I hope you all enjoyed the first half of my road trip ramblings. I have a few more boredom busters to share that will make your ride the highlight of your trip rather than an endless dentist visit! As I said in the first part of this series, I really like to find ideas to entertain our kids that don’t involve electronics. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with electronics! You can get educational apps, fun games, and even audio books to entertain for hours – and keep the car blessedly QUIET – but I don’t want our kids to tune completely out. I want them to pay attention to the drive, engage in conversation (maybe a few rounds of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain!”), break out a coloring book or go old school and play some travel board games. So before every road trip I always hit up our local dollar stores to find some fun things to surprise them with. A few items that always seem to be a hit with our kids at every age include:
- New markers – sure we have plenty around the house but a new box always makes them happy. Make sure they’re WASHABLE markers and please for the love of your car and your sanity, don’t bring crayons!! They’re wax. Wax melts in heat. Summer is hot. Someone is bound to drop one under a seat. Do the math. Learn from my mistakes.
Coloring and puzzle books at the level appropriate for your kids. Dollar stores of all varieties have plenty of options. Even teenagers like to color. Sticker books are always a huge hit with young children! Empty sketch books are also a great option if you’ve got an artist. Writers will love a new journal to document the trip or just write about how awful their parents are for dragging them away from their friends!
Extra ear buds – again lots of varieties at the dollar stores and you won’t be mad when they get lost because you only spent $1 on them. Guess how I know this one?
Inflatable balls, jump rope, or other small physical activities they can do when at rest stops. Even people with short legs can get tired of sitting in a car. So make sure your stops include not only bathroom breaks and food but a few minutes of activity. Get the ants out of the pants and maybe even wear them out enough for a nap!
Window markers – I think these are so cool and FUN! We always loved making signs for our windows on road trips “Beach or Bust!” These won’t block the driver’s view like signs do and they wash off easily with soap and water.
If you’re heading out on a long road trip with young children, it’s often difficult to get them to understand how long the drive will be. You can use something like The Dating Divas Road Trip Countdown and give kids a small treat at each milestone. Use brown lunch bags and throw in a dollar store toy, a piece of candy or favorite treat (not too much sugar!), and maybe a clue about the next stop or something along the way. Mix up the bags with something pretty special every other bag like a new book or souvenir money. The kids will see the brown bags waiting for them and be intrigued by the mystery of what’s inside. If there’s too much “are we there yet?” you can tell them they won’t get their treat at the next milestone unless they stop asking. Here’s another great idea for keeping the fighting and “are we there yet?” at bay – thanks to This Lady’s House our next road trip is sure to be peaceful one!
For older kids, I strongly suggest giving them the map. Everyone should know how to read a map! GPS devices and apps are fantastic for step-by-step directions and especially useful if you’re lost and looking for your way back on track. But we all know that technology fails and usually at the least opportune time. So do your kids a favor and teach them to read a map (BTW, no one can fold a map properly so don’t worry about failing them on that lesson!). Mark off the route you plan to follow and they can keep track of your progress as you go. If you’re a AAA member, have them prepare a TripTik for you. I fondly remember being my mom’s navigator on many a trip with my TripTik in hand. Maybe that’s why I got a degree in Geography and Cartography! On the same note, ask your teenager for help planning stops (you may be surprised at what they choose!) and assign them the task of putting together a playlist of songs the whole family will like.
On our last long road trip, I found a GREAT idea for DIY travel games on Thrive. Using a metal cookie baking sheet you have a great platform for hours of game play. I think I enjoyed making these as much as the kids enjoyed playing with them. In fact, they spent the large majority of our 14 hour ride just playing these games! SCORE! You can get all the details and step-by-step directions in the link above but here are a few pics of our version – you can tell how much they were loved by how beat up they are!
I happened to have a chess set with small pieces that
we were tossing out was in the yard sale pile so I simply put magnets on the bottom of the pieces and they worked great on the metal baking pan. This was definitely the fan favorite of the bunch. I also “laminated” (I used clear contact paper) a Yahtzee score sheet and a couple of other games. They used dry erase markers and wiped off the boards when they were done with one game and started another.
For more amazing road trip ideas, check out my Pinterest board dedicated to helping you make great family memories and not nightmares! Until next time, friends, bon voyage!
“Life is a journey, not a destination”
Ralph Waldo Emerson