If you're leaving town in the next few days you're going to hit horrific traffic. The NZ Transport Agency has released an interactive map and the upshot is clear. Going north or south mid-morning to early evening will be brutal. Punishing. A rolling hell hole. Unless you accept your fate and change your perspective. It's not about where you are going, but where you are. If you're in the car with your family you're already spending time with those you love. You're already on holiday. Your car is just a tiny bach on wheels creeping through the world's most beautiful country.
Having spent a lot of time driving with kids I've learned a few lessons. Let the kids fight, don't let them choose the music, don't listen to them, no devices, crank up the car cricket and enjoy the ride.
Let the kids fight
Strapped into the back seat of a car is not a child's natural environment. If there's more than one of them they become territorial. Punching, scratching, pushing and screaming. It's great. You have to let them fight. Yelling at them just ramps things up. Let them go for it and eventually an armistice is called. Kids are like dogs. Try to keep them apart and they'll yap all day. Let them off the leash for a little fight and things get sorted.
The other day our little schnack, a mini schnauzer jack russell mix called Colin, was growling at this beautiful big dog called Jimmy. Turns out he was just trying to work things through with a new mate. So we let the dogs off. They had a little skirmish. There was some barking and gnashing. No teeth. Thirty seconds later all was sweet. It's the same with the kids in the back. Let the little buggers sort it out themselves.
Ignore all whining, complaining or suggestions. Meet everything with silence. Never pull over on request. Even if someone is about to vomit. They can do it out the window. If you engage with complaints or give in to demands, more will come. Give them nothing and they'll soon lose interest.
Never let the kids pick the music
Parents should subject children to their tunes. They'll probably hate them now but they'll warm to them in later life. Your car is the perfect venue to create a musical Stockholm Syndrome. Well-rounded and wide tastes grow when children mix their parents' interests with what they discover themselves. Take Paul McCartney. The Beatles would have been a very different band if his Dad Jim hadn't punished little Macca with his terrible old granny records.
Holidays are a bit boring. Children need to get used to that right out of the gate. If they start the break with headphones on, staring at the black mirror, that's the way they'll stay. Take the devices away from them and let them be bored. Dealing with boredom is a big part of life. It's a great motivator.
A normal car driving past gets you one run. Two runs for an SUV or ute, three runs for a truck or van. Four runs for a bus. Six runs for anything towing a boat. If a red vehicle of any kind passes you're out. If you play car cricket right it will bore the bejesus out of your children. Which is exactly what you want.
Being stuck in horrific holiday traffic is an important part of the Kiwi experience. You can't fight it. So enjoy. You don't have to be in hell, you can be in heaven. It's all in the mind. You're with the ones you love and that's what counts. So let the young ones fight, ignore their complaints, remove their devices, punish them with your music, force them into boring car games and enjoy hours of trouble-free driving this summer.