It is almost guaranteed that I will hear those words come from the back of my minivan in the first 25 minutes of any road trip.
I get it. As a child, I spent many hours in the back seat of my parent’s car on I-95 traveling to visit family in Florida. Our annual family vacations included no less than 18 hours of travel time, in addition to six-hour car rides every month to see grandparents in Pennsylvania.
Fast forward 20 years and I am still taking road trips, only now it’s with my husband and my little ones. Nowadays, we have DVD players and electronic devices that are helpful when my kids insist that they are bored. However, there are plenty of other creative things they can do to keep busy and pass the time besides watching TV and playing video games.
Here are a few of my tried-and-true ideas to make any road trip better:
- Prepackaged snacks are perfect for when little tummies start to rumble. Whether you make snacks yourself or buy them from the store already prepared, prepackaged snacks control portion size. Too much to eat or drink may result in frequent stops to use the restroom. Stay away from messy snacks such as bananas, fruit cups, or cheesy orange crunchy things. Apples, grapes, and granola bars are a better option. A left over piece of Easter candy or a treat that is otherwise off limits makes the trip feel special. Bring drinks that don’t spill easily or can be closed. And don’t forget the wipes!
- The car games I enjoyed when I was young still thrill my kids today. Some of my favorite games include: the License Plate Game, where you try to find cars with a license plate from each of the 50 states and the A to Z Game, in which each player searches the for the letters of the alphabet, starting with “A” on billboards, trucks, license plates, buildings, and anything else they pass. Both of these games can be played together or as a competition.
- Many traditional board games are available in a compact magnetic version. I love these because I don’t have to worry about games pieces falling and getting lost.
- Long car rides are a great time to read with your children about your destination. It keeps them engaged, builds excitement about your arrival, and provides a connection to the place your headed. It’s wonderful to see them recognize historic landmarks and take an interest in local foods as a result.
- Activity books are great for keeping your little ones happy at home and in the car. Remember to bring a handful or crayons or colored pencils. The Beginner’s Bible Super-Duper, Mighty, Jumbo Activity Book is full of mazes, dot-to-dots, word puzzles, matching games, all using characters from your child’s favorite Bible stories.
- For those children who aren’t old enough for those kinds activities yet, The Beginner’s Bible Super-Duper, Mighty, Jumbo Coloring Book is a great alternative.
- My kids’ love sticker books. Stickers are wonderful for use in arts-and-crafts, as party favors, and for gifts. Each book from The Princess Sticker and Activity Book Series (The Princess Parables) is an activity, coloring, and sticker book all rolled into one. With a huge variety of reusable stickers these sticker books will keep your kids happily entertained for hours at a time.
- What I love most about being in the car for several hours is that I have a captive audience. I like to use some of that time to have meaningful discussion with my children. I enjoy talking to them about what matters to us as a family such as how to be a good friend, why we help others in need, and the importance of respect. Reading books from The Berenstain Bears collection makes it easy to jump-start the conversation. The stories are engaging and always leave you with a lesson at the end. I am looking forward to reaching The Bernstein Bears’ Gossip Gang and The Berenstain Bears Get Involved out loud with my kids on our next road trip.
- As an alternative to listening to the radio you can create a playlist of your child’s favorite songs and put them on their music players or burn them to a CD.
- Everyone knows that the book is always better than the movie, that’s why audio books are great to listen to when you have big chunks of time. You can order them online as a CDs or an MP3 download. They are also available at your local library.
- With the increased popularity of podcasting, there is no shortage of ones that will interest your child. A simple search, with a few key words such as “kids”, “faith”, or “Bible”, will return a list of radio dramas, sing-alongs, and devotionals that will be sure to entertain.
The key to making any road trip better for both you and your children is to be prepared. Take some time to think about what your kids like and what holds their attention at home, then try to duplicate it for the car ride. Keeping your little ones entertained goes a long way in making your family vacation a relaxed and happy one to remember.
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What are some of your ideas to keep your kids engaged and happy during road trips and vacations? How do you entertain the troops when the inevitable “Are we there yet?” questioning begins? What tips can you share with us that make your family vacations more relaxed and fun? Leave a message on our blog! We’d love to hear from you!