Summertime is a great time to plan a road trip. While being stuck in a car with kids can seem more like a punishment, than an adventure. You have the power to change that with a change of attitude and some serious preparation. Gone are the days of tossing a change of clothes in a backpack and hitting the open road. Road trips these days take a couple of days of preparation, at very least. I can’t say that our last two-day long road trip was all smiles and giggles, but I feel victorious when I can honestly say we remember more of the positive stories, than the negative.
Here are some of my tips and tricks for keeping the family happy on a road trip.
1) Pack a cooler full of snacks. Size of the cooler depends on the size of your family and length of your trip. I cut up tons of carrot, cucumbers, apples, grapes, etc and create personal portions in those really annoyingly small ‘snack size’ zip lock type bags. Maybe not environmentally friendly, but less mess and easy to toss from the passenger seat to our third row. Other car friendly foods in our arsenal include lollipops, granola bars, cheese sticks, chocolate milk boxes, and pretzel rods.
2) Make a trip to the library a couple of days before the trip to get books about your destination or places you’ll pass. On our last trip we were headed to Washington DC and found some cool books about the White House and Presidential facts. We read these out loud and had fun quizzing each other.
3) Google car games and print out some ideas and game boards before your trip. We’ve had success with spontaneous games of I Spy to entertain our 4 year old, and his older siblings enjoy the Bingo style sheets of common traffic signs or license plates.
4) Videos. We try to use these sparingly so the kids don’t stop engaging with us, and get super grouchy if we let them watch back to back movies. We’ve had some fun with Redbox movies, making the stops to pick up and return them part of the journey. We find Redbox terminals everywhere from supermarkets, gas stations and CVS across the country.
5) Print out the directions and maps on Mapquest, or other sites, and let the older kids act as copilot or follow along. It’s no fun being a hostage in the back seat if you have no idea where you are going, so empower them with information. This could cut down on the “are we there yets?,” but I make no promises.
6) Top of the hour gifts. I wrap up small silly ‘gifts’ that I find around the house or pick up at the Dollar Store. Items such as small action figures, activity books, little mazes, those silly magnetic sand boards where you make mustaches or bushy eyebrows on the characters face. I have also revealed a new app game that I research and purchase before the trip. Other ideas have been travel toothbrushes, sunglasses, and the always popular Mad Libs or joke books.