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Are we there yet? We’ve all been there – either as the bored child waiting endlessly as the car travels through the Badlands of South Dakota, or as the frustrated parent trying to keep the peace as the kids duke it out in the back seat. What are some creative ways to make this family trip one they’ll remember forever?
Some parents create a “gift bag” idea. Half way through the trip, each child receives a mystery gift bag with activity books, coloring materials, Colorforms to stick on the window or travel inside. Other parents set aside lots of small gifts and dole them out every hour or two, saving the best ones for the more difficult points in the trip. Items could include fruit roll ups, bubble gum, pipe cleaners, Mad Libs, maze puzzles, window markers, or – for those especially long trips, a box set that coveted TV show your child loves to watch.
Consider packing a small notebook and pencils or markers for each child to play some old time games on the way. There’s always the Alphabet Game, I-Spy, the license plate game, Scavenger Hunts, counting cows, the initials game, and paper and pencil games such as MASH, Tic Tac Toe, the dot and line game, cootie catchers/fortune tellers.
Want to make the trip educational? Some parents test their children’s memories and reinforce where they’ve traveled and what they did by playing a family trip trivia game each night. Each correct answer can score a piece of candy or the winner gets to choose which bed in the hotel, etc. Questions like, “Where did we wake up yesterday?” “What was the name of the mountain range we saw?” “Which major river did we pass?” “Which U.S. President was born in this state…” are all great ways to remember the trip and learn something.
Maps – whether they’re old-school giant, foldable maps or an app from your smart phone – can be a great way to teach your children some geography and also answer the age-old “are we there yet” question. You can map the route you plan to take and have your child let you know how far away it is until the next stop, chart out interesting things to view along the way, or compare whether it’s better to take route A or route B to get to Grandma’s.
Other ideas: have kids make paper bag puppets – decorate the bags using markers or art supplies and then create a puppet show.
Singing in the car is a classic way to spend a road trip – think of the old camp songs you used to sing as a kid. Or what about 80s songs that your kids don’t know? Karaoke versions of all kinds of songs are available for download or streaming for your trip.
Books on tape can be a great way to pass the time. Everything from Harry Potter and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the Hobbit can be a great way to bond. Some families enjoy listening to comedy albums from family-oriented comedians like Bill Cosby or Ellen DeGeneres.
Finally, with the entire family trapped in a small box with no clear escape, now’s a great time to talk. This is a great time to tell old funny stories about your grandma and grandpa, that funny thing your uncle did when he was a kid, how Mom and Dad met. Soak up that time together and make the time memorable. That’s what a family vacation is all about.