A little preparation can turn any road trip into a fun family adventure. For a complete list of great ideas, get the book 201 Things to Do When Children Say I’M BORED! The Checklist & Journal for Busy Families at www.201thingstodo.com.
Here are some suggestions and creative ideas to help families enjoy one another’s company while traveling on the road.
FOR TODDLERS: Prepare ziplock bags of items to be given out every 25, 50 or 75 miles. In each bag put a wrapped item, a small toy, juice or a snack (apple slices won’t turn brown if dipped in Sprite), stickers, or something pertaining to the trip.
Pack a new bag of multi colored pipe cleaners (about $1 or so) and let their creativity run wild as they make letters, flowers, animals, chains, jewelry, twist ties in their hair, and practice braiding.
FOR OLDER CHILDREN: Let children help plan the vacation. Encourage them to pick motels and other stops along the way. Reserve the right to veto any impractical or unsafe plans. They can research family friendly destinations by region here: http://www.schoolfamily.com/school-family-articles/article/10652-top-20-summer-destinations-for-learning.
Give the children a map to show how far you have come, how much farther there is to go. Each time they ask “How much further?” have them take out their map and see for themselves. Older children can use this site, http://www.travmatix.com, to print driving directions along with a list of all the food, fuel and hotel options at every exit along your route. When they get hungry or need a break, have them check the list of what is available at upcoming exits.
Forego iPods, DVDs and cell phones. Play games instead. Come up with lots of categories and prizes so everyone wins.
1. Scavenger Hunt. Make a list of items to watch for while driving. Make up the list ahead of time and adjust for scenery. Some items to hunt for: someone on a bike, flashing red light, license plate with Q, playground, church, railroad tracks, American flag, etc.
2. Counting Cows (or whatever). Divide the car occupants into teams, left and right side. Decide how you will determine when the game will end (time,. Count the cows you see on your side of the car. If you pass a cemetery on your side of the car, you lose all your cows — but only if the opposing team calls out, “Your cows are buried!” A white horse can count as a bonus. The team with the most cows wins!
3. True or False. Make a statement about yourself. Ask the children to decide if the statement is true or false. Think about which experiences you would like to share.
4. My Restaurant. Make up a restaurant and describe it. Include outrageous details such as extreme locations, decorations, menu and customers who eat there often. Have the older children write down what the younger children say. Add drawings.
5. Dots and Lines. Make your own game board using a blank sheet of paper. Fill a section with evenly spaced rows of dots about half an inch apart. Take turns drawing horizontal or vertical lines between adjacent dots connecting them together. If you complete a full square, write your initial in the box and take another turn. If your line creates two boxes, then you get to put your initial in both of them. Some strategy will be involved to see if you can create more boxes than your opponent. Continue playing until all the dots on the page are connected. The player with the most boxes wins.
Lastly, you can check out books on tape from the library, make up silly stories using Mad Libs, and if you can stand it, print out the lyrics to Willie Nelson’s song On the Road Again and sing out loud.