“Mom, she touched me!” “Dad, tell him to stop putting his feet on my side!” Ahhh – the sounds of the family road trip. Well, with a little planning, your family vacation can be more fun than frustrating. Here are 8 tips for road trips with preschoolers if you have young kids.
1. The License Plate Game
A classic. Drivers from all over the country are out there sharing the road with you. Give everyone a blank map of the United States. As they spot different state license plates, they fill it in on the map. The person who fills in the most states wins. The prize? They get to choose where to stop for lunch.
2. Photo Journalists
Buy each of your children a one-time-use camera. They usually have about 24 pictures. Instruct them to document the journey. They can take pictures of anything they want as long as they are taken during the road trip. It will be very interesting and likely very funny, when you get them developed back home. Before they start snapping, though, come up with some parameters. Otherwise, they might take all 24 pictures in 24 minutes.
3. Scrapbook Time
Give the kids paper, scissors, and a glue stick. Every time you stop, let them pick out postcards of the area you are in. Grab some of those millions of brochures that tell of the local adventures and sights. With these, the kids can create their own personal scrapbook story of the trip. Have them write details of what happened. Later on, they can add the photos they took.
4. Gadgets Galore
Electronic games, iPods, iPads, cell phones. We have a whole lot of gadgets in our arsenal nowadays. Put them to good use. Challenge your son to beat his own high score in his favorite game. He won’t even notice that an entire hour just passed by.
5. The Official Map
“Dad, when are we going to get there?” A timeless question. Print out your entire trip and give a copy to all of the kids. When that question rears its inevitable head, you will be ready. Simply tell them where you are and have them find it on their map.
Of course there are a lot of interesting sights on the road—giant plastic dinosaurs, historical landmarks, wildlife, etc. Print out a list of items you will be likely to see on your trip; some easy to spot and some difficult. Whichever family member checks off the most items gets the prize. You can break it down into categories or just make one big all-inclusive hunt.
7. The Deep Discussion
Here’s a novel idea…the whole family putting down the games, turning off the movie, and having a thoughtful discussion. Deep discussions can last for hours. Maybe the topic is religion. How do you see God? What is He like? Maybe even politics. Do you feel like everybody is treated fairly in this country? Not only do religion and politics usually lead to heated debates, but you will learn a lot about how your child feels and thinks.
8. Quirky Stops
Of course Dad wants to plow through as fast as possible. However, you can break up the boredom by planning a few stops of fun along the way. Find quirky and unique places to check out. You’ve got to get out and stretch your legs anyway. Going to the restroom inside a building shaped like a great white shark is always more fun than a boring gas station!
If you must, you must. When things get unbearable for the kids, portable DVD players are a parent’s best friend. Let Hollywood work its magic while you peacefully chew up the miles. Plus, if the kids are plugged in, you’ll get the chance to actually have a grown up conversation with your spouse!