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Keep Kids Entertained on a Trip

Updated on March 22, 2011

Are We There Yet?

No matter how you decide to go, when you’re taking the kids along, be prepared for the inevitable: “Are we there yet?” To prevent the question, keep them entertained along the way with some simple, fun, and (shh!) educational tricks. Even better: these ideas don’t require squeezing anything else into your suitcases. At least, most of them don’t.

First, make sure the kids are fed and watered. If their physical needs are met, they’re a lot more likely to be in a good mood, and receptive to games and other play – and less likely to whine. If you have a GPS, or if you’ve Googled your trip in advance, plan ahead for potty stops, and either pack snacks and lunch stuff in coolers, along with juice and water. (TIP: freeze some of the juice and water overnight, before you pack it in the cooler. It will keep the rest of the stuff cool, and as it melts, it will be cold.)

Be aware of how far along you are. If you DO get asked: “Are we there yet,” have a real answer. Kids are people, too, and all they want is to know. “Not yet,” is too vague. “In 30 minutes,” works for kids 12 and up. For younger than that, tell them you’ll be there in the time it takes to watch one of their favorite shows. That’s a time frame they can understand. (By the same token, if it’s an hour, tell them TWO of their favorite shows.)

If you haven’t taken a long road trip before, you’ll be amazed at how fast the car or van turns gross. Large black garbage bags – or even oversized, heavy-duty construction bags, available at home repair stores – make great tablecloths and drop cloths, as well as garbage bags. Keep it in mind; you’ll be happy you did.

Get everyone on board for the “group potty stop” idea. It’s efficient, and kids – especially school-age kids – tend to be less reluctant to go when EVERYONE is going at the same time. After all, they’re used to lining up at school.

Plan your playlists ahead of time. If you have a teenager, assign them the task of getting everyone’s favorites and mixing some CDs for the car. It’s a fun chore for them, and this way you have a little of everyone’s music to listen to on the way. You could go with assigning everyone their own iPod, but that sort of defeats the purpose of togetherness – although it DOES make for a nice, quiet ride, so keep it mind for parts of the trip.

When everyone’s tired of music, sing-a-longs, food, drink, and potty stops, here are some fun games the whole family can play.

The Alphabet Chain Game.
Target age: 4 and up. (This can be a challenge, even for grownups.) Number of players: unlimited.
How to: First player’s word begins with A. Second player’s word must begin with B, but the word MUST relate SOMEHOW to the A word.
Example: apple, banana: both fruits.
Banana, cactus: both plants.
Cactus, desert.
Desert, earth.
Relationships are decided by majority vote, or the player must come up with a new word or pass. Like the ancient game of telephone, it’s fascinating to see how far away from the original word concept this game takes you.

Targeted Twenty Questions
Target age: 4 and up. Number of players: unlimited.
How to: Given 20 yes-or-no questions or less, players must guess one player’s secret. Player who guesses chooses next.

By “Targeted,” this adaptation of Twenty Questions includes “Animal Twenty Questions,” “Toymaker Twenty Questions,” “Dinosaur Twenty Questions,” “Musical Twenty Question,”  - the only limit is your imagination – but by limiting the scope of the twenty questions game, it adds an element of fun.

Scavenger Hunt
When planning the route, you can also plan a “scavenger hunt.” Driving through farmland? Add cows to the list. Urban-bound? Skyscrapers. Give each child a list to look for and cross out. They’ll be riveted to the windows. Small prizes from the dollar store – like a notepad and crayons (don’t forget the clipboard, so they can use them in the car) – are perfect. (If you have more than one child, don’t forget “runner-up” prizes, if you don’t want war in the backseat.)

Car Bingo
Available for download at Inkless Tales, at, are four printable “bingo” cards with familiar sign icons your backseat passengers (and even your navigator, should he or she want to play) can cross off as they see them. The first one to get a line across, down, or diagonally wins.

Actual Conversation
Try really talking to each other. Kids LOVE to hear about their parents when they were kids. Start the conversation with your own vacation memories. Ask your kids what THEIR favorite memories are. You’ll be staggered by what you hear when you talk to your kids and then really listen. It’s truly worth a ten-hour car trip.

Car Bingo: download it from Inkless Tales.

Car Bingo: Download it from Inkless Tales. Image © Elizabeth WIlliams Bushey
Car Bingo: Download it from Inkless Tales. Image © Elizabeth WIlliams Bushey

Are We There Yet?

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    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 8 years ago

      another good hub