Planning a Memorial Day weekend road trip with your kids? Somewhere along the journey – maybe as soon as you reach the end of your block – you’ll hear a voice from the back seat pop that question: “Are we there yet?” With miles of family road trips under my belt, I offer you five activities to entertain the little, medium-sized and big kids in the back seat. Take it from experience: you may think you’re just killing time in the car, but if all goes well, you’ll be creating memories that will last long beyond Memorial Day weekend.
Make Custom Music CDs
My husband is a music lover. Before road trips he invites each family member to bring their favorite CDs to pop in the car CD player. When the kids were young, the collection would range from “Don’t Throw Your Junk in My Backyard” from kid’s music artists Greg and Steve to every U2 album ever recorded. He would also burn CDs with a wide rage of music, from Hawaiian artist Bruddah Iz to Johnny Cash. In this era of IPods and ear buds it may seem crazy to make everyone listen to the same music. But alternating IPod time with car stereo time isn’t a bad idea. The shared time can create an appreciation for a range of music for your kids. And when one of these songs crops up on the radio or TV, they’ll associate it with memories from your trips.
Books (And Comedy) On CD
Listening to audio books on CD is not only a good way to pass time in the car but an enriching experience for the kids (and adults). You can select something just for the kids or a story that the whole family will enjoy. We’ve listened to Harry Potter and other classics. We also love to listen to family-appropriate comedy, like old Bill Cosby routines and comedian Jim Gaffigan (there’s nothing like a little potty humor to keep boys entertained). Getting silly and laughing is a great way to combat car boredom.
Invent Your Own Road Trip Games
The highway is your creative canvas when it comes to car games, whether you make up your own or play something time-tested. The Alphabet game is an easy place to start. The first player finds something on the road that starts with the letter “A”, then the next player, “B”, and so on through the alphabet, and everybody else has to guess what they’ve seen. A color game, like “I Spy Something …. (fill in the color)”, where a player picks a color and everybody takes turns guessing what he sees on the road or in the car that is that color, can be stretched out for as long as you can stand it. If all else fails: kids never get tired of giving the “honk” signal to a semi-truck driver, to see if he’ll honk his horn.
Surprises: Magnetic Board Games and Crayons
If you’re traveling with young children, buy some inexpensive surprises for the trip. Coloring books, a new pack of crayons, or a special pen will always liven things up, as long as you don’t have to worry about the kids writing all over the upholstery. Small, magnetic board games designed for the car and to fit in little laps are also nice.
Cooler With Snacks
It’s always helpful to fill a small cooler with snacks, waters and juice drinks, particularly if the weather is going to be warm. Throw in a few surprises that you might not normally purchase, like Animal Crackers, jerky or candy.
If all else fails, o.k., you can resort to popping a movie into a portable DVD player if you have one. Or the kids can bring their portable gaming devices. But try to keep the electronics to a minimum. Turn car time into treasured family time and wherever you’re going, you’ll be there before you know it.