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Make Road Trips With Children Fun

Updated on June 26, 2011

I have always loved a long car ride across the country. Summer is here and that means road trip season is upon us. Now that I have four children you would think I would have changed my mind, but no, I still love it. It just takes a bit more planning to make it enjoyable. It can be done though and I plan to do it again this summer.

First, plan for lots of stops. It is always good to get out and stretch your legs and kids especially need this. We don’t take long stops, but we take frequent ones. If we can go two hours without stopping we feel that we have done pretty well. This might seem pathetic, but with six people, four of them children, it seems that someone always has to go to the bathroom. And if we are stopping then we all get out. It just helps everyone be a little less cranky. Each stop doesn’t last long, so I figure it is equivalent to fewer, but longer stops. Plus I am willing to do whatever I can to make road trips easier on everyone.

Second, pack lots of things to do. This is where planning on your part comes in. While it is nice to let each child pack some things to do, unfortunately on long car rides they can get bored with these things quickly. I have found that when I pack some fun and interesting things for them – and dole them out periodically along the way – that it keeps them interested for longer. I search garage sales and stores for inexpensive toys, books, and craft materials and bring them along. We always listen to books on tape and this is a favorite part of trips for my kids. In fact they like these more than watching videos.

I print off coloring pages specific to states we are passing through or places we will be visiting and hand them out as we get there. Sometimes I will bring a kids book with information about each state and read that to the kids. It never hurts for them to learn a little while we are traveling. I also think this helps them feel more connected to where we are and where we are going.

Third, bring snacks! Having plenty of food and drinks while traveling is a key to keeping boredom (and arguments or tantrums) at bay. Take this into consideration when you stop for meals as your kids likely won’t eat as much if they munch in the car. If you make the food and drinks a little more special than every day food and drinks then the kids will love road trips. Trust me the way to a child’s heart is with good food. Plus it occupies them and gives them something to look forward to during the drive.

Fourth, travel during the night for at least one long stretch. It will make all the frequent day time stops a little more bearable. We frequently leave at 3 am when we are going to be traveling far. This way we get a good four hours in before the kids start waking up. Then everyone feels like we have made progress from the start. Sometimes we even travel straight through the night. This can be pretty hard on the adults, but on really long trips it makes it so much easier on the kids.

Fifth, play games with your kids. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t interact with us much in the car. I find that car rides are a great time to bond with my kids. They can’t walk away! Playing games with them, not just telling them to, is a great way to pass the time and build relationships. This makes it more fun for the kids and it keeps them occupied – which usually results in less whining and arguing.

Sixth, break out the electronics. I try to limit my kid’s access to electronics as much as possible. But when it comes to long trips, I am all for it. We don’t have anything fancy, but we always bring our Nintendo DS with us when we travel. The kids take turns and for long trips I will purchase a new game to keep up the excitement.

Seventh, get active. Whenever we stop we don’t allow anyone to sit down unless we are eating. We try to stand up and move around. This helps get the wiggles out and is very important for blood flow. The last thing we need is for someone to develop a blood clot because we sat in the car too long. We try to make this fun as well. We have games of tag or running races when we stop at rest areas. We have contests to see who can jump the farthest, walk the craziest, run the fastest, etc. - basically whatever we can think of. Taking five or ten minutes to get active when you stop, makes sitting in the car a lot more bearable.

It isn’t always about the destination. If you have the time, try to find some fun and interesting things to do along the way. Take your time getting there and find unique things to do in places you have never been. Traveling is a great way to build memories with your family. If planned right and done properly, road trips allow for more memories and bonding. I can’t wait until our next trip!


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    • nikkiraeink profile image

      nikkiraeink 5 years ago from So. Cal.

      Taking our first family road trip with our two year old this summer. I'm so glad I read this hub!

    • carol3san profile image

      Carolyn Sands 6 years ago from Hollywood Florida

      Love this hub. I'm going on a road trip next summer. By then my two small grandkids will be 5 and 2 years old. I never went with them on a road trip before, so I want to be prepared so everyone will be happy.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      I thoroughly enjoyed this one and thanks for sharing.

      Here's to many more to share on here.

      Take care and have a great day.


    • Farmer Brown profile image

      Farmer Brown 6 years ago

      My kids even made up a game with m&ms. I think the game was like the card game "War". No matter, it occupied them for an hour! Cool hub : )

    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 6 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      "It will make all the frequent day time stops a little more bearable. We frequently leave at 3 am when we are going to be traveling far." - Awwww, practical advice. Makes sense, if it's still dark, then children might still opt to sleep. Hopefully, they'd see the beautiful sights along the road on the way home.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Ooooh- you've shared some smart tips here! My parents certainly utilized a bunch of these when I was little. Roadtripping with kids takes a lot of bravery- thanks for making it a bit easier for folks with these useful tips!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      SWell written and good tips.

    • rwelton profile image

      rwelton 6 years ago from Sacramento CA

      Great Hub - will pass on to my three sons that are now starting their turn at the wheel with their kids. Thanks


    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      I'd love to ride with you, You make it so much fun!! And this is a very timely hub, as families are going on vacation.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      Great ideas. If I get brave I might try it with my grandchildren.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country

      Great tips. We took a trip from California to the East coast when our boys were 8 and 11, and shorter trips before that. Snacks and games are important, also some "never before seen surprises" sometimes helped.

      We survived even without electronics-- but I would have no problem using them, judiciously, now.