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Road Trip Tips You Haven't Heard Yet

Updated on June 6, 2013

So You Are Thinking of a Road Trip?

I am currently at my road trip destination in Pueblo Colorado. I must say that it was an adventure getting here. Especially considering that my husband stayed behind, so I was on my own with a 5 & 7 year old. Over all it was a very good trip and my son only asked two times if we were there yet. And in his defense, I would have been asking too, because by then he knew we were less than 2 hours away so it was hard to be patient any longer. Things would have been even better had the air conditioner worked and we didn't have to have the windows down the whole time.

But before I started packing up to hit the road, I started searching the web for tips and tricks of things to keep the kids busy. I also hoped to run across some ways to make basic organization of 'to-do" items easier. I was pleased with how much information I found, but also disappointed that most of it was the same thing over and over. Half of the websites/blogs even used the same pictures, it was kind of annoying really.

Anyway, lets move on shall we?

My biggest peeve about packing a bag for in the car is that I can never find what I want when I want it without digging to the very bottom. 90% of the time, the bag goes into the car as neat as possible, but within the first 30 minutes it's already a disaster. Coloring books are flimsy and slip sideways or fall over and block your view of everything. Snacks can be small and disappear under the bigger stuff. Crayons always fall out of the box and all over the bag, the granola bars get squashed. You get the picture.

For myself traveling alone and both my children still in a booster and car seat, I knew that when they needed something, I would have to be the one to get it. But how am I supposed to do that when the bag looks like this (if I am lucky) and I am driving?

In order from left to right, top to bottom.  Crystal Light canister, dollar store box, tall tupperware container, Velveeta Cheese box bottom and snack sized bags.
In order from left to right, top to bottom. Crystal Light canister, dollar store box, tall tupperware container, Velveeta Cheese box bottom and snack sized bags.

How to Organize an "In-flight" Bag

So I got my brain a ticking and came up with something I think is quite brilliant. (pats self on back)

Take these simple items, or ones very similiar that you already have at home and you can create a much better bag.

The Velveeta Box bottom is perfect for coloring books, journals, story books, deck of cards, or video game cases. Basically anything skinny or tall that would slip sideways and disappear will stack nicely in this box.

I recommend colored pencils versus crayons on a road trip. The inside of your vehicle gets hot quickly even in 70 degree weather and those crayons are liable to melt. Sharpen all the pencils before you hit the road and you should be good for a large portion of the day. A rubber banded bundle of these sit nicely in this box too.

The Crystal Light canister is almost always the perfect height for plastic ware and napkins.

The tall Tupperware container holds granola bars, pop-tarts, fruit roll-ups, pencils, and pens perfectly.

The small dollar store box works well for those prepackaged snacks. That's what the snack baggies are for. You don't need to stop and get chips at every gas station. Just get some chips, goldfish, pretzels, whatever and prepackage them yourself.

Nicely organized bag.
Nicely organized bag.

Not only do I have a bag that is very well organized with nothing covering up or hiding everything else, I can also place this bag in the passenger seat and grab virtually everything without looking. Which makes things much safer.

What is the Best part of a Road Trip?

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Route highlighted in orange.
Route highlighted in orange.
Route highlighted in orange
Route highlighted in orange
Rand McNally we used.
Rand McNally we used.
List of cities along our route.  Mile marker is on the left and distance travelend between cities is on the right.
List of cities along our route. Mile marker is on the left and distance travelend between cities is on the right.

Boost their Road Knowledge

At first I was surprised that this trick we used wasn't found on any of the blogs I visited, then I remembered that we live in a technology age where GPS is far more prevalent than road maps. But I myself do not like GPS, I prefer the old fashioned way of a paper map. My family and I road tripped back and forth all over the US my whole childhood, and I was the navigator. This became an invaluable tool for me and I believe it is what makes it so easy for me to find my way around places I don't know. It is very difficult for me to get lost and North, South, East and West are fairly easy directions for me use. I want my children to have this ability too. Technology fails too easily and I do not want them crippled by this.

This is what we did to prepare for our trip AND to give my son something to do. It really helped the miles tick by faster and can be beefed up or down depending on your child's age and capabilities in math. First I had him look at a Road Map and help me find our basic path, which he was able to do with ease. Then I sat down and wrote out the names of cities all along our path.

As we drove he would tell me the next city to look for. When we got to it, I would tell him the mile marker and he would do the math of how many miles we just traveled. After about 7 cities he was able to tell what a mile marker was, and able to notice that each exit had a number that matched the closest mile marker to that sign. Soon he was looking at the map and telling me what mile marker our next city was at long before we got there.

This really helped the miles go so much faster, it broke our trip down into 20 minute chunks, instead of 2 hour chunks.

We also had him record the gas mileage when we stopped for gas. You could expand this and have an older child calculate how long it will take to get to the next city or how long it took to get from the last city. They could also estimate what city you will need to stop for gas in by adding up the distance between cities.

I would recommend hitting the thrift stores a few weeks before you head out and look for an old Thomas Guide or Rand McNally of the US. Even if it is quite a few years outdated, the main information such as Interstates, city names and mileage will remain fairly the same year to year. Not only that, it gives the kids something to look at as you drive.

New Games to Play

New "I Spy"

Okay, so "I Spy" seemed to be a popular suggestion for a road trip game. But for our family, the rules we use will not allow "I Spy" to work in a moving vehicle. If my son were to pick a color on a billboard, how is my daughter to guess that this is what he is looking at, if it is now 5 miles behind us? So we use the "I Spy" books instead. Luckily we have found 2 in thrift stores and have been gifted 2 over the last 5 years. My children do something a little different since their reading ability is not usually high enough to understand the list at the bottom of the page.

Instead what they do is they take turns picking something for the other to find and they pass the book back and forth. This could literally go on for hours as there are at least 15 pages in each book and the books are HUGE.

If you do not have "I Spy" books and do not wish to purchase them, you could make your own fairly simply. There are thousands of picture at your fingertips in Wiki-media Commons. Simply look up things like: messy rooms, hoarders, construction sight, school, day care. Any place that will have a lot of activity and print them out. The kids can do the same exact thing my children do. Although I think by the time you finished printing 8x10's in photo paper, you probably could have purchased one.

New Alphabet Lists

You have your basic alphabet game of making a list in alphabetical order. This is always a common favorite. Here are some other ways to play word games.

Choose a category such as water creatures. Every one takes turns naming as specifically as they can all the water creatures they can think of. You could also do this in alphabetical order depending on age group. We do not repeat them over and over, we simply keep adding. One rule we have is that you cannot simply just say "fish" because that removes ALL types of fish from being said. You have to say the type of fish instead.

~~Other categories -- fruits and vegetables, types of flowers, bugs and spiders, things for baby, types of cars, colors, herbs and spices, etc etc.

New Random Word Game

My children are learning how to spell, so I came up with this one, which they really like. It has no limits on types of words (but you can add that for older age groups). All words are fair game, the rule is that the next person must say a word that starts with the last letter of the last word said. This can get really tricky for older kids because they can start to plan ahead and choose words with tricky letters to try and stump the next person.

For our little ones, we added the rule that they had to say the letter they were supposed to use and then the word. This really helped with the frustration level of my then 4 year old. If she said the wrong letter, I could spell the word for her so she knew the right letter. Otherwise she might sit there for 3-4 minutes and finally come up with a word and it was wrong.

Adding in the rule that they must also spell the whole word the last person said could be a fun way to make it more challenging for the older crowd.


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