Our family loves road trips and over the years, I have perfected our trips with simple activities that help pass the time and make the trip enjoyable.
Some of my best memories are from road trips as a kid! And I want my kids to have some of those fun memories as well.
My kids will never forget the time we were driving in the desert, on our way back from visiting Grandma in Las Vegas, when I went to change out our CD. I pulled out the Tim Hawkins CD, it rolled across my arm and chest and OUT the open window! We laughed hysterically at the absurdity of that situation even though we’d lost one of our favorite cds!
Or the time I made up brown paper lunch bags for all four kiddos for the drive. Over 40 bags total! Each bag contained an activity and a snack. I’m not sure how far I really thought we were driving because we only used about half of those bags on our 1000 mile trip. But they sure enjoyed the surprise of it all! You’ll have to wait for my book to get all those ideas from me.
I also keep a travel binder. In it are notes for each road trip we’ve taken, including gas mileage and cost, as well as activity ideas, words to songs, word searches, and much more. This is a tremendous help when we hit the road and take a trip we’ve taken before and I can look back on my notes from the past. Also helpful if we’ve forgotten a word or two to our favorite song.
So how do you keep the sanity on a road trip AND make it fun at the same time? I’ve got a great list for you, but as a mom of four, let me encourage you to NOT fill every moment with entertainment. It is okay for your kids to have some time of boredom to look out the window, rest, or come up with their own way to entertain themselves. You’d be surprised by how well your own children can travel without the electronic devices. We’ve made the one thousand mile trip (one way)to my mom’s many times and have never needed electronic devices for the entire trip!
Plan your trip well, but leave room for some flexibility if you can. Are you going to drive straight there? Or are you open to stopping if something catches your eye along the way? Discuss expectations with the entire family. Letting the kids be part of the trip discussions will help prepare them for what’s ahead and can eliminate some whining which is always a win!
Try a few of these ideas:
- Surprise Goodie Bags to open every hour or two, depending on what you want to do. Fill with stickers, a non-messy snack, activity, etc.
- Sing – go online and print off some of your favorite childhood songs! On Top of Spaghetti, Baby Bumblebee, Itsy Bitsy Spider, I’m A Little Teapot, The More We Get Together, Kookaburra, Are You Sleeping, Deep In The Heart of Texas, This Is Your Land, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, etc.
- Give each child a “travel journal” we use a spiral notebook – I write questions on some of the pages to prompt their writing. These are so much fun to read through years later when they’ve started to forget details of a vacation. For younger kids, encourage them to draw in their journals.
- Audio books – go to the library and snag a few for free and for younger kiddos make sure you get books with the audio so they can follow along with pictures.
- Silly music and/or comedies to listen to. We LOVE Tim Hawkins for this. We’ve also listened to Jeff Foxworthy on our trips.
- Countdown Chain – Make a paper chain that reflects how long you will be driving. Have a child rip one link off for every 50 miles, 100 miles, 1 hour, or 2 hours of driving. This will help eliminate the “are we there yet?” questions when they can visually see how far you’ve left to travel.
- Do your kids want spending money for vacation? Make an envelope or pocket for each child and attach to the passenger side sun visor. Each time there is any arguing, fighting, or complaining remove $1 from that child’s envelope. What ever they are left with at the end of the drive is what spending money they get for vacation. Go over what is expected before you leave the house. What is considered complaining? This way your expectations are clear beforehand.
- Bring non-messy snacks and drinks. String cheese, water bottles, jerky, apples, etc. You know your kids best and know what they’ll make a mess with. If you can, allow each child to pick one family snack each.
- Car Bingo – i make my own and use items I know we’re going to see, including towns and specific signs.
- License Plate Game – what plates will you see on your drive? How many states can you find?
- Alphabet Game – Find items along the drive that start with the letters of the alphabet, in order.
- What Am I? One person chooses what they “are” and everyone in the car guesses, starting with person, place, thing, or idea and goes from there.
- 20 Questions – Only yes or no questions.
- Story Telling – One person starts the story and each person adds to it. Make it as silly as possible.
- Magnetic games if age appropriate – you can also make your own. Check out Pinterest for awesome ideas.
- Books – seriously, give your kids an hour or so of quiet time where they need to be reading or doing something quiet. Snag some quiet books for your littles who can’t read.
- Word Searches – Create your own using words that apply to your trip and vacation.
- Coloring books or pages – always a hit. Instead of packing crayons which can melt and markers which can stain, buy some colored pencils instead.
- Mad Libs – These will crack your kids up. Try them!
- Paper Dolls – you can find them available to print online.
- Stickers and a piece of paper. Grab some stickers from the dollar store and give them a couple of pieces of paper. Toddlers and preschoolers tend to love this activity.
Keep it simple. Don’t try to make the whole car ride a carnival of entertainment.
And don’t pack items that will get spilled and make a mess. On one of our trips I made the innocent mistake of packing small foam sticker flowers in their brown paper bags. They got spilled everywhere. When we stopped for a break in Tonopah and I slid our van door open, the wind picked up a million little flowers and blew them out of the van and all over the parking lot! What a mess!
Check back for more ideas! My travel ideas book should be available for purchase in May!
What ideas have you discovered for traveling with kids? What is the furthest road trip your family has taken? Do you have a favorite song to sing on your trips?
Until next time, grab that hot glue gun and