When you live in the Midwest, getting to almost any adventure requires a good amount of driving. Whether it be the lakeshore (Lake Michigan, between 3-5 hours), an exciting city (Chicago, 4 hours) or the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the “most beautiful place on earth” (5 hours), our family is guaranteed some time in the car to get there. Good thing we like to drive and love our family car, an Audi A4 Avant affectionately known as Sally.
With all the driving we get to do on family trips, you could say our girls are experts at hopping in the car and making a road trip tolerable without asking, “are we there yet” too many times.
Last weekend, while we were planning our Summer adventures, the girls asked whether we could write another article together, this time about road trips. “You know,” suggested V, “ideas for kids like us so they don’t get bored while their parents take them places in the car.”I thought this was a great idea, and handed them a pad and paper so they could put a list of ideas together.
Below are the girls’ top-ten suggestions for a fun, hassle-free family road trip, presented in the order they provided them.
Bring your favorite books. Not all kids can read in the car without getting sick, but for those who can, getting a new book, or the next installment in a beloved series can turn a long ride into an exciting opportunity to delve into a great story without interruptions. V recommends the Geronimo Stilton series (“you can finish a book in one trip!”) and J prefers graphic novels like The Amulet, or comics like Calvin and Hobbes.
- Tell your family stories. Little people have big imaginations, and when given room to daydream out loud are sure to entertain you (and themselves). However, J suggests you may want to limit the length of time each kid gets to tell their story: “V hogs all the time and if you don’t stop her, she talks the entire trip!”
- Play I Spy. I Spy has surprisingly remained a hit in our family. The girls will challenge eachother to find the smallest detail in the car, or spot items in the landscape as we travel. V suggests you use her strategy for victory: “you can trick your sister if you pick a car she can’t see from her side.”
- Play Rock, Paper, Scissors. We’d never realized just how competitive rock-paper-scissors could be until the girls played it while we traveled up north last year. If your kiddos are passionate about winning, this game may not be the right choice for you. :)
- Talk to your family about stuff. Road trips can be a wonderful chance for families to interact, even if the interaction comes at the price of a fight or two (or three) between siblings in the back seat. The car is the perfect place to ask them about their world: school, their friends, and their ideas. If you can stand it, encourage your kids to use their creativity to get them through the “boring” parts of the road trip. The skill of entertaining yourself during the boring parts of a trip is sure to come in handy in adulthood!
Watch a movie on the iPod. Sometimes, a movie can be a wonderful way to create an hour of peace and quiet in the car. Surprisingly, kids don’t mind watching the same movie several times, especially if it is a favorite. Parents beware: after watching a movie, our girls get even more antsy about sitting in the car than before, so we tend to save the visual entertainment for the last hour of the trip.
- Hold a Staring Contest with Your Sister. See item 4. re. the possibility of a fight. Staring contests often require refs to determine who blinked first, and you are sure to get roped in to this role. Be prepared to rule with an iron fist.
- Stretch. Sitting still for hours is hard, even if you’re an adult. Ideally, the family can get a workout (like a run or a bike ride) before getting in the car. But even if this is not possible, taking breaks to stretch can work wonders for everyone. J loves yoga, so she and I can do a few sun salutes and feel instantly energized. V, who says “yoga is Mom’s thing, I don’t like it,” prefers her soccer stretches. Whatever routine your family chooses should work really well.
- Take a nap. If you have kids, you may have experienced a baby who would only sleep if the car was moving. If you’re lucky, this baby has grown into a kid who may take a nice nap while you travel. This option requires a somewhat quiet sibling (something not available to our spirited family). Oh, and V suggests one more thing: “don’t nap if you are driving the car, duh!”
Eat snacks. Food found on the road is hardly good for you, so your best bet is to pack nice snacks for your family. We usually take simple sandwiches, energy bars, bananas and water on our trips. If you care about your car’s interior, I recommend you stay away from juices, liquid meals, or sauces, as they are sure to land on the seat while everyone is attempting to eat in motion. “My favorite snacks are Cliff Builder Bars and chips,” says J, adding, “but Mom won’t let us eat chips because we get the cheese everywhere.” (However, Mom has been known to eat said chips while kids were asleep during road trips).
Hopefully these tips will have you on your way to a fun family Summer road trip season. Do you have any ideas of your own for how to make road trips more fun? Share them with us!