Travel Tips Trish's Table

5 Survival tips for Long Car Rides with Kids

“Mom, I am bored.  Are we there yet?”  This caused my heart to sink and my head to spin.  My son had just said those dreaded words.  He had a tablet with a dozen apps, a DVD player with at least 10 movies to choose from and his Nintendo DS….how could he be bored?  “I am bored too, when are we getting there?” my daughter chimed in and I almost cried.  I, like a lot of other parents, assumed that the electronics would keep the kids happy for a 8 hour car ride, and turns out that’s not the case.  Ever.  Now a few years down the road and I am always ready for what I call the “electronic let down” and I rarely hear that horrible phrase anymore.

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This survival list is based off of electronics not working, because let’s face it, electronics do get boring after staring at them for over 4 hours straight.

  1. Pack games.  This actually starts a least a week or two before the trip when I remove the games I want to take on the road trip from the family games and hide them away.  This ensures no one has played the game recently and I won’t hear “But we just played that game” in the car.  The games I usually pack take a while to play and are easily packed and take up little to no space like UnoSkip BoMagnetic Chess, or Checkers.  Another good one is just a regular deck of cards.  There are tons of card games to choose from and they are compact and easy to stash.  I don’t give options when handing them out I choose one and say “here why don’t you play a game of….” and hand them the game.  Once that one is exhausted (which usually takes them a few games of it before they call it quits), I will hand them another game.
  2. Pack outdoor games.  I schedule at least a 30 minute “recess” when I am traveling with my kids for every four hours in the car.  It gives them something to look forward to.  For this time I will pack a football, baseball and gloves and a Frisbee.  Sometimes I change it up but usually it’s just those three games.  I let the kids know before we get into the car that in two hours we will have recess (or whenever I schedule it).  This gives them something to look forward to and they know that they will have time to stretch their legs and refresh at a certain time.  If the recess time comes along and it’s raining, it gets postponed.  Usually driving for about an hour more produces better weather if need be.
  3. Pack a picnic.  Now don’t panic this doesn’t have to be a huge spread.  We do crackers with pepperoni and cheese, Capri Sun and carrot sticks. Or sometimes we do peanut butter crackers, with water and strawberries.  The point really isn’t what the food is, it’s eating it outside the car in the sunshine.  Now sometimes it rains while we are driving, but that doesn’t stop us.  Community parks, state parks, and rest areas all have covered pavilions with picnic benches.  Take advantage of these.  Getting out of the car to eat outside keeps your car cleaner and gives the kids another chance at fresh air during a long drive.
  4. Pack a book or comic book.  I usually swing by the local used book shop before a road trip and buy the next book in the series they are reading or I buy a comic book for them to glance through.  This gives them something unexpected because they usually pack a book in their “carry on” bag, so whenever they finish it (whether it’s on the car trip or on the vacation) they have something new to dive into to.
  5. Pack a surprise.  This varies from car trip to car trip, but usually it consists of a book of word searches from the Dollar Tree, magnetic dolls, or brain teasers.  This is always a last resort, and quite often we make it through the whole trip without me revealing the “last resort” so it then becomes a stocking stuffer something like that.

Hopefully this list has given you some ideas for your next car trip.  Taking road trips can definitely be quite a lot of fun, as long as you are prepared for the “electronic let down”.

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