Do you tense up the second you hear the words ‘road trip’ and ‘kids’? Does the idea of spending hours on end in a car with your little terrors send shockwaves through your body? Isn’t hearing “how long til we get there?” four hundred and twenty-eight times your idea of fun? Well, no need to stress anymore! You have come to the right place! We feel your pain and we’ve compiled our 11 best tips for a road trip with kids.
I have lost count of how many times we’ve been on a loooooong road trip with kids. Some of these include an RV trip from Los Angeles to New York City over 4 weeks, driving all over the UK then from France to Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and back over 10 weeks, and a six month caravan trip from Victoria to Far North Queensland and back. And that’s just to name a few!
I definitely think I have earned the right to call myself an expert when it comes to keeping kids happy on a road trip! And I’ll tell you now, I’m no Mary Poppins and my kids are certainly a far cry from the Brady kids! It’s not all fun and games, I don’t sit happily knitting as we sing The Sound of Music and list all the things we love about one another, but I have learnt over time, many tricks, treats and activities to keep the trip as harmonious as realistically possible!
Honestly, I’ve seen loads of posts on this topic in the past, promising the best suggestions of ways to keep kids entertained, but there is one thing that so many of them have in common. One thing I just can’t be bothered with. WORK! They all require SO MUCH WORK. “You can keep your kids entertained on the road if you spend five hours creating this activity binder”. Well, actually not five hours. More like seven, if you count the time it will take to go shopping and buy all of the oh-so-important craft and office supplies required. “Sure, you can have a fun road trip with kids. All you need to do is hit up a hardware store, office supply store, car part accessory store, discount store, party supply store and supermarket and you’re set! Oh, after you convert your car into virtual office/toyshop/restaurant/space station”……. Really, who has time for all this? We just want simple, stress free ways of keeping the kids happy. Not a week long project!
So here they are!
11 Simple Tips For A Road Trip With Kids:
Forget the kids. I love this! So simple, so much fun and with the potential to keep them occupied for a lengthy period of time. Spot-O (car-bingo) is quite simple and can be created in a number of ways. It is essentially, an illustrated list of things to ‘spot’ out of the window. You cross them out as you go, and see who can find them all first. There are loads of different templates that can be downloaded for free online, or if you’re feeling creative, you can make your own. Sometimes I will just print off sheets, or if time permits, I’ll have them laminated and with whiteboard markers, the kids can use them over and over again.
You know those long balloons that clowns make animals out of? Well, these are absolutely brilliant for keeping the kids entertained for ages. You can buy packets of them from most discount and novelty shops and they come with a pump. You just pump them up (or get one of your older kids to) and pass them out. The kids will have so much fun twisting them and trying to make animals and shapes, swords and headpieces. Keeps our kids happy and busy for such a long time!
There is just something about stickers. All kids seem to have this insatiable desire to peel things and stick them somewhere else. Be it specific sticker books or just sheets of stickers to stick on paper, this simple activity can engage them for the longest time. On our most recent trip I wrote the children’s names on paper and they copied over them in stickers. So simple and they thought it was just brilliant!
(Or Waldo to our American friends!)
We just love Where’s Wally! I had every book when I was a child and would spend hours, sitting with my Grandmother eagerly searching for the ever elusive Wally and his little army of friends. I’ve now passed those books on to my kids who will just as happily sit searching for them for such a long time. I recently bought the ‘Ultimate Where’s Wally’ book which is every Where’s Wally book ever made, put into one big book. It is actually considerably smaller (although thicker) and a lot easier to transport than the original ones too.
Ok, so maybe not the most unique or inventive idea, but it never fails to entertain. You can guarantee there will be a dose of I-spy every time we’re on a road trip with kids and it can so easily be age appropriate too. If the kids are too young for spelling (something beginning with…..) you can do colours or categories (something red or something that flies……).Our kids can get quite competitive and our I-spy often results in a full blown competition (who guessed the most/the quickest, who’s couldn’t be guessed etc)!
Car Football (Aussie Rules)
This is brilliant and something I have been playing since I was a kid. It works best if you are on a road where you are passing a lot of other cars. You take it in turns to be the ‘goal kicker’. For every red car you pass you get a goal (6 points) and for every white car you pass you get a behind (1 point). When you pass a yellow car, your game is over and it’s the next players turn. So easy to follow and it can actually get really exciting and competitive. Possibly my favourite road trip game of all time!
Music & Name the song
With a playlist of over 2000 of our favourite songs, we can happily just drive along listening and singing for ages without needing to do anything else. And you can guarantee at least one of us knows all the lyrics to every song. In fact, we know many of these songs so well, that it has become a game to try and be the first to name the song and artist as soon as it starts playing. Again, this can become very competitive and is loads of fun.
Self explanatory really, but a great way to avoid technology that little bit longer. For the older kids – sudoku, crosswords and wordsearch and for the younger kids mazes, dod-to-dot and spot the difference. Keeps their little brains ticking without too much ‘screen time’. And that brings me to…..
No, I am not a technology fearing mum-warrior, determined to keep my little angels brains pure and active. Ha! I’ll be the first to admit I can be known to use the iPad or TV or phone or whatever other technology I can get my desperate little hands on, as a way to
shut-up entertain the kids when I can’t be bothered am struggling with entertaining them and keeping them out of my hair from killing each other busy, at times! BUT I do limit their use of these things as I know how quickly they can become dependent on them as a source of entertainment. Sure, our road trips would definitely be a lot simpler if they all just had their heads buried in an iPad for the entire trip but that’s simply not healthy for their eyes, their minds and basically their ability to be social and interact with one another. So for us, technology time is as much an activity as all the others. They can and will play on an iPad or a Nintendo Ds for a while but it is by no means the be all and end all of our road trip.
Honestly, this is something we have only ever done on a few occasions. Mind you, this is mainly because the stupid portable DVD players we bought were very un-kid-proof and never lasted longer than our trip (you get what you pay for……). Before each and every one of them broke however, they were fantastic. A lot of cars have built in TVs and DVD players these days anyway. Bring a small folder of the kids favourite DVDs and when it’s time for them to wind down and have a bit of quiet time, whip one out and voila – the kids are happy and quiet. Just like movie time at home!
Snacks are such an important part of any road trip with kids. If you don’t hear the words “I’m hungry” coming from the backseat every 5 minutes, chances are you accidentally left the kids behind at the last toilet stop! When it comes to snacks, the options are endless and they are as much a distraction and form of entertainment as any activity I’ve listed above. When a kid is eating, they are usually so consumed by their snack they forget to be bored or annoyed or annoying! While a lollypop can be a godsend, keeping their mouths full and busy for a long time, obviously too many sugary snacks are not ideal when you are going to be confined to a car all day! If they can’t burn off the sugar with exercise there’s a good change it will come out in hyperactivity and aggression instead. We try and stick mostly to fruit, dried fruit, crackers and popcorn. But despite what I just said about sugar, there is always some form of chocolate or lolly hiding somewhere (a mum’s got to do what a mum’s got to do!).
And that about sums it up! I can’t promise no fighting, I can’t promise no complaining, and I definitely can’t promise you are not going to think “what were we thinking” at least a few times over the length of the trip. What I can promise though, is some fun, some variety and some happy kids sometimes!
Happy travels xx