I don’t know about you, but I dread having to drive more than a couple of hours with my kids. My toddler can’t handle being restrained for that long, and who can blame him? It’s not like they can roll around the back seats like we did. It’s the exact opposite, with our little guys sometimes trying so hard to break free from their 20-point-harnesses, you almost want to let them. It can be very frustrating. So now we must think of ways to keep our kids happy and distracted in the car, which in turn keeps us parents happy and SANE. I have put together some fun ideas that I have found online or tried myself for long car trips. Hopefully you will be able to find some ways to make travelling with your kids a little easier.
1. Snacks. Of course snacks are of utmost importance when travelling. Kids of all ages love a special road trip snack (To this day, I only eat Combos when I am on a road trip). So, even if you typically don’t buy the colorful goldfish, or Gogurts, make an exception and they will be thrilled. An insulated bag or mini cooler are key for those yogurts, drinks, cheese sticks, frozen blueberries, grapes etc. (By the way, have you seen this video of how to easily cut grapes?! Genius. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3tDG89v5Vc ). For older kids, you can give them a snack bag or box (craft boxes or Bento boxes are fun w/ compartments) and tell them they have to ration their food for the trip and once it’s out it out. This is always fun to see if your kid eats it all or saves it until the very end of the trip. Or you can keep the snacks and divide them into baggies, handing them one out at certain points along the way.
2. Simple games. There are the easy games of I Spy, the Alphabet game, and 20 questions, and then there are also some independent games that they can do on their own. Here is a link to free printables and simple ways to make activities in the car. http://www.themeasuredmom.com/road-trip-activities-kids-ages-2-8/
3. If you have time and the organizational mind, you can make a little binder or folder for each of your children. You can personalize it for them, which of course makes them feel special. Here’s an example of a super organized mom: http://jengerbreadcreations.blogspot.com/2012/05/trip-fun-binders.html
4. Have a visual timeline. It can be as simple as a piece of paper with a star for the final destination, and then make little marks or put stickers on the places when you’ll stop. I’ve seen more detailed versions, where you can put Velcro dots on a strip of material or ribbon, and move a cutout of a car or a character (if you’re going to Disney, for example) along the strip as you get closer. I’ve never done this, but I’ll tell you after the last trip we had, I heard “When will we be there?” far too many more times than I would have liked. Maybe this would have been a good idea to do. I could have even had the kids move their piece to the next spot when I told them it was time. Some people suggest giving them a brown paper bag with a little “prize” when they move their piece to keep them busy for the next leg of the trip.
5. Make a playlist of the kids’ favorite songs or your favorite road trip songs. We let each kid take a turn picking a song to play (Mom and Dad get to play too). This is an especially good activity when you want to keep them from falling asleep. They stay on their toes waiting for their turn to pick. You can also have a sitting dance party in the car. My toddler loves this one.
6. Plan fun stops along the way. While some of my best road trip memories are no longer possible to do (i.e. when my parents carried my sleeping sister and I and put us on a bed of blankets and pillows in the back of the station wagon in the middle of the night), the stops along the way were so much fun too. Even if it was just a small town restaurant, it was the only time we ever stopped in Small-town, USA. And I’ll never forget it.
Finally, try to remember to smile and stay calm. After all, you’re making a memory not just for them but for you as well.