Family road trips are some of the best memories you can make as a family. Kids remember “that one special, super-awesome vacation” for the rest of their lives. Nobody, however, wants to remember the boredom of sitting in the car for hours on end. Of course, this a real challenge to remedy. If we are honest here, parents can get just as bored on the road too. So, what are some ways that you can prepare ahead of time and keep everyone occupied between destinations?
Take some input from the family on what variety of snacks they would like to bring. Any foods that reduce crumbs and spills will fly. Bonus points if you can pack healthy. The general rule to follow is to pack plenty for everyone and then some extra. The last thing most parents want to do is go shopping or get unplanned fast food during a trip.
Some simple ideas are to bring along sandwiches, crackers, and pretzels, and let the kids eat whenever they are hungry. Pack small containers of pre-washed fruits and vegetables, which are great to reuse as no-spill serving trays. These, along with water bottles and juice boxes, can be packed in a cooler.
Pack a Car Bag for Each Kid
To limit the amount of toys that enter the car, allow the kids to pack what will fit in their own bag. Hang it on the seat in front of them, so you do not have to do gymnastics trying to reach those tiny fallen toys on the floor. Utilize the storage space for other essentials like wipes, hand sanitizer, DVDs, water bottles, and whatever else the kids might need back there.
Catch up on Sleep
Tint the back windows with suction-cup sunshades and bring along pillows and blankets to make a comfy nest in the back seat. Play some calming music or have them watch a movie (if that is an option). A power nap in the afternoon can do everyone some good, but you may want to keep the kids from drifting off in the evening hours. Otherwise, they will be hard to put to bed later.
Relay driving and kid patrol, so you and your spouse have some time to recharge and take a break from passing out snacks and reaching for toys constantly.
Games are a great way to keep the family civil and talking with each other. Electronics can pass some time but have limited battery life. When those are on hold, play some classics roadtrip games like 20 Questions, I Spy, Would You Rather, I’m Going on a Picnic, Yellow Car, the Alphabet Game, Hangman, card games, car bingo, or the state license plate game. Older kids might enjoy trivia and playing Guess the Song. Mad Libs, riddles, and brain teasers are also great fun for everyone.
Check online for games created with your exact situation in mind: “keeping kids entertained in the car”. There are many card games, scavenger hunts, and other activities already out there.
Another great pastime on the road is reading. Read a chapter book aloud from the front seat and/or visit the library beforehand, so each kid has a good stack to keep them occupied when batteries die.
Good music makes a drive seem a lot shorter than it really is. Find out which kid-friendly songs will not drive you crazy after a while. Having their own headphones can save your sanity. Older kids might enjoy being tasked with creating a driving playlist for the ride. One easy way to “remove yourself” for a while is by using the fade feature on most car stereos. This can allow the front seat occupants to have a conversation while the back hears the tunes loud and clear.
A few other simple tips to help your road trip go smoothly are:
- Have a GPS running. Mount the phone or GPS unit on the windshield, so the kids can see just how long you have left, and will not have to ask, “Are we there yet?”
- Bring a potty. For younger kids, bring a toddler potty chair, so that if they absolutely have to do their business and there is no restroom in sight, you can safely pull over and allow them to. Empty in an appropriate area and make sure to bring wipes along.
- Cave for treats. In light of the vacation spirit, consider giving in to a car-friendly treat. You can even make a game out of it. Play the Silent Game and the last kid to make a sound gets a piece of candy. Simple yet effective!