Keeping road trips fun for kids can be a challenge. Here are some tips and tricks for having a great and memorable road trip with your children.
Planning Your Trip
Involve your kids in the planning process! Where would they most like to visit, and why? What kinds of activities do your children enjoy? Are there ways to integrate these activities into your trip? For example, if one of your kids enjoys the outdoors, plan to have picnic lunches along the way or to camp in state parks. You’ll also want to check out kid-friendly local activities in cities you are passing through, even if they are small. For example, the Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas or the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, New York will provide a few hours of educational entertainment outside of the car.
The following will help you prepare your car for the trip. This list is not exhaustive, but it provides a jumping-off point for your planning:
- Favorite stuffed animal for each child
- Baby wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Easily accessible change of clothes for each child
- Pens or pencils
- Easy-to-eat snacks like pretzels, cheerios, crackers and granola bars
- Drinks like water and juice
Bringing plenty of activities will help the time in the car pass quickly. Make sure to stock the car with age-appropriate books and magazines. You will also want include some easy-to-play games like magnetic checkers and a deck of cards. Kid-friendly crossword puzzles and coloring books are also essential for long trips. There are many fun games that you can play with little more than a sheet of paper and a pencil, so make sure to bring those as well. Two such low-tech activities are the license plate scavenger hunt and the “Are we there yet?” game.
The License Plate Scavenger Hunt
A license plate scavenger hunt is a classic road trip game, and one that your kids will certainly enjoy. With your help, have your kids write down the names of all of the states. Every time you see a license plate from a new state, cross the state off the list. Try to get all 50 states in the course of your trip. You can also award bonus points for international plates! A fun twist on this game is to use a map to mark the license plates, noting the distance to the state from your current location. At the end of the game, determine who traveled the farthest. The map also provides an opportunity to memorize state capitals.
Are We There Yet?
Tired of your kids asking that age-old question, “Are we there yet?” Turn this into a teaching moment: hand your child the map and have them calculate how many miles are left in your trip. Use the posted speed limit or your current speed to help your child calculate how long it will be until you arrive. This is a great way for your kids to learn about reading maps while brushing up on their math skills.
Everyone gets cranky during long car trips. To help combat this, have your children switch seats during rest stops. A new view from the window is always welcome. This also provides a nice opportunity to clean out trash and brush the seats down, keeping your car as clean as possible during your trip.
Try to stick to a schedule that is similar to your everyday routine. Whenever possible, stick to a normal naptime and bedtime schedule even if it means sleeping in the car. Try to take 10-minute breaks every hour so that everyone can stretch their legs and get out of the car for a bit.
Enjoy Your Trip!
Above all, make sure you enjoy your trip as much as you can! A road trip is a great way to make lasting family memories.