One of our favorite things to do as a family is to jump out of our regular routine, hop in the van and send ourselves on a new, exciting adventure — a.k.a. a family road trip. Road tripping has been our preferred mode of travel since we had kids because it’s less expensive, lets us see more of the country, and affords the unique opportunity of being as spontaneous as we want.
Jamming to our favorite tunes, singing along with the kids and making fun pit-stops at random places — man, it’s the best. There’s NOTHING like the open road, but traveling with children isn’t without its challenges and if you’re not careful, after a few hours, all the excitement turns to “Are we there yet?” “Mom, I have to pee again.” “Get me outta this car ….. I’m booored.”
And when that shift happens, all you want to do is MAKE IT STOP!
So, in an effort to help you stay in the game next time your family is on the road, I wanted to share a few tricks that have worked for us over the years. These ideas are designed to help you stay relaxed and connected as a family so you don’t think about running the car off the road – on purpose!
Practical Ways to Stay Relaxed & Connected on Your Family Road Trip:
- Give the Kids a Pep-Talk before your big adventure. David and I have found this one thing can make or break a getaway for our family. I’m not exaggerating. If you’re unlike us and have a super chill, laid back crew, you may not need to give details and set expectations, but for most kids it’s super helpful. Make sure to have a few treats stashed away so you can reward their good behavior.
- Travel with a Mascot. Have your kids pick out a stuffed toy from their collection and put them in charge of coming up with unique places to photograph it along the way. Post the pics on Facebook or send them to your family and friends. You could even make a game of it and have people guess where you are — the kids will love it!
- Give Your Kids the Camera to play with at the beginning of your trip to take photos of whatever they want. You can tell them to play ‘photographer’ and later they can make an awesome scrapbook with all their cool shots. Depending on the kiddo, this may or may not be exciting for them, but, at the very least, it’ll entertain them for a while.
- Worksheets, Crossword Puzzles, Word Finds, & Funny Fill-in-the-Blank Stories can keep them distracted from the hours of being stationary. Print them out or buy them at the dollar store. Make sure to include coloring books and blank pieces of paper in your arsenal so they can color pictures for someone special back home and make their own postcard!
- Have Fun with this Road Trip Scavenger Hunt! Since you’re driving, there will be a time limit which can add to the engagement!
- Bring NEW Toys to Distract Them! A little novelty goes a long way, so bring a few things your kids haven’t played with before. Also, make sure the toys are conducive for the car. Legos, for example, could make your backseat a disaster zone! They’re tough to build while you’re strapped into a seatbelt and have the proclivity to fall through the cracks and end up in the floorboards. When our boys were younger, though, they loved them so much, it was worth the extra effort. If the payoff for your family isn’t quite the same, stick to toys that won’t wreak havoc on your interior!
- Play Classic Car Games & Bring Travel Size Games. You can find mini-magnetic chess, shoots and ladders and many of the classics we all love, without gigantic boards and a thousand game pieces at most convenience stores. Also, don’t forget about the license plate game where you make fun sentences with license plates. If a license plate says FFG 2MS you could say, “Funny frogs go 2 Miami Sunday.”
- Bring the Electronics. They will get used! iPods, iPads, portable DVD players, and any other handheld game devices can serve as incentives for favorable behavior or give you just the break you need when you get tired and need some quiet time. Don’t forget the headphones!
- Keep Everyone’s Blood Sugar Regulated! Everyone’s bound to get the munchies on a long drive, and it’s a pain to stop every few hours so make sure to load the car with snacks before you leave. We like to give the kids treats when they answer trivia questions right or win a family game, but we make a point to fill them up on healthy snacks, that regulate their blood sugar, first!
- Have Podcasts or Audio Books Downloaded so the whole family can enjoy a story on the way to your destination. One of our personal favorites is Adventures in Odyssey which can be found at www.whitsend.org. This series keeps our kids interested for hours! We also like to listen to audio books we’ve downloaded from the Overdrive Library App.
- Don’t Skip the Pit-Stops. Resist the urge to jump right back in the car after potty breaks. Take a few extra minutes to stretch and let the kids burn their energy. Kick the ball around or play tag — just get them running! It does add a few minutes to the trip, but the payoff is worth it.
- Avoid Chain Restaurants. If your kids are old enough to help pick out restaurant stops on your route, get them involved! They’ll take a little ownership and are likely to enjoy the food even more. If they can read, have them peruse online reviews and check travel guides for the cities you’re visiting. Whether it’s an award-winning restaurant or a local hole in the wall, avoiding the chains will be way more memorable than a familiar drive-thru.
- Reward Them for Resting!!! Your kids might fall asleep naturally, but a little encouragement won’t hurt. Tell them they need to be rested up for the day of fun ahead and nudge them to nap … like, the whole drive if they want! 😉
I hope this list of Road Trip Games, Activities, and Ideas to Keep the Peace helps your family stay connected and relaxed on your next long drive! In the meantime, if you’re looking for another unique way to connect as a family over summer vacation, check out the STAYCATION post!
TAKE ACTION: Make every positive thing your child does in the backseat a BIG DEAL! Even the small stuff. Reinforcing their good behavior will encourage them to keep it up — which will give everyone in the family a much better vaca!