The Family Road Trip - Plan or Die
This is the time of year when many of us have the bright idea that it’s fun to take the kids, pack up the van and head across country for a road trip. Believe me, it will not be fun – rather, a nightmare of epic proportions – unless you take some time upfront and plan ahead for the long hours of driving.
After surviving many of these trips with my twins at various stages of their development, we experienced the whole gamut – “I’m hungry,” “I’m bored,” “he’s touching me!” “where are we?” “can’t find my glasses” and the classic “Are we there yet?” I found these MUST HAVES for parents to keep their sanity on a long trip – and keep the kids engaged and busy.
Back of seat organizer – like this, this or this. They hold toys, books, paper, markers, etc. and are in easy reach of each child. Also holds an iPad or tablet so kids can watch their favorite movie with earphones – no more fighting over who gets to choose the movie!
Personal Snack and Drink Bags – everyone gets to pack their own with favorites. Get an insulated one like this to keep drinks and fruits/cheese cold. Fill 4-5 snack-size plastic bags with munchies such as – raisins, nuts, mini-cookies, mini-sandwich crackers, mini-pretzels, Cheerios, dried pineapples, banana chips, trail mix. Stay away from heavy duty sugar bars like Snickers or Milky Way – the sugar highs will leave you exhausted and the lows make everyone cranky.
Trash – get a Rubbermaid cereal container – pop off the top and put in a plastic or paper bag, then replace the top, securing the bag. Keeps things neat, won’t tip over and spill French fries all over the floor, and holds trash together in one place. Even better – get several, fold them and place them on the bottom under the working bag, and you automatically have a new bag ready to go!
Road Games. Story Starters from Somewhat Simple is really fun – you start off a story and each person has to add a sentence. It’s great for all ages. Also Road Trip Questionnaire – actually helps everyone know each other better, and stimulates conversation and interaction. Use as a break from electronics. Road Trip Scavenger Hunt – (thanks to Jessika Reed from Hip and Simple). And Mad Libs – a must!
Creative Magnet Art – Build a house! Create a wardrobe! Design an airport, museum, or dance studio! Put together a dinner! Take a cookie sheet and put Velcro underneath in the center, about 6 inches long. Get a pillow (whatever size you prefer), stick the other end of the Velcro on to line up with the sheet and voila! Find cool pictures online of whatever your game theme is, paste onto a Word document, print onto Avery printable Magnet sheets, cut everything out, and you’ve got yourself hours of creative fun. The sheet stays on your lap, is a perfect surface for all kinds of magnet games, as well as a good eating and playing, reading tray. Or you could just buy it here.
Suction cup shower caddy to attach to the window and hold small items that usually end up lost, on the floor, or mysteriously under another seat. Great for sunglasses, earplugs, matchbox cars, Polly Pockets, or snacks.
National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More.
Of course, it goes without saying that you’ll also want books (regular and on tape), neck pillows, water bottles, ear plugs, and an iPad/tablet for movies.
So, keep it varied – you can change the activity every half hour or so, alternating between electronic and real life interaction. And that interaction thing – well, isn’t that the whole point?