Traveling with kids can be challenging and fun at the same time. With so much energy, and short attention spans, keeping kids content can take work. We have a few suggestions we hope will be helpful – of course, so much depends on the age of the kids traveling, but we hope these suggestions can be of benefit on your next family road trip.
Set Up: In the last blog post, we told you about the Kid’s Basket we set up in the back seat – it holds all the essentials such as a small trash can, Kleenex, paper towels, baby wipes, and hand gel. This is part of the back seat set up, aimed at helping kids be more self sufficient and to keep several sources of entertainment within reach. If their backpacks of “extras” (books, stuffed animals, etc) are kept on the floor near their feet, they are easily accessible. We love these back-of-the-seat hooks and these organizers for hanging headphones, water bottles, stuffed animals, or whatever else they want to have readily available. Finally, if you keep a rimmed plastic tray (like these) for each child to use on their lap, it makes playing games, coloring, or eating much easier!
Binders: Last year we took a two week road trip…. before we left home, we printed off contents for a binder for each child and put it together in a folder. This included a printed map of where we were going, facts about each state we were visiting, and information on each National Park or area of interest we were exploring. This allowed them to get a feel for what we were going to see before we got there (we made this age appropriate for each child). We added games to the folder – license plate game, road trip bingo (this was a favorite), word searches, cross word puzzles, and other games. We only printed a few pages of each, because we didn’t know which would be the “it” game during the trip. Once we could see which game was the favorite, we printed additional pages at hotels as we went along. All these can be found on Pinterest or by googling “Kids Road Trip Games”. The binder also had pockets where the kids kept flyers and information booklets they picked up during the trip.
Journals: Gifting each child a new, small sketch book and colored pencils for a trip allows them a place to document what they experience. They can journal each day, writing about things they did and what they liked, or sketching what they saw. They can also use the sketch books to collect and tape post cards from each place they visit. By allowing kids to use an old camera to take their own pictures, they are able to uniquely document their trip in a personal way. You can add their pictures to the sketch book too. It makes for a fun way to remember the trip!
Books On Tape: This is a family favorite of ours and we highly recommend trying it! Listening to a story keeps everyone entertained for hours, allows everyone to be engaged in the story, and can create fun discussions over dinner or as you explore. Before the trip, load several titles to your audible account (or your reading subscription of choice), or you can find downloadable audio books or books on CD from your local library. The kids can choose a few stories, and then you can throw in a few classics like Charlotte’s Web, James & The Giant Peach, or Old Yeller. When the story is done, you can spend time talking about everyone’s favorite part. Bonding over a good story is always a good thing!
Other Games: We have a small collection of travel games that always come along. Some are for evenings, like jenga or charades, and some are useful in the car, such as peg board, connect four, and Family Time/Which Would You Choose. Family Time is a favorite – you go around and each family member answers the questions (for example: “Describe a perfect day from beginning to end”). The kids love this game and we love hearing their thoughts. The trick with these games is that we keep them for travel only – that way they stay “new” to us. You can find loads of travel games at Target, Walmart, or Amazon.
National Parks: Did you know that all National Parks have a Junior Ranger Program? If you stop at the Visitor’s Center when you arrive, kids will receive a booklet with games and questions to fill out and a list of things to observe as they explore the park. After they’ve completed it, stop by the Visitor’s Center again and they will be sworn in as a Junior Ranger and receive a badge. There are hats and vests you can purchase to pin the badges on and wear while you explore the park. The National and State Parks also have a “Parks Passport” you can purchase. Each ranger station has a date stamp you can stamp in your passport when you visit. In addition, each park has stickers for purchase that you can place in the passport. This is another fun way to commemorate your visit. Lastly, did you know that 4th graders get into the National parks for free? It’s the perfect age to visit!
The last piece of entertainment is an ipad or in-car entertainment system. Movies are definitely a nice thing to have during long car trips.
We hope that these suggestions help with engaging your kids on your next family road trip. Let us know if you try any of these ideas (and if so, how they worked). If you have any additional suggestions that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear! Happy Travels!