I just got home from a nice 1,300-mile road trip, and while it was just me and my husband, I quickly realized there is an art to making a road trip an enjoyable experience for everyone — especially when there are young children involved. Sure, the two of us loaded up on snacks, drinks, reading material for me and good tunes, but when planning a trip with children you also need to think long-term entertainment, often beyond those DVDs.
So, if you still have a road trip or two planned in these remaining days of summer, here are some great ways for keeping all your kids — no matter their age — entertained and occupied during the adventure. Here are some great ideas for games, screen-free activities and snacks. For more clever ideas, visit our Vacation Tips board on Pinterest.
Games of “I Spy” and the license plate game are staples for any long family road trip and can often suppress the questioning cries of “Are we there yet?” But when those two favorites are exhausted and you still have seven hours of your eight-hour trip, it’s time to bring out some new ideas. Don’t give in and pull out the DVD collection just yet.
Before your trip, take some time to create binders full of activities for each of your kids. With the help of free printables, you can fill binders with coloring pages, trivia games about the upcoming destinations, customized word searches, hangman, mazes and more. Don’t forget to include a pencil case filled with colored pencils, markers, pens and whatever else the kids might need.
Sure, it’s totally easy to pop in a DVD and let the kids watch that newest movie for a couple hours, but sometimes Mom and Dad just want everyone, including themselves, to take a break from their screens, starting with the actual drive time. If your kids have already tired of their favorite books and have worked their way through their Games-on-the-go binder, it’s time to come up with some new ideas.
If you’re embarking on a long, multi-stop road trip, create a fun scavenger hunt that will keep your kids busy planning for the next stops. Make it even more fun by making it a photo scavenger hunt. You can invest in either a Polaroid camera for instant photos perfect for adding to a scrapbook, or snap photos using your smartphones and print the photos at your next stop.
Stocking a cooler prior to your trip not only will help keep your kids happily fed, but it also will save a bunch of money and time. No need to stop at fast food locations for meals and pit stops, instead head to the nearest rest area or even historic landmark for a potty and exercise break. Pull out the cooler filled with snacks to keep everyone satisfied.
Looking for some great snack ideas? Here are a few favorites. I personally love frozen grapes. In small serving sizes, frozen grapes are delicious, refreshing and a better alternative to candy. Any type of fruit is great to snack on, especially when served up with some cheese cubes and crackers. Create a fun little snack bento box for each child and let them fill it with their favorite treats, too, for a customized approach.
— Jennifer Durrant