If you’ve decided to save your money on airfare and baggage handling fees this summer for the chance to take a family road trip, the key to a successful adventure is to be prepared for anything and everything that might come your way. From traffic jams, to backseat bickering to an incessant chorus of “Are We There Yet,” here are some tried and true tips to keep kids of varying ages entertained from the moment they pile into the car until you reach your final destination.
Short Road Trips
No need to lug tons of items – iPhone, iTouch and BlackBerry. For a 1-2 road trip, the iPhone and iTouch make perfect companions to keep a child entertained throughout the journey. Simply visit the App store on either device and download games and digital books right in the palm of your hand.
For younger children, MobiStories.com recently released “The Marvelous Toy,” a classic children’s book with music by Grammy Award-winning folk singer Tom Paxton on the iPhone, iTouch and iPad. As a story is read to the child, they can touch the screen and bring images to life while listening to music. MobiStories also offers puzzles, short stories and biographies (including one on Michelle Obama) that can be experienced on the iPhone, iPad and PC as well.
Keep a sketch pad in the car with crayons at all times. There’s nothing like a doodling contest among back seat passengers to pass the time away.
The Great Outdoors:
My favorite past time during a short road trip is Traffic Jam 21. When you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, select a car for each child who then adds up the numbers. If you have less than 16, you can pick another car and add more numbers and the closest person to 21 wins.
Medium Road Trips – 2-4 Hours
The iPad, Nintendo DSi XL will be your best friend on longer road trips where your children will begin to get restless after the first hour. Also – make sure you pack a bag of fruit, snacks and water.
One of my favorite new gadgets is the Nintendo Dsi XL which offers a built in game called “Flip Notes” where your child can draw several pictures, record their voice and create an animated short right from their DS. Etch a Sketch, Rubik’s Cube, Mad Libs and Travel Bingo and Scrabble are some of our favorite car ride must haves.
The Great Outdoors
License plate state game – before you leave home, make note of the places you’re traveling too and write down the state bird, flower and flag. Then, as you pass cars on the road, challenge your kids to remember each item and call them out.
For younger kids: option is to have them call out the name of a US State or city from the first letter of the license plate.
Long Road Trips – 4-10 hours.
For longer family road trips, try to drive at night or during nap times and if you are tackling the trip during the day, make sure you take frequent rest stops so that you can break up the trip.
Batten down the hatches and bring an entire arsenal of games, DVD players, laptop computers, iPad, Kindle. Bring your kids favorite DVD movies and TV shows for viewing on a DVD player or laptop. And don’t forget to pack snacks and drinks!
Before you leave, give each of your children a bag that they can fill with their favorite games for the trip. Each child can bring up to 10 items for their bag and they are allowed to swap during the trip as long as no arguments break out in the car. One rule – no games with tiny pieces – which means Legos are off limits!!! I also love a new DS game offered by Harper Collins – 100 classic books for the Nintendo DS! From the Wizard of Oz to Tom Sawyer – introduce your child to the classics – right in the palm of their hand!
The Great Outdoors:
If you’re traveling through different states, you can play a marathon game of iSpy – select at least 20 items that each passenger must find while they are in the state – from cows, to specific trees, to signs, birds, license plates, etc. Before you know it, you will have crossed state lines before you’ve even hit all 20 items!