Road trips with kids can quickly put a damper on vacation plans. Ours are no exception and as a vacation was approaching, I began to dread one thing – the car ride. We weren’t sure of our plans for this trip until the last minute, but I knew that anywhere we were going to go would include some sort of long car ride, something that neither of my kids have quite been able to master. At this point, my son is entering “tween-dom”, his preferred method of travel is to put his headphones on and totally tune us out, for the most part, but my daughter has generally not mastered that art yet.
Luckilly, my kids are able to read, play video games or watch a movie in a moving vehicle without vomiting. For a long time, I’ve known that I can’t do this ever, and at times, my daughter is up against the same thing. It’s awful because really, if both of my kids were able to read or watch a movie all the time, our road trips would be much more pleasant. But there is nothing worse than hearing the dreaded “Mommy, I’m gonna throw up” come from the back seat of the car, when in a likelihood, at the precise moment, you are about 100 miles away from civilization.
In our car filled with more luggage than any 4 people require for 3 days plus a giant bag of snacks, we hit the Long Island Expressway. At approximately 4 minutes after we pulled out of our driveway, my daughter immediately started her mantra. Well, actually she has two – the first is “How much longer?”, quickly followed up by “I have to go to the bathroom.” Note that we’ve learned from experience and her going to the bathroom is always the last thing we do before we leave, but it never fails that 5 minutes after we get in the car, she has to go again.
The whining above, which never fails to begin within minutes of our leaving, adds up to a 4 hour car ride that has the potential to feel like an eternity.
So what’s the alternative to the whining and carrying on on a 4 hour road trip?
Answer: Don’t take a vacation ever that involves a road trip with kids.
Oh, no, sorry, that can’t be the answer because I’ve seen a bazillion of my Facebook friends recount the details of their amazing and fun road trips with kids to places like the Outer Banks and Disney World, which are way more than a 4 hour drive from New York.
Nope, here’s the secret answer to road trips with kids:
car games (says my should-have-been-a-camp-counselor-husband).
Really? That’s the secret?
Yes, I promise! Games will keep even the whiniest of road-trippers entertained – and for a significant amount of time. Here are a few of my kids favorites (we played them all on our trip yesterday).
The Alphabet Game
The first person calls out something that they see that starts with the letter “A”. Second person does “B” and so on until you are done with the alphabet. The key to this game is that you actually have to see the thing that you are calling out. So yes, if your turn is “E”, elephant generally will not work if you are just driving from New York to New Jersey. See how creative the kids will be!
The License Plate Game
As you drive, look at all of the license plates on the cars traveling along side of you, and try and find all of the states. You can have different contests that include finding license plates from the furthest states or the most license plates from a particular state. Have a checklist and checkoff each state as you see their license plate. Something cool that someone recently suggested to me was to have the kids take a picture of each different state’s plate that you see. You can do this on one car trip or have it last for every car trip throughout the summer.
Pick something and count how many you see. My kids always love to count all the yellow cars that they see. (You would think that yellow cars are few and far between but really, I’ll tell you, they aren’t.) Choose a color car, police cars, cars with bikes/boats/trailers – anything. Your kids will keep their eyes peeled to the road looking for them and (maybe) won’t think of complaining.
Stop and Listen
Before you leave for your trip, load up your iPod with music that you and your kids would want to listen to. If your kids are little, there is some great music that kids and adults will both like, such as Bari Koral and La Bella Stella. Use this time to introduce your kids to some music that you like too – my kids are actually able to name songs as they hear them by Billy Joel, Bon Jovi and some Guns ‘N’ Roses (although my daughter still calls them “Red Roses”). As an alternative to music, pop in an audio book that would be great for the whole family, like Harry Potter.