Let me begin by saying all rest areas are not created equally. Some states offer the luxury rest stop: ample, shaded, picnicking grounds for the weary traveler. Bathrooms that never cause you to wonder who sat here before. Maps and welcome centers that give the cramped wanderer an excuse to stretch sore legs.
However, none of that will matter if the words, "Mom, I have to go potty," aren't spoken until you are 100 ft from the rest area traveling at 80mph in the far left lane. Yup, on those occasions you will often be forced to hit the gas station. Not an ideal choice. So, if you find yourself hitting the road this summer with a vehicle full of kids and a destination in mind I offer some tips:
1. Pay attention to rest area markers - some states offer a rest area every 30-40 miles. These states are the all-time best. When a rest area is missed you have an idea of how much longer you will need to sing along with VeggieTales to keep full bladders distracted until you can stop.
~ In the event you are traveling through a rest area-deprived state, go to the biggest truck stop you see. There are gadgets and gizmo's in there you had probably never imagined. And the bathrooms here tend to be clean.
2. Since duct taping small bickering mouths shut is frowned upon in virtually every state through which you are bound to travel, having MP3 players and portable DVD's is incredibly helpful. If you are blessed enough that your player doesn't blow a fuse and works for you - the most argument you will hear is what movie to play next and whose turn it is to pick it.
~ But if it does blow a fuse, the truck stop is bound to have replacements.
3. If you will be traveling to the Northeast bring lots of money for tolls. Culture shock is a definite possibility for those that live in a relatively free-travel area. Take a deep breath and be sure to enjoy the bridges - because they will cost you an amount equivalent to viewing a blockbuster movie on opening night. At some points, you may wonder when they will be asking for your first born. We were spared this experience, but we didn't travel too far into the area. It seems a definite possibility.
4. Eventually you are bound to reach your destination. If traveling with small children I strongly suggest some down-time when you arrive. They are bound to be babbling, wiggling maniacs for a bit - not the first impression you want to impose on friends or relatives you don't see regularly.
~ A quick visit to a park or any area they can run and play will give them a chance to burn-off energy and make them acceptable company. They will be less likely to hang from the chandeliers or start a wrestling competition in the home of those nearest and dearest.Happy Travels!