A family road trip is a great way to create memories with your family, see beautiful parts of the country, and even save money, as driving is often less expensive than flying on vacation. But if you’re traveling with small kids, a road trip can quickly go bad. Bored kids in a confined space for several hours at a time can be a recipe for disaster. The best way to prevent your kids from having meltdowns on a road trip is to keep them entertained. Here are four great ways to do just that:
Involve Them in the Planning
If your kids know where you’re going and what they have to look forward to along the way, they’ll be much more engaged during the trip. Sit down with your kids a week or so before the road trip and go over a map of your trip. Do internet research on the towns you’ll pass along the way, and let your kids have a say in what roadside attractions you’ll stop for each day. Knowing that a stop at a quirky roadside attraction or national park is only an hour away will help keep your kids from getting too antsy during long stretches on the road.
Give Them Their Own Fun-filled Backpacks
Make each road trip special by starting each one with a small backpack or tote bag filled with kid-approved goodies for each child. Let them know before the trip that they’re going to receive a special road trip bag, but don’t let them know what’s inside until you’re on the road. This will build anticipation for the trip itself, rather than just the destination. You don’t have to go overboard budget-wise: a simple cloth tote bag filled with puzzle books, granola bars, and a few inexpensive toys is all you really need. The novelty of the bag and its contents is what will help keep your kids entertained. If you really want to help kill some time on your trip, individually wrap each item and have your kids unwrap them one at a time.
Create a Road Trip Scavenger Hunt
The idea of a road trip scavenger hunt is to have a list of items to look for on your road trip, that you and your kids cross off as they find them. These can be items that you just see from inside the car, like specific state crossing signs or colors and makes of certain cars. They can also be physical items collected during breaks on your road trip, like ketchup packets from a roadside restaurant or postcards from a gift shop. If you have a big family, you can divide into teams and award points to whoever finds each item first, with the overall winning team earning a prize. You can make your own scavenger hunt list or search online for pre-written, printable versions.
While screen time for kids and especially toddlers can be controversial, access to technology on a road trip can be a life-saver, and in small doses it won’t have negative side effects. Load up an iPad or other device with educational games and other kid-friendly apps before your trip. Include a few old favorites plus some surprises. This list of kid-friendly apps, sorted by age, is a great place to start. Apps like Road Trip Bingo are for kids and especially geared toward road trips. Putting on a kid-approved movie can buy you a couple of hours of quiet on the road.
With these four ideas, your kids will be so entertained on your road trip they won’t even have time to ask “Are we there yet?” Whether you take your own car or rent one from a place like Jamieson Rentals, these tips will help everyone in your family have a good time.