Car trips with children are rarely fun. They get bored, they bother each other, they're uncomfortable and so on and so on... Here are 15 tips for traveling in the car with kids:
#1~ A travel journal is a fun idea to keep kids busy as they are traveling. Buy each kid a journal or notebook before the trip. (Dollar stores have a great assortment.) Have them each journal the trip as they go along. They can write about places or interesting things that they see. As you see something of interest, remind them to write it in their journal. They can also draw pictures. They will enjoy going back through it afterwards and remembering everything they did and saw.
2~ Let the kids document the trip with pictures from their point of view. Buy each kid their own disposable camera and let them have at it.
3~ When we go on a road trip I let each kid take pictures of whatever they want. Before the trip I buy small scrapbooks, glue sticks, stickers, colored paper, markers etc. (Once again, gotta love the dollar store.) Before we head home we find a one hour photo developer. I usually add to their pictures with some that I've taken. That way they also have pictures of themselves on the vacation. The kids have fun making scrapbooks on the way home. It's a great keepsake.
4~ Purchase a CD of cheesy kids songs. We found one for $2.99 at a thrift store that has all kinds of old-fashioned kids songs that we didn't know along with all the classics we did. Disney music is also great to listen to in the car. Alternating CDs you want to listen to with ones they want to listen to, helps the time go by faster.
5~ We also like to listen to books and stories on CD. I found a set of classic and scripture stories on CDs at a thrift store. They are old-fashioned, like a radio show, with a good moral to the story. At first the kids grumbled and moaned about listening to “old stuff” but within minutes they were hooked and now we listen to them anytime we travel. We also like to check out books on CD from the library when we travel. It keeps everyone quiet because they want to know what happens.
6~ I used to have a yard sale each year. I kept the money from the kids' items separate. I'd split the money evenly between them and put it away for vacation so they could use it for souvenirs or treats along the way. They are more likely to clean out their things and get rid of old toys if they know what the money will be used for.
7~ Give kids a map of where you are going. Make sure it's one they can write on. Then they can mark where they have been, decorate it and write notes on it if they like.
8~ Play games like the alphabet game (looking for A-Z on signs), I Spy and the license plate game (try to find a license plate from each state).
9~ Play the “And” game”. One person goes first. They say something like “milk and ___”. Everyone else shouts out “cookies”. Or “peanut butter and ___”, everyone shouts out “jelly”. Take turns switching people after 4 or 5 sayings. My kids played this for quite a while and cracked each other up with the random things they said.
10~ Give each kid a roll of tin foil. (Take them out of the boxes so they don't get cut on the sharp edge.) Let them make sculptures, crowns, snakes etc. out of the foil.
11~ I scope out the Red Box locations along the way. Since you can rent a movie at one location and return it at another, we can rent a movie they've never seen before and return it at our next potty stop.
12~ When we would go on a long car trip I use to purchase small gifts for the kids and wrap them like presents. I purchased them mostly at the dollar store. As they'd start into the “are we there yet?” and “I'm bored” I'd give them a gift to unwrap. I would usually plan on one every 1-2 hours. Some gift ideas are: fun notebook and pen, new coloring book, travel game, ring pops, new inexpensive toy, and they usually get a new DVD to watch on the way that they can open together. (I grab DVDs to put away for gifts when I find them for really cheap like the day after Thanksgiving.)
13~ Let the kids each pack their own travel fun bag filled with things to keep them occupied. My kids usually fill theirs with books, small toys, mp3 players or walkmans, a notebook and pen, etc.
14~ Gallon-sized ziplock bags are your best friend. They work great for storing trash on a long trip without everyone smelling it and they're FABULOUS as puke bags. The kids can throw up into the bag and zip it up. Then you aren't smelling it the whole way before you get to a trash can.
15~ Speaking of puking... did you know Benadryl is the active ingredient in motion sickness pills? (FYI, It's also the active ingredient in "PM" meds to make you sleep.) It's much cheaper though, plus you can use it for allergy attacks. You have no idea what your kids may react to when away from home. All three of my kids have been prone to carsickness since they were babies. Benadryl not only keeps them from throwing up it also helps them to peacefully sleep much of the trip away.
Of course using these ideas doesn't make the car trips go perfectly smooth, but they help out a ton... Happy Vacationing :)