A friend of mine from Wisconsin recently spent a week in Orlando, Florida on a family vacation. She and her husband drove to Orlando with two young children – from Wisconsin.
While 24 hours in a minivan with kids might not sound like your idea of a relaxing vacation, more and more families are opting to drive instead of fly in order to save a little money, especially as airlines continue finding new ways to charge travelers for flying. Whether you’re packing up for a trip across the country, or heading to grandma’s seven hours away for a holiday weekend, check out these simple tips for keeping kids entertained on a long car ride.
5 Ways To Entertain Kids On A Long Car Ride
1. Pack surprises for your kids.
I have to admit, I actually got this idea from a commenter on a previous post about road trip planning tips. The idea is to pack away a few goodies to be given out just when boredom and restlessness levels threaten to become dangerous. What kind of surprises should you pack? Beth (the original genius), says:
“I usually pack enough surprises for the kids to equal each hour we will be in the car – most are small (a bag of their favorite chips, a small toy) but sometimes a big surprise like a new game for their nintendo ds, a new cd, or a new book can deter the crabbies and buy an extra hour or two of happiness in the car.”
2. Bring coloring books, crayons, paper and pens (or pencils).
I love the idea of my children classic literature in the backseat while my husband and I discuss current events in the front. Unfortunately, my children seemed to have inherited my penchant for motion sickness brought on by reading in the car. Drawing and coloring is the next best thing! We bring a giant resealable plastic bag to hold all of the crayons. We also bring paper, pens and pencils for drawing – which is more likely to entertain my older child than coloring.
3. Stock up on travel games – the not free kind.
Perhaps your children are, like mine, far too gadgetly gifted for their own good and everyone in the family has their own hand-held gaming device. I doubt I have to remind you to pack those. But on the off chance those get boring, or your family has yet to succumb to the idea that four year olds should own video games, consider picking up the travel version of your favorite non-video games. You can find games like Travel Yahtzee online or at your local Big Box Store.
(If, however, your kids are ridiculously blessed in the gadget department, you may want to check out some of the iPhone apps for kids. Yes, they exist.)
4. Play travel games – the free kind.
Of course, people were able to amuse themselves long before Milton Bradley came along. There are at least 8 travel games you can play in the car with your kids with no money or pre-planning needed. One of my favorite thing about these types of games is that it encourages talking between the front and back seats – but in a good way.
5. Set snack and meal times.
If you have kids, you probably pack food and drinks in the car for a long car ride. If you’re my mother-in-law, you pack food and drinks in your purse for a trip to the next room. JUST IN CASE! If you’re going to be in the car with kids for hours, try resisting the urge to open the first bag of chips when you pull out of your driveway and graze until you reach your destination – or until the food runs out, whichever comes first. (And we all know which one comes first. Always.) Instead, set snack and meal times that your kids can look forward to. The anticipation probably won’t keep them occupied, but stopping what they’re doing to partake in something resembling an actual meal will burn up some miles (and minutes).
Fortunately, our car that we picked up at Mazda Tampa has great gas milage so every little bit helps, especially when there are no overhead loads (on top of the roof).
Photo by Britt Reints. In my defense, that particular packing job was done last minute.