Growing up, summers meant long rides in the car. By the time I hit my early teens, those family road trips were in a 15 passenger van (the only vehicle that could fit the 11 of us and all of the luggage). Our favorite vacation destination was a resort called Woodloch Pines in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Getting from the suburbs of Chicago to the mountains of Pennsylvania was about a 12 hour drive. On the way there we would break it up with a few stops that varied depending on the year. We went to zoos, visited museums, explored caves and even toured the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. Sometimes our “stops along the way” were really “detours along the way” but they made the trips much more enjoyable nonetheless.

In between those stops, we still had hours of driving made increasingly longer by crying babies and bickering toddlers. But, for the most part, we learned to enjoy the road.

My parents had one rule in particular when it came to road trips: we weren’t allowed to put in headphones. Granted, this was before the age of smartphones and iPads, but several of us older kids had our own MP3 players that we were told needed to stay at home or in our suitcases.

Instead, we had to play games together, engage in conversations and interact. Rather than making the time in the car wasted time, it was valuable time. We listened to audiobooks, looked at the map to see where we were, talked about the new scenery we were experiencing and usually mom napped (which I’m sure she would tell you was indeed very valuable).

Now, I won’t say that the time in the car was our favorite part of the trip by any means, but we made the most of it. I don’t look back on those vacations and just remember dreadful hours cooped up in a van. And we had so much fun at our destination once we got there that we didn’t even think about the fact that we had to sit in a car for hours on end to get there.

If you’re hesitant about making a road trip this summer for fear of the hours spent in the car, think again. Make sure the destination is worth the drive, but with a little planning and effort, the long drive can be turned into quality family time.

Visit the library for a good audiobook or two, print out some road trip bingo sheets and make sure to plan fun stops along the way. Pack plenty of snacks, but not too much water (unless you want to have to pull over at every rest stop you pass). Create fun family time rather than bored “are we there yet” time and you’ll be there before you know it.

Happy trails!