Do you dread hearing, “Mooooom, are we there yet?” when traveling with the kids?
Going on vacation is an exciting time for the whole family. What is not always fun, however, is the journey. When you are traveling and everyone is having difficulty being patient, it can seem like the trip lasts three times longer than reality. How can you keep your kids busy on a road trip?
Recently, we took the longest road trip we've ever taken with the kids. We drove from Milwaukee, Wisconsin all the way to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio (and back) in a 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid LXE we received to experience for a week. Our family was happy to put this vehicle to the test on a 900 mile round trip family vacation.
Even with thoughtful planning, my daughter repeatedly asked if we were there yet. The first time she asked was shortly after we pulled out of the driveway.
I questioned why I ever thought taking the kids on a road trip was a good idea and briefly considered pulling over for ear plugs. Thankfully, it got better and we made it to our destination without anyone losing their minds!
Keeping Kids Busy on a Road Trip
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Some trips go smoothly, especially if my daughter and son sleep part of the way, while others are more stressful. I wish I could promise that your children will NEVER get bored or whiny while in the car, but I can't. What I can do is share some tips on how to keep them mostly busy and keep your sanity!
Bring along the basics such as coloring books, crayons, paper, and pens. Your children will have plenty of time to create and imagine, and this will give them an outlet. To encourage your children to use these supplies, consider buying a new special set of markers. My absolute favorite for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners is Color Wonder coloring books and markers. Those markers do not work on anything but the special Color Wonder paper. That means they won't draw all over the car seat!
Always have ideas of games on hand that you can all play together. Some easy picks are games such as “I spy” or a scavenger hunt, where each person has a sheet of items they can check off as they find them during the trip.
You can also play games such as taking turns listing items to take on vacation that begin with each the letter of the alphabet. For example, I'm going on a trip and I'm packing an apple. I'm going on a trip and I'm packing a book. To take it up a notch, turn it into a memory game where each person has to remember every item listed before theirs, as well as making up a new one for their letter.
With the 2016 Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid, we didn't need to stop often for gas. The gas mileage was over 30MPG. In fact, we only gassed up once on the way to Ohio and once on the way home. (Our family car would have required additional stops for gas.)
Technically, taking breaks doesn't keep the kids busy while in the car, but they are important for everyone during a road trip. We planned roughly three stops each way, which was about every two hours. Those breaks allowed everyone to stretch their legs and use the bathroom. On the way to Cedar Point, it worked out to a snack break, then lunch time, and another snack. On the way home, snacks were alternated with a stop for dinner.
If your children are old enough to write, give them each a travel journal. Each child can write about their own vacation highlights. Younger children can draw pictures instead of using words. This is a great place to include vacation pictures afterward too.
If your child has a digital camera, encourage them to take photos while traveling. If they do not have one, consider buying a durable kids camera, or lending them yours. A digital camera will ensure that your child can take as many photos as their heart desires without having to worry about running out of film. Make sure the batteries are freshly charged, or take extras if the camera uses disposable ones. It'll be fun to see the sights and memories captured from your child's perspective!
We share our travel playlist with the kids. When we start our trip, we play songs we know our son and daughter enjoy. Everyone gets a turn to play their favorite songs, even the adults! If the kids fall asleep in the car, that is the best time to switch it to songs mom and dad want to hear for awhile.
Tablet or Handheld Game Consoles
Tablets and handheld game consoles like the Nintendo 3DS have gotten a bad reputation, but they can be useful for keeping kids busy on road trips. Remember how I said you need to keep your sanity? Instead of handing a tablet over the moment the kids are buckled in, give them time limits. For example, we said once we crossed into Indiana, they could play on the tablet.
Another tip is to buy or install a new game before leaving the house. (They don't have to know about it until later though!)
I prefer keeping screens until near the end of a road trip. For one, it forces my kids to be bored (in a good way) and use their imaginations for awhile. Also, it keeps them from growing too bored of everything right away. However, I know it's hard to travel for almost an entire day without changing up the entertainment!
Snacks are a must-have on any trip. The traveling time will always be more enjoyable with something to munch on. Bring items that store well even without refrigeration. Items such as veggies and hummus, dried fruit, granola bars, nuts, applesauce pouches, and cheese sticks are fun and work well.
Traveling can be boring, or great fun. It all depends on how well-prepared you are for it. When traveling with kids, there are many ways to make it more exciting. Put these tips on how to keep kids busy on a road trip to use and enjoy your travels while watching your children enjoy theirs as well.
We received the opportunity to experience the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid LXE for a week and review how the car worked for our family road trip.
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