Are you getting excited about your summer travel plans? With a little planning, your next road trip with kids can be full of peaceful moments. Take advantage of the time together as a family with a few simple ideas, including some sanity savers and car games for kids.
1. Capitalize on Bedtime
For a one-day road trip with your kids, consider leaving late afternoon, get a couple of hours of driving in, then stop for a late dinner. When your kids get back in the car, they will be ready to settle in and drift off for the rest of the trip.
For trips that will take several days, consider leaving later in the morning after the kids hit the pool or playground. Driving until 10 pm could offer more hours of sleep in the car without making parents too tired.
2. Think Ahead for your Baby or Toddler
If your baby is sleeping a little less but is now able to be distracted, pack a bag of toys to hand to her one at a time. She will most likely drop each one after a few minutes, but it can buy you some precious time until your next stop.
- Hang plastic rings above her head, and attach a soft toy that she can yank on to make it vibrate or play a tune
- Have a couple of small zip bags with three or four small toys, like toy animals, inside. Your baby will enjoy pulling out the animals and putting them back in. And for older babies, there may be a few minutes of imaginative play with them, too.
- Pack some finger puppets. Give your baby the bag to pull them out one at a time, then collect them and give her a show. Older siblings love this job, and it entertains them too.
- Hold up a small mirror for your baby to see a new friend!
- Keep a toy with buttons, lights, and music at the bottom of your bag. Pull it out when you have cycled through the rest. If you start with the flashy toys, you might not have as much success with other toys keeping your baby happy in the car.
3. Partner with your Preschooler
Preschool age kids love being in charge of their own car activity bag. Let them pack two or three toys, a blanket, and a small pillow to take along. Pack a separate stockpile of activities you know they will love so you can use your kid car trip strategy: bring them out one at a time when they are most needed. Here are some ideas for your road trip with preschoolers bag:
- A simple notebook and attached pencil
- Paint-with-water pen and book set
- Magnet boards or books with magnets
- A zipper pouch of matchbox cars and a toilet paper roll coated in duct tape to drive them through
- Pipe cleaners and a water bottle to put them in
- Fill a water bottle with rice and small objects, seal it, and play “eye spy.”
- Lacing toy
4. Sneak in Some Learning with Older Kids
As your kids grow older, you will have more and more options for having fun with your kids on road trips. You can also manage their boredom by sharing plans with them. Include them in your itinerary discussions and let them help plan the drive.
- Find a map that is easy for them to use, and show them where you are going. Ask them to measure distance for you and tell you how long it is until your next stop.
- Help them make a list in their notebook of all the cities you plan to drive through in order. They can look out the window and cross off the towns as you drive through. This offers a concept of time and distance to them, which can help the seemingly endless trip make sense.
5. Play Games that Don’t Need Supplies
The best part about these car games for kids is you don’t need to think ahead, and they don’t take up precious room in your car.
- Restaurant Game: Each person chooses a chain restaurant – McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc., and count how many times you see it until someone gets to 10
- Twenty Questions: One person thinks of a person, place, or thing. The rest of the car takes turns asking one “yes” or “no” question at a time – “Can it make a sound?”. If they ask twenty questions but still haven’t guessed the answer, the first person wins.
- Alphabet game: Each person tries to find each letter of the alphabet in order on signs as you pass by
- Name That Tune: Hum a song until someone guesses it. The person who guesses gets to go next
- Ongoing story: Start a story and say three sentences. Then pass the plot on to the next person. Continue until the last person finishes it! Then rotate who starts the next one.
6. Audiobooks are your best friend
Stock up on some CDs at the library before you go, or download some new stories to play while you drive. Audiobooks can offer hours and hours of entertainment and keep the interest of all your kids – and you! – at once.
The best part of audiobooks is you can all still look out the window while you listen. Movies and video games certainly have their place on road trips, especially long ones, but saving them for key moments will keep all the travelers happy longer.
7. Take Advantage of Snacks
Eating can double as entertainment, or break a cycle of boredom. Pack a few treats or rare snacks for your drive for your kids to look forward to. For the rest of snack time, focus on food that gives a good crunch but won’t fill you up too much. Carrot sticks, grapes, apples, and similar foods will leave you with calm energy in the car.
8. Talk it Up
Get yourself excited about your road trip with kids, and let them hear about all the fun things you have planned along the way! Some of the best childhood memories are made on the road. So make your plan, pack with strategy, and enjoy the ride. Happy trails!