My children are terrible at taking road trips! Not even 30 minutes into the drive we begin hearing the dreaded “are we there yet?” It’s like nails on the chalkboard… which has led me to extreme planning, organizing and trying all sorts of tactics to make the trip enjoyable. Let’s just say, with a 9 and 12 year old, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years on what works!
Admittedly, putting on videos and letting the kids play their electronics for hours on end, is the easiest route to go. And after let’s say 7 hours, I might be tempted, but going non-tech or low-tech is always my goal when we attempt a road trip and head off for an adventure.
My favorite go-to ways to keep my kids busy in the car without losing my mind include:
- Books and magazines! Each seat back has several National Geographic Kid’s magazines and books. I always choose these because they are full of quizzes, facts, images and they engage the children. When reading the books or magazines, the children often end up reading funny or interesting facts aloud or trying to see if we can guess certain facts. Everyone ends up talking and learning a lot.
- Blankets, pillows and lovies, galore! When you have your favorite blankets, pillows and cuddly stuffed animals, you are much more likely to take a snooze. (Mom included!) This is why I load them up with their cuddly items and hope they will nap, which makes for some peaceful miles!
- Travel Auto Bingo Cards! My children LOVE these cards and they will spend hours trying to spot road signs and fill their bingo cards. I like to bring little prizes along for fun and encourage the children to play and win.
- First one to spot a deer wins a $1! When I am desperate, I pull out my wallet. Sad but true. The kiddos love trying to earn money for the trip anyhow and this way, they are busy looking out the window and seeking deer – which they often end up seeing and then earning money!
- SNACKS! Plenty of healthy snacks and water because hungry children get grumpy and argue! I try to keep the children hydrated but their bellies full with healthy snacks like the Stonyfield Yo-Kids pouches or fruit snacks. I also pack apples, bananas and cut up veggies. Everyone has something to munch on between meals. Having a cooler in the back makes it handy for keeping items like string cheeses, veggies and yogurts cold.
- Good Tunes. This can really be a challenge because we have an eclectic group in our family. My son and husband want to listen to the Beatles and Johnny Cash; my daughter would like to listen to One Direction. The solution is 30 minutes at a time per-person. Everyone gets a chance to pick what he or she likes. You whine you lose your 30 minutes. When we all have songs we like to listen to it’s fun to have car karaoke and enjoy a good sing-a-long together.
- Good Ol’ Fashion car games, like A-Z road signs. This is a game I played growing up and it’s very easy. Starting with the letter A, you call out the first sign you see with that letter and then move onto the next letter. The goal is to get to Z fast but that is a challenge when your travel is rural. Even the driver can play this game!
- Play, how many campers are on the road? In the summertime, people start the trip guessing how many campers they’ll see on the road. As you go through the road trip, you count the campers, yelling out the number. At the end of the trip, see who had the closest guess! Set rules, like no parked campers or campers for sale! This always makes for an interesting family contest and the winner can get extra sprinkles on their ice cream sundae at our final destination!
- Cross word puzzles, coloring books, notebooks and colored pencils. These items are always handy next to their books and snacks in a big basket between both of the children. Sometimes if they are arguing, I’ll make them write each other a note. They stop fighting fast! I challenge them to color a picture for someone we’re visiting or write a story about what they hope to see or their journey.
The bottom line for any road trip is to make it fun. There is nothing like pulling your hair out after an hour and wishing you could cancel the trip. Having plenty of games on hand, books, magazines, healthy snacks and a good attitude, makes a world of difference.
Bonus tip: Keep a stash of new books, magazines, crosswords and items in the back of the car for the way home. It’s good to mix it up!