I think it’s because we’re so sick of being cooped up inside all winter that we delight in the first opportunity to get out. We are fans of the Great American Road Trip– loading all the kids in the minivan and driving as far as we can before we’re ready to kill eachother. Here are some ideas that I’ve picked up from our journeys:
1. Leave as early in the morning as possible. Or maybe as late at night as possible. Basically, leave at a time when your kids are most likely to be sleeping, so they will sleep in the car. Sleeping children are much more pleasant to travel with.
2. Make it special. I have a friend who lived in Texas and would drive (with her 3 kids under 5) back to Utah a couple times a year. That’s a 22 hour drive! She told me that she would always go to the store the night before the trip and buy donuts and chocolate milk for breakfast so the kids could eat in the car on the way. We’ve started doing this too, and our kids love it. (Donuts typically have “treat” status in our family, so it’s equivalent to eating ice cream cones for breakfast.)
Another way to make it special is to buy some new toys for your kids to use on the trip. When we went to Disneyland earlier this year, I bought a new coloring book and box of crayons for each of my girls. What a thrill a new coloring book can be. I also bought some cheap little toy (Littlest Pet Shop maybe?) I wrapped all these things up and they got to pick one item to unwrap each time we stopped. It was awesome! Instead of whining about getting back in the car, they couldn’t wait!
3. Snacks. Road trips mean snacks. Another friend of mine took advantage of the post-Halloween candy sale to stock up on treats for her upcoming Thanksgiving road trip. We always have special snacks for road trips– things I don’t usually buy like beef jerky and Pringles. I like to try to pack some healthy foods like apples and oranges in addition to our junk because after a while your body starts to crave something with nutritional value.
As for drinks– I learned the hard way that those little Yoplait smoothies are a terrible idea. Our daughter spilled hers in her cupholder and didn’t tell us about it till we had been in California for 2 days. It was a horrible, nasty mess! Water is always a safe bet, especially if you can remember to freeze it the night before.
4. Books. My kids love looking at books, even if I’m not back there reading to them. I always pack lots of books. It would also be a great idea to have a book on CD for the family to listen to.
5. Music. Just before we left for a road trip, I checked out the Pinkalicious CD from the library. Let me tell you, it was a hit! We pretty much played it non-stop and the girls even choreographed some moves to go along with the songs. That is such a happy memory for all of us. Go to your library and try to find a new CD that you think your kids might enjoy.
6. Games. Our kids love to play “I Spy” while we’re driving. They also like to play a game where we take turns saying words that rhyme. Sometimes we take turns telling stories or adding on to eachother’s stories. Recently we introduced them (at ages 4 and 6) to the concept of 20 Questions and they loved it. (we limited it so that they could only choose an animal, this made it easier for them to guess the answer).
Sometimes when the kids are asleep while we drive home at night, the husband and I will play a game to keep the driver awake. We flip through the stations on the radio, naming the artist who is singing. He complains that I have an unfair advantage on the country stations, but really we both just have a good time together. Another one we play is where one of us randomly says a word (like “blue”) and the other has to come up with a song that has that word in the title (Blue Suede Shoes).
What have you tried to make long car rides more bearable for your kids?