Taking a road trip for Memorial Day weekend can be a daunting task, especially when kids are involved. In my experience, if the kids are entertained, well fed, and rested, everyone is happy. Here are my best tips for keeping kids happy on a road trip:
Pack a good mix of snacks – including some surprises
Everyone gets hungry on a road trip, especially kids. Pack favorite healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit, cut up veggies, and whole grain cereal. Don’t forget drinks as well. I like to pack a few surprise snacks for kids in the car to keep them entertained. This can either be an old forgotten favorite or a few cool new treats. While I do prefer packing mostly healthy snacks, I think a few treats are also good to have on a road trip in moderation.
Bust out some retro road games
It may seem like kids are only entertained by screens these days, but I’ve found that an old fashioned road game is the best way to pass the time on a car trip. Everyone gets involved and gets talking. Give your kids a checklist of states, and see if they can mark of a license plate from every one. Have younger kids look for license plates with certain letters or number combinations (like ‘U’ or ’15’). For older kids, try having the radio on a top 40 or oldies station and see who can name each song first.
Assign a navigator
Growing up, my parents kept me occupied with small navigational tasks. I did tell them how far we were on the map and what the next town we would be passing through was. This is a great task for kids who can read, and you can customize their navigational assistance to their learning level. Older kids can even help with directions, while younger kids can just get used to map reading. Any smartphone has great map software, but you can also do it the old fashioned way with actual maps if you are limiting screen time for kids.
Plan a few pit stops
Kids need to stop more than adults on a road trip, and you should plan on stopping about every hour or so. Plan ahead for things that kids may enjoy, even if it’s just visiting a playground or unusual gas station. Give kids a few minutes to play, stretch their legs, or look around. Even though it may feel like a pain to stop so much, everyone in the car will be much happier for it.
Bring blankets and pillows in the car
When kids get cranky in the car, it isn’t always because they’re bored. Kids get as worn out from trips as adults do, and they may need extra rest. Pack each kid’s favorite blanket, pillow, and even stuffed animal. If you make their seat comfortable and familiar, they will be more likely to rest and sleep.