If your family is anything like ours, summers often meant longer road trips to interesting destinations. But sometimes travelling with three kids all wanting the window seat and anxious to get there was not the most pleasant experience. But we picked up some tricks along the way that really helped with the journey.
Pack a variety of snacks.
Kids always seem to be hungry when we travel. To help with this, before our trip we would enlist their input on what types of snacks they would like to take along in addition the healthy ones, then we would divide them into proportions and package them in either baggies or storage containers. Each child had their own "snack stash" container so that when they were hungry they had easy access to them. When they were gone, they were done, so they learned to ration themselves between meals.
Because we sometimes travelled long distances, we had a TV/VCR combo that would plug into the car auxiliary power outlet (aka the cigarette lighter socket) so we could play movies for them while on the road. Unlike today's car DVD players, this took up a lot of space in the car, so we usually only used that for trips lasting longer than 6 hours and their boredom settles in at about the 4th hour.
For shorter trips, we would have the kids choose a few small toys that were "car friendly" as well as their favorite small blanket and pillow (naps were encouraged 😉). We would also pack colored pencils and purchase new coloring and puzzle books special for the trip. The dollar store is a great place to find small toys and activities.
We did not pack crayons because inevitably one or two (or more) ended up either in the seat of the car or crushed into the floor, left to become a melted mess on hot day.
We also did not bring books to read in the car because 2 of my kids get car sick from reading in the car, but we always picked up a few good audio books from our library.
One of our favorite things to do on road trips was to play car games. We would play games like "The Minister's Cat," "I Spy," "The Road Sign Alphabet Game," and more. We would also print out road trip bingo cards like these.
Another fun activity that my kids enjoyed was marking the miles on a road map. We used to stop at the state welcome centers along the way and pick up free maps for them to highlight our route. This also helped them see how far we had gone and how much further we had to go.
While at the welcome center, we would let them pick out a few brochures of places they might like to visit in that state. It is always fun to see all the different places that piqued their interest.
We would also give each child a small, lipped metal cookie sheet to use as a kind of desk. This also doubled as a magnet board. We would bring along a set of magnetic letters, shapes, and other magnetic items we had for them to practice spelling and play other games such as hangman, tangram puzzles and more.
Make pit stops
In addition to our necessary stops for bathroom breaks and meals, quite often we would just make a random stop along our route. Sometimes this led to some of the most interesting places that we might have otherwise missed or dismissed in our eagerness to reach our destination.
But I think the absolute best thing about our road trips was the conversations that we had and the time we spent together away from the distractions of the outside world. Sometimes we would have serious talks about events in our lives and the world, but many times they were just silly and sweet conversations about everyday things. We learned that road trips are perfect for building the family bond.