This summer will be our first out-of-state family road trip. Before this, the longest drive we survived was a four hour trip to Galveston and even that was a challenge. Our trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama will triple our previous road trip record. Yay for us?
Unlike some families, we don’t have portable DVD players in our car. It’s not because we don’t believe in them. It’s because one of our kids gets carsick just with the thought of watching a movie in the car. So, instead of having to clean up after a car sickness episode, we rely heavily on non-screen time activities for all of the kids (and Dramamine).
Before I even talk about the activities, the best thing is to get organized. Set up some variation of a car seat organizer that goes on the back of the driver and passenger car seats. Make sure it is accessible to your kids. You can keep drinks, healthy snacks, paper, and crayons/colored pencils. You can also keep wipes in there so they can wipe their hands or clean up after an inevitable spill.
Also, cookie sheets are a parents’ best friend on a long car trip. You can purchase inexpensive ones at a local dollar store or bring some from your own kitchen. They can be used as a tray for snacks, food, coloring, legos, etc. The best thing about the cookie sheets is that the sides of the cookie sheet act as a crayon keeper. This prevents you from having to use your long Mom arm to locate missing crayons on the floor of the car in between the inevitable wet goldfish crumbs and dirty wipes. As we all know, the dropped items always seem to fall into the only black hole in the car. Cookie sheets for the win!
So, if you’re crazy like us and planning a vacation with your kids, some of the following road trip activities may provide some sanity relief when you are on the edge of losing your mind.
Map of destination
Print out a map of the destination and highlight the route you’re going to take. If you have elementary-aged kids then you can make it a learning game of sorts. Print out fun facts about each major city that you’re going to drive through. You can even print out coloring pages for famous landmarks. For example, when we drive through New Orleans, I can give the kids coloring pages for jazz instruments and if I’m really feeling like an overachiever, I can play some traditional music to go along with it.
Audiobooks are the next best thing to reading in the car. There are also some great family favorites (think Harry Potter, How to Train Your Dragon, or the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to name a few) so you’re not stuck listening to simple kid books. Audiobooks can easily keep your kids entertained and possibly ward off those dreaded “Are we there yet?” questions for at least a few extra minutes.
Whiteboards and dry erase markers
Instead of bringing an entire pack of paper, you can buy some fairly inexpensive whiteboards with dry erase markers. These are super great for tic-tac-toe and hangman. Actually, your kids can draw to their heart’s content and then erase and repeat.
My kids used to love playing with pipe cleaners but I’ve never thought about bringing them in the car until now. You can buy a multi-colored pack of pipe cleaners at the local craft store and your kids can make flowers, shapes, or just fun designs.
Mad Libs are a huge hit! There’s even an app for Mad Libs, but you can still go old-school and buy the Mad Libs books. If you really want to challenge your kids, have them come up with a Mad Lib and they can ask you for all of the nouns, verbs, etc. Warning: Mad Libs can cause a lot of laughing.
Small lego boxes
I usually use a plastic Tupperware container to hold a variety of Lego pieces and I let the kids run wild with their imaginations. You can use the cookie sheets as a tray for the Legos so the tiny pieces don’t go flying into the black hole previously mentioned. If you have competitive kids, you can have a “Best Funny Minifigure contest” or something silly like that.
If your travels cause you to be in the car when it’s dark outside, then bring out the glow sticks. You could even put on some dance party music and let the kids go a little wild. I mean, as wild as they can get while strapped in their car seats.
Podcasts for kids
It’s amazing what is out there these days in regards to podcasts for kids. A quick search on iTunes shows an immense list of family podcasts including everything from Sesame Street podcasts to science podcasts and everything in between.
I am not brave enough to try this just yet, but there are window markers available for your little Picassos. If you have kids that sit right next to the windows, they can use the markers to draw or write on the windows. The markers erase fairly easily from what I’ve seen, so it appears to be pretty harmless. Warning: If your kids are anything like mine (and if they enjoy potty humor) they would probably LOVE to spell out body parts and other words for other cars to see.
Road trip printables for games
A quick Google or Pinterest search for road trip printables will make you realize that you’ve been doing it wrong all along (unless of course, you’ve been doing this all along). Some of my favorites are variations on I-Spy (fast food restaurants, gas stations, state license plates) but you can find virtually anything. If your kids can’t read, there are pictures of cars or trucks that they can find. So many fantastic and free options.
So, I’m hoping that with the above ideas, our summer road trip will be less stressful. Or at least a mom can dream, right?
Are there any road trip activities that you can add to the list? What keeps you sane on a long road trip?