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Having fun on summer family trips

By Tammy Keith

This article was published June 29, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

It’s summer, the time when families pile into their vehicles for a vacation and some bonding time.

I love car trips. My family didn’t go on many vacations together when I was growing up. My parents would occasionally go to the beach with friends, and my brother and I stayed with our grandparents. This was before children were the center of our universe and got to make most of the decisions. My parents felt no guilt about it, and I would rather have been at Nano and Granddaddy’s house being spoiled, anyway. (This was still the time when grandparents spoiled grandchildren.)

When I was growing up, vehicles didn’t have DVD players to entertain the kids, and my primary entertainment on a trip was looking out the window at the sights, reading or eating the brownies that my mother made for any trip we took.

Therefore, when my two boys were growing up (the younger one will be 21 on the Fourth of July!), I wouldn’t give in to a DVD player in our minivans, which is what I drove. As a mother who used 101 Dalmatians and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory VHS tapes as baby sitters, I’m not judging anyone who does.

My older son would take a towering stack of books, settle in and read for 16 hours straight, if need be. My younger son got motion sickness, unfortunately, so he would settle in and talk for 16 hours straight. Sometimes he played hand-held video games, which for some reason didn’t have the same effect, or he’d listen to music.

We also liked to play games on road trips. We’d do the alphabet game where someone would say, “A my name is Alice, my husband’s name is Andrew, I’m coming from Australia, and I’m going to Albuquerque. I’m taking alpacas with me, and I’m bringing back anacondas.”

We also have a game where you look for the letters of the alphabet, in order, on signs on stores, billboards or the side of big trucks.

(The driver is at somewhat of a disadvantage here, unless he risks everyone’s life.)

One of the more fun games was Mad Libs — books with different story themes that had fill-in-the-blank sentences. My younger son says that’s how he learned the parts of speech at an early age. The person with the book asks for adverbs, adjectives, nouns, etc., then reads the sentences, which can be hilarious, especially with two boys, who tried to think of the grossest and most ridiculous answers possible.

In the office the other day, we were talking about family vacations, and a co-worker said her family plays Tweety, where the first one to see a yellow car yells “Tweety!” and wins.

It was her story about how she and her sisters had to travel growing up, though, that stuck with me. She and her two sisters had long, long hair. This was the days before air conditioning — or seat belts — in cars, and the girls would lean over the front seat as their father drove.

He would practically be blinded by his daughters’ hair whipping around his face as the wind blew through the car, so he made a rule: The girls had to wear shower caps on trips.

Yes, shower caps. Can’t you just see three little girls bouncing around a back seat in their shower caps? Bless their hearts. I’ll bet those were hot. I wonder what the drivers of passing cars thought?

Now, she and her husband and their two daughters take trips. They just went to Florida. I bought the younger one some coloring books and Mad Libs to take.

The couple’s older daughter got 9 inches cut off her beautiful long hair and has an adorable shorter cut now.

I think she was afraid her father was gonna make her wear a shower cap.

Happy travels!

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or


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