Family road trips tend to follow a predictable pattern. Kids start out buzzing with energy and excitement, then by 20 or 30 minutes into the trip it’s all but vanished. That’s usually when the fighting, whining and endless queries of “Are we there yet? When will we be there?” begin.
Fortunately, you can disrupt this pattern with some advance planning. Come equipped with engaging and attention-consuming activities at the ready, and the time will whiz by without so much as a complaint.
These are our favorite ideas for long car trips:
Naturally, every parent first thinks of giving kids games to keep them busy. The big trick here is to focus on games that emphasize teamwork. Competitive games will almost inevitably lead to fighting and complaining at some point.
Apps on a tablet are a good fit here, as board and card games have pieces that will usually end up getting dropped and lost under seats. Two of our favorites for this purpose that are available in app form are Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Island. Both games have children take the role of stranded adventurers who have to coordinate their efforts to prepare for a storm before it arrives. It’s a little bit complex, however, so it’s probably best for kids ages 8 and up. A good one for younger children is The Secret Door, which is kind of like a simpler version of Clue.
If the kids are old enough to operate smartphone or tablet cameras, you can also prepare a list of landmarks (like road signs and buildings you know you’ll be passing) and challenge them to get pictures of all of them. That will keep them focused and attentive for the whole trip!
One final game option that has no losers is the classic Mad Libs, and it helps to reinforce basic English skills as well.
Scrapbooking is an excellent choice for the trip home. Keep your eye out for little materials to use as the trip goes on. Postcards, maps, ticket stubs, pressed flowers, transit passes and seashells are all good ideas.
Of course, there’s photos too. Instant cameras are still available, and they provide a way to begin scrapbooking on the opening leg of your journey. If you want to scrapbook on the way there, you can also grab some local papers and magazines from new areas and have the kids cut out pictures and articles related to the trip.
The Counting Game
The classic counting game to play in a car involves picking a type of farm animal. You might go long stretches without seeing any animals, however, and during that time kids will lose interest. A version that stays more active is to challenge kids to spot license plates from all 50 states. For younger kids, try having them check off a list of various colors and types of cars (for example, “red van” or “green truck”). It’s a good way to help them learn more about colors and what different types of vehicles are used for.
Car Seat Tablet Mounting For Movie Watching
There’s a variety of mounts available that attach to seat backs and safely hold a tablet in place. If there’s just one child in the car, you can mount it directly to the back of the passenger seat, but for multiple kids, there are also tablet mounts that wrap around the neck of one of the front seats and hold the tablet out in the center space so everyone can see it.
Prepare enough of these activities to last the duration of your trip, and you may never hear a complaint or argument again!