Traveling with the family can be a wonderful adventure, especially when you’re riding together in the car. Road trips offer the opportunity to spend time together and see new sights, and they can be educational as well as entertaining. However, they’re not without their challenges. First, technology can be great for providing entertainment along the way, but if everyone is plugged into a device, it defeats the purpose of family time. Then, too, staying organized and friendly in such close quarters can be a struggle. How can you make the most of your time on the road?
First, let the kids help plan the trip, so it will feel like their trip, too. Map out the trip, and show them your route on the map. Talk about your destination and what you plan to do once you get there, but talk about things you’d like to see along the way, too. When you’re budgeting for the trip, loop them in on that, encouraging them set some aside some money for the trip. If you have upper elementary-aged kids or older, spark their creativity and help them brainstorm ways to raise money. Can they do extra chores? Wash cars? Set up a lemonade stand? Earning money toward the trip gives them a sense of accomplishment and raises their excitement about the trip, and when they bring their own spending money, they’ll be less likely to nag you for souvenirs. Next, try these hacks to make life on the road easier.
- Pack road trip kits for each child. Clear plastic containers with lids that lock shut are perfect for this. Making each child responsible for his or her own kit keeps the car more organized and prevents squabbling. The kit should be big enough to hold:
- Small things to keep them occupied, such as action figures or crayons and a small notebook
- A day’s worth of snacks, dishes and utensils for eating on the go
- Small souvenirs they pick up along the way
- Keep bulk snacks in the back of the car. Divvy them up each day, putting each child’s portion into his or her road trip kit, and keeping some in the front seat within easy reach of the adults. Pretzels, trail mix, popcorn, nuts and fruit are all good options, and they make it easier to roll along without constant pit stops.
- Use cookie sheets as lap desks/activity boards. They can use them as a hard surface for drawing, and if you bring along a Tupperware or sandwich bag with magnets and magnetic letters, they’ll have fun making words and arranging magnets. Similarly, metal lunchboxes make good activity kits when filled with magnets, or you can use them to hold Legos or other small toys.
- Give each of your children a budget and put them in charge of their own spending. Offer advice and guidance, but allow them to make the final decisions on their own.
- Provide paper maps for each child to make time on the road more interesting. Highlight the route and allow them to draw on the map, marking off spots you pass along the way.
- If you’re visiting family, giving a photo album of relatives ahead of time will help kids keep people straight. This can be especially helpful if you’re going to be seeing people you haven’t seen in a while.
- Get audiobooks from your local library that the whole family can enjoy. This allows for entertainment without isolation, as you all listen together.
- Give the kids travel binders, to keep them occupied. You can purchase these, but they’re easy to make on your own using a three-ring binder with a pencil pouch clipped in. If you put activity pages into page protectors and include dry erase markers with a small piece of felt for wiping pages clean, kids can enjoy the activities over and over.
- Organize using shoe hanger storage on backs of seats. This can be a great way to contain all the little things kids want to have handy on the road.
- Have a road trip scavenger hunt. Make a list ahead of time or find one online, and distribute the lists at the beginning of the trip to get everyone excited. Determine prizes, whether it’s a big prize at the end or smaller prizes along the way, such as choosing where the family eats dinner.
- Bring glitter “calm down” bottles for times when tempers run high. You can make these using jars or bottles, warm water, glitter glue, food coloring and glitter. For a slower moving effect, you can also add a little bit of oil.
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