You and the family are heading out of town – YAY! There’s just that drag of a drive to get through first…. Since driving is often a much more affordable method of travel for families, we are big fans of road trips. Uh oh, does the thought of a road trip with your kids elicit panic? Hang with us while we convince you that it can be done with your sanity intact! We've even included a free printable with some of our favorite entertainment ideas!
If you are driving to your spring break, summer, or holiday vacation destination, you might be dreading the long travel day with little ones. (I can just hear the endless ARE WE THERE YET's now…) We are here to make the cruise less stressful and hopefully help the kiddos have just as much fun along the car ride.
Don’t let the intimidation of a long car ride with your kids prevent you from taking family trips. Here are some ways your family can enjoy the destination AND the journey.
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PACK YOUR BAG OF TRICKS
Put together a bag ahead of time with your car ride entertainment: toys, games, activities and snacks that you can pull out throughout the drive. (Don't worry, I'll help you with a whole list of ideas on what to pack below!) But when en route: PACE YOURSELF! Don’t give the kids the entire bag all at once. Instead, dole out each item throughout the trip one at a time.
Part of the strategy behind your car ride activities is the element of surprise and intrigue. Keeping your toys, games and activities a secret will have a greater impact on their overall excitement and involvement. So try to pack your “bag of tricks” out of sight from the kids, leaving them wondering what you’ve brought!
The two main qualities I look for in road trip entertainment for kids: things that provide as little of a mess as possible, and things that can take as much time as possible! Don’t waste your money or packing space on a toy or snack that will be done & gone in under a minute flat.
Here’s a list of inexpensive mess-free car toys & games for a variety of ages (that don't include screens!):
- Sudoku puzzle book
- Reusable Sticker pads
- Origami papers and instructions
- Coloring book with colored pencils
- Water Marker Books
- Cat’s Cradle strings
- Activity books by ages from Amazon
- Mad Libs
- Seek and Find Books
- Magnets and a cookie sheet (magnetic letters for practicing spelling and reading)
Fortunately for long-haul travelers, there is a huge trend among baby, toddler and children’s toy makers now for “Busy Boards.” These can be found from a variety of manufacturers and retailers, from Etsy to Amazon. Many “busy boards” are affordable and transportable, geared for ages 6 months-2 years old with objects aimed to build motor skills and dexterity. Savvy parents can even make their own! They are made up of baby-safe objects that foster exploration: buttons, zippers, Velcro, spinners, beads, door locks, zip ties….the sky is the limit!
Older kiddos can be occupied with age-appropriate activity workbooks. They are both educational and entertaining!
CAR RIDE ACTIVITIES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Here’s a list of games and activities that get the entire family involved, which we've added as a FREE PRINTABLE for you to download:
- The license plate game – print off a sheet that lists all 50 states. Have every family member help point out cars with a license plate from each state. Cross off the state when you see a license plate for it and see how many you can find during the drive!
- Sing-a-long – each family member gets to take turns picking a song for car ride karaoke
- Listen to a kid-friendly audiobook or podcast.
- Some favorite family-friendly audiobooks include:
- Charlotte’s Web
- A Wrinkle in Time
- Stuart Little
- How to Train Your Dragon
- Pippi Longstocking
- The Junie B. Jones Collection
- The Boxcar Children
- Podcasts for families:
- How Stuff Works
- Story Seeds
- But Why
- Brains On!
- What If World
- Story Pirates
- Some favorite family-friendly audiobooks include:
- Travel bingo – print out a bingo sheet for each family member with common items you might see while traveling. First passenger to get five in a row wins!
- Get the conversation going with a family game of “Would You Rather.” Make up the options as you go or download a list of kid-friendly prompts!
KNOW YOUR ROUTE FOR FOOD AND POTTY STOPS AHEAD OF TIME
It’s a smart idea to use your phone’s map app and check out the route you’ll be taking before the big travel day. Notice where the opportunities to stop for lunch or potty might be. Use the extra stops to get out their wiggles and burn a little bit of energy before climbing back into their seats. Each little stop gives the kids something to look forward too and breaks up the mental anticipation from “6 hour ride” to “Four 90-minute rides”.
BUST OUT THOSE SNACKS!
When all else fails to kill the car ride boredom, it’s time to break out your snack bag! Here are some of our favorites that don’t require refrigeration, aren’t likely to result in a million crumbs, and won’t leave orange powdered fingerprints on your seatbelts:
- Squeezable applesauce pouches
- Fruit roll-ups
- Dry cereal
- Pretzel sticks
- String cheese
- Dried mango or other fruits
- Gummy worms
- Sesame sticks
- Peanut butter-filled pretzels
Don’t forget to pack extra napkins or paper towels in your snack bag, and maybe even a pack of moistened hand wipes. Despite contributing to bathroom breaks, make sure everyone has plenty of water for the ride too!
What other car ride tricks do you have up your sleeve? Share them with us! And if you’re looking for more family trip tips, here are some other posts:
- Use this list of travel packing tips to help get ready for your family's trip!
- Even more Road Trip Tips And Travel Hacks With Kids to make the journey enjoyable for everyone.
- And for when you get HOME from the trip: Get Organized After Vacation!
Happy Road Tripping, Freebs!