Whenever we take a trip, my family almost always travels by car. Whether to Maine, North Carolina, or Florida even, we would spend hours on the road rather than waiting around in an airport and spending money on tickets for the entire family. Early on, my parents figured out a way to avoid cries of “Are we there yet?” and “I’m boooooorrrrred”: video games and snacks.
My parents would load up the car with the essentials for the destination and the essentials for the road. The road essentials were always the same—still are to this day. The day before the trip, my mom would cook up Chex Mix, pack up Twizzlers, and stock up the mini-cooler with soda and water. Meanwhile, my dad would use his amazing ability to real-world Tetris the back end of the van or truck, making sure everything fit securely.
Then, when we got our N64, the console, power converter, and 15″ VCR-TV combo became mainstays, as well. The idea was easy: make the kids WANT to be in the car for hours at a time by bringing Mario, Smash Bros, Donkey Kong, Wave Race, and more with us.
Folks, my parents were revolutionaries in the mobile gaming field.
The TV would sit on top of the cooler, not only conserving size but also keeping it closer to eye height. In front of my feet and slightly under the passenger seat would be the converter with the plugs, while the N64 was in front of my brother or occasionally between us. This setup was genius.
There was one time we were traveling back from visiting my great-grandmother in Maine, a drive that typically took about 9 to 10 hours by car. My brother and I were locked in an intense fight in Super Smash Bros (which I won) when I noticed the local church as we passed by.
“Oh, we’re home already?” I asked. That simple question solidified the console setup for long car rides. To make a ~10-year-old child think 10 hours is nothing (granted, we would also get on the road before dawn and sleep for the first couple hours) is a godsend.
As technology improved, so did the setup. The TV-VCR combo became a laptop-style portable DVD player. Headphones and a splitter saved my parents further annoyance by keeping the sounds to just my brother and I. GameCube overtook the N64, which was later replaced by the Wii. Eventually, we got a car that had an AC plug installed, eliminating the need for the converter. Gameboys, Gameboy Advances, DS, and 3DS all made portable gaming easier and easier.
And now, I come to the pinnacle. In recent years, my mom—the self-proclaimed Queen of Do-It-All—has gotten involved in running half marathons, marathons, relays, and triathlons with a local chapter of Team RWB, an organization that supports veterans and families of veterans.
She ran her fourth Marine Corps. Marathon this October in DC, the first time I was able to go down and support her for this race. DC isn’t a terrible ride, about 6 hours from our house. But folks, let me tell you: It is even better with the Switch. The thing is made for long trips.
It took about 15 years, but the industry has finally caught up with and surpassed what my family mastered so long ago. For any of you who like to travel with children, I cannot recommend this enough. Do yourselves and your kids a favor, and let them game in long car trips. You’ll never have to answer how much longer it will take again.
If you liked this story, check out more gaming tales from my childhood here: Why We Love Games.