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How to Make a Road Trip with Kids Fun

Shauna Mann

Posted on August 13 2018

Headed on a family road trip? In my family, it's about the destination and not the journey, so I have to plan road trip games and ideas for my kids way in advance. We simply do not travel well for longer than an hour, but I have not let this ticking time bomb stop us from fantastic day trips, weekend getaways, and interstate travel. Below are my best tried and true kid friendly road trip planner tips for making long road trips with toddlers and kids more enjoyable for the whole family.  

Family road trip ideas

Audio books

What is actually fun for the whole family? Try audio books! I know, we can plug the kids in and they can listen to a story on their own devices. It would be quiet in the car; maybe you could even have a grown up conversation or listen to your favorite podcast. BUT there is something so magical when the back seat is filled with giggles and you are in on the joke/story. OR checking the rearview mirror and seeing their eyes filled with suspense or emotion that can seems so intense in their imaginations. The variety of the original Winnie the Pooh stories collection, How to Train Your Dragon, and Wonder have worked well for family. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments!

Road trip food

My kiddos can snack for hours in the car, the bonus is that we never hit the hangry phase and can sometimes drive through meal times. (I am sure you know, but just in case you thought I misspelled a word, hangry is when you are so hungry you become angry). We throw a small picnic cooler in the car (even on day trips) filled with already cut fruits, berries, veggies, hummus, and a variety of crackers. Try to avoid items that may spoil, since food poisoning will spoil any trip. Multiple flavors of gum and mints help keep tummies settled on winding roads. Spill proof water bottles, baby wipes, and gallon sized ziplocks to use as trash bags come along too. As for treats, lollipops last a long time (bonus) and seem to limit the sticky mess that many treats can create (double bonus).

Hit up Trader Joes, Whole Foods, or the sandwich shop and go outside. Playgrounds and/or splash parks are a bonus. Think about how long it takes to get into a restaurant, be seated, order, wait, eat, and wait again to the pay the bill. Your poor kiddos have already been sitting all day. Although a favorite restaurant can feel like a treat it takes so much time, good manners, and more sitting. The same amount of time at the park or a rest stop allows for fresh air, movement, and loud voices. I guarantee an hour outside rather then in a restaurant will help set the next leg of your journey up for success.

Road trip games for kids

There still exist lots of car and travel games for kids that don't involve electronic devices, so mix these in with screen time.  Free Play Magnatabs for example rock, and engage kids of any age for long period of time.  Travel magnet play sets, Mad Libs, and travel art sets still entertain kids. So do those family road trip games you remember from when you were a kid that can involve the whole family.  Try 20 questions, Name that Tune, and even Viewing Scavenger Hunts. Pick a letter and category (fruits that begin with "B" for example, and go around the car in rounds until everyone is out, then move on to a new category and letter.  Or, have some story starters ready and get their imaginations going.  

General road trip ideas for kids

My youngest is a car napper, so we never leave home without her stuffies. But I have learned the benefits of a well chosen stuffy or pillow for both my kids. On long trip even my oldest wants to rest; he is quick to point out he “is not sleeping, just getting comfy.”  A well-placed pillow or larger stuffie against a window works to “get comfy," but the same pillow or stuffie can double for a lap pillow to put books, tablets, or snacks on too. Word of warning; be particular about what you bring. The backseat should never get too crowded or the dreaded “you’re in my space” argument will begin.

Don't forget out the latest brilliant Road Trip Hacks from genius parents everywhere to make your trip less stressful.  You'll be wondering why you didn't think of that, but very glad someone else did!

I hope that your summer is filled with adventure, sightseeing, and limited arguing. May your car trips be many and the meltdowns few!

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