I don’t know about your boys, but my boys are an active bunch so when we go on road trips I know I’m going to have to be creative about keeping them occupied. Two years ago, we traveled from Arizona to Michigan and back for a month long visit with family. That’s over 4000 miles round trip. I nervously planned, worrying how my then 2 year old and 7 year old would endure a week of 6 to 10 hour days in the car.
Here are some games, toys, and other items we found to be lifesavers for the trip:
Toy Steering Wheel – Great for little guys. There is a noise annoyance factor to consider so if noisy toys annoy you, make sure to choose a toy steering wheel with volume control
Activity Books – Space is limited in the car so activity books are a great option. A book of mazes, connect the dots, or other activities are a great way to keep kids occupied for long periods in the car. Here are some of our favorites:
Best Travel Activity Book Ever – My seven year old completed most of this activity book on our road trip. It has over 250 pages of activities to keep kids busy. You really can’t beat it for the $4 price tag. Plus it’s part of Amazon’s buy 4 books for the price of 3 deal so if you buy some of their other activity books included in it, you get one free. It had mazes, coloring pages, find the hidden pictures, and more.
Highlights Activity Books – The Highlights Hidden Pictures Activity Books also give you a lot of bang for your buck. If you little ones like finding hidden pictures, these books can keep them busy for quite a while. Each book has over 400 hidden pictures to locate within it’s 48 pages.
Nintendo DS – I’m not super big on video game play. We usually limit the amount of time that our kids get for playing video or computer games but for road trips I am willing to make an exception. I figure they are glued to their seats for many hours a day which limits what they are able to do so they should be given a little leniency.
Portable DVD Player – Same thing with the DVD player. Usually my kid’s TV time is limited each day but in the car we don’t follow our normal rules. Two years ago on our road trip, we wouldn’t have been able to keep my youngest happy in the car without our portable DVD player and his Polar Express DVD. It was a lifesaver! I let go of my mom guilt because once we reached our destination, they were so busy running and playing with their cousins for the next two weeks that they didn’t even ask for TV
Road Trip Games to Play
The License Plate Game – A classic road trip game to play. See if you can find license plates from every state. It’s a good way to keep them kids occupied. The Melissa & Doug License Plate Game is a fun way to keep track of the license plates that you see along the way.
I Spy – I use this a lot to keep my kids occupied in the car. “I spy something big, green, and fast.” See if they can guess what you see. I bought a really cool “I Spy” road trip card game at our zoo’s gift shop a few months ago but I have been unable to locate a single store that sells in on the internet. Check your museum and zoo gift shops. It’s a real gem!
Find 5 Things – On our roadtrips, I often list five things for my kids to watch for. The first one to spot all five on them wins. For example, I will tell them to look for a red car, an RV, a McDonalds sign, a gas station, and some train tracks. Five things seems to work perfectly because it keeps them busy for a while but it’s not too much for them to remember.
Roadtrip Bingo – We also own a couple of these road trip bingo cards which the kids love. It’s great for the car because instead of chips to cover your slots, you just slide the see thru doors shut when you spot something.
More Road Trip Tips for Traveling with Kids
Make frequent stops – I found that stopping every 2 to 3 hours for a break kept the boys happier. We could stretch our legs, use the restroom, and get a snack or meal.
For longer road trips, plan some side trips along the way – For our trip from Arizona to Michigan, I planned something special everyday when we stopped. One day a zoo, another an aquarium. At one stop, we had dinner at Chuck E. Cheese. Another we went to the park. And our last night, our hotel had an indoor pool, playground, and arcade for the kids.
Hit the dollar store – My local dollar store always has lots of coloring books, activity books such as word finds and crossword puzzles, and crayons, markers, pencils, and notebooks. I filled a small tote for each of my boys to use in the car.
Make it a fun learning experience – I gave my older son a US Atlas and he had fun following along on the maps in it as we drove cross country. It was fun for him to keep track of our progress and he also worked on his map reading skills at the same time.