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The Five Stages of Road Trip

Posted Aug 08 2012 8:03am

I’m sure you’ve heard of the famous “Five Stages of Grief”, popularized in some book by some guy who was probably a psychologist, but please, like I’m gonna do the research.  You’ll just have to trust me if this isn’t sounding familiar.  I’ve never led you astray before, right? Riiight?  In any case, last week on our family trip (because when your toddler gets up 50 bajillion times a night because he’s sleeping in a strange place, let me tell you, it’s not a “vacation.”  It’s a “family trip”),  I discovered that there are also also “Five Stages of Road Trip”.  Five. Grueling. Stages.  Allow me to lay them out for you, and then I hope you’ll feel free to add your own.

Stage One: The WOOHOO!  Stage


The WOOHOO! stage is when everyone is just happy to get on the road.  The whole family is looking forward to vacation and WOOHOOO!!!!!!!!  We’re on our way!

This stage lasts approximately three minutes, or as soon as you get on the highway, whichever comes first.  It is followed quickly by:

Stage Two: The Needy Stage

Parental neck pain is a common side effect of "The Needy Stage"

The Needy Stage is designed by the children in the family principally to keep the parents from actually sitting still and concentrating on driving.  During the Needy Stage, electronic devices will need batteries, thirsts will need to be quenched, bladders emptied, and fights broken up.  Seat assignments are commonly rearranged during unplanned pit stops.  And parents commonly begin craving some sort of mind-numbing narcotic.  The Needy Stage lasts approximately  FOR FREAKING EVER.  However, if a parent gets desperate enough, it can be cut short by:

Stage Three: The Yo Gabba Gabba Stage

Say hello to your new best friends.

The Yo Gabba Gabba Stage is the commonly opened up by a chorus of “Are we there yet?”  and “How many more minutes?” and is also known as the “Whatever the hell you have to put in the DVD player so the kids will zone out and SHUT UP” stage.  Maybe for you it’s the Dora Stage or the – gasp! – BARNEY Stage.  Maybe you don’t have a DVD player and you take one for the team and insert {shudder} Kidz Bop (banned in our van! I’d rather have Barney any day.) into the CD player.  But whatever it is, it’s the definition of “desperate times call for desperate measures”.  You need those kids to forget they have needs and just become quiet, DVD-watching zombies.  It is the stage where the sounds of Foofa and Tootie doing a dancey-dance is bliss compared to your kids’ discontented shrieks.  It is the stage where wrong is right and right is wrong!  It generally lasts exactly as long as the DVD or CD you’ve relented to.  And then, we move into:

Stage Four: The Put Hi-C in the Baby’s Sippy Cup Stage


This stage occurs near the end of the road trip.  Typically when you are less than an hour away from your destination, one or more of your kids will lose their flippin’ MIND.  No DVD or CD can console them, they are DONE.  The only solution in this case is to ply said child with some sort of snack they are not normally allowed to have.  For older kids, you’re pulling your secret-weapon Hershey bar from the cooler you’ve stashed in a concealed compartment, after you and your co-parent have verified the pre-arranged code word.  In our case, “The Platypus Mates at Midnight” meant, “Puncture that juice box intended for the big kids and squeeze every last drop into the baby’s sippy cup because he’s never had sugary juice before and he is going to looooooooooooove it and quit screaming DO IT DO IT NOW!!!!”

(It worked like a charm, BTW.)

This stage can be very, very, messy, but is totally worth it 100% of the time.  And, it will usually hold you over until you can transition into the final stage.

Stage Five: The Euphoria Stage


The Euphoria Stage occurs when you have about 5-10 minutes left of your trip.  This is the point where the smiles return and the kids realize that adventure is finally, really, actually around the corner.  In our kids’ case, they’ve been to this destination before and they start to see familiar stuff and IT. IS. EXCITING!  Every curve in the road is like a roller coaster, every hill bigger and more fun than the one before, and every landmark is a thrilling memory.  The whole family is all smiles during this stage and they remember why they set out together in the first place.  The kids get super-giggly and super-cute and and you know that giving over to the evils of DJ Lance Rock and High Fructose Corn Syrup was not in vain!

And you can move on to the Five Stages of Vacation.

Those are my Five Stages of Road Trip! What are yours?

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