an up to date vocabulary. ‘W is not for wireless, Dad!’

I don’t worry about making sure the car is roadworthy, that’s not my department. Actually I do but it’s still not my department so I keep my mouth shut. Unless something goes wrong.

So you’re all organized, up before the sun rises and on the road with that special ‘we’re off’ wandering star feeling.

Well done.


A few years ago we drove our two adult sons to a church camp. They sat in the back of our tiny car – loaded to the rear vision mirror the night before, of course – their knees cramped around their ears.

No Lego. No colouring-in books or pencils. Sing along? No way! Their favourite game? ‘Corners’. There goes the suspension.

That’s when we heard, shock horror, for the first time ever, ‘Are we there yet?’

Guess I just wasn’t organized enough.

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This article has been read 1123 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Suzanne R07/26/05
Fantastic - can't any organizer of car trips identify?!! Some excellent advice. Maybe this could be published in a magazine for drivers e.g. 'Open Road'?!
Karen Deikun07/26/05
I loved the tongue in cheek humor and the memories that lived behind this article.
Beth Muehlhausen07/27/05
Very cute - loved the dry humor.
Debbie OConnor07/27/05
Very real -- fun reading.
Nina Phillips07/27/05
We should maybe make a game out of are we there yet? (he-he)
Good story, little humor, live and learn. God bless ya, littlelight
Kyle Chezum07/29/05
Ha! This was fun. Good job!
Phyllis Inniss07/30/05
Organized to a T. Very well done and the humour came through.
Maxx .07/30/05
Polished. Nice... talent here! Let me quote: "Well Done"
Linda Watson Owen07/31/05
Yep, this brings back plenty memories of us in our brown van loaded with little Owens and Grandma and all kinds of 'stuff'! Good read!