Family road trips can be a great bonding experience and a fun way to travel together, but they can also be a little grating. Growing up, my siblings and I used to get on each other’s nerves around hour three on the road, and the same thing is true of my own kids today. My husband and I didn’t want to spend the money on a portable DVD player for the car, so we brainstormed a list of other ways to keep the kids entertained and happy without spending buckets of money. As a bonus, these activities can create great family memories and serve to create a mentally stimulating environment.
Ask questions. Before each trip, we ask everyone to come up with some funny and thought-provoking questions. We right them down on notecards, and then break them out throughout the trip and have everyone answer. The questions can be simple, such as “what is your favorite food or ice cream flavor?” to more complicated and silly, such as “if you could create any board game, what would it be?” The questions inevitably lead to laughter and getting to know each other better.
Pencil and paper. We give each kid a notebook and set of colored pencils for each trip, and it provides hours of entertainment. The kids can draw, write notes and stories, or do any of these great paper and pencil road trip games.
Books on tape. We visit the local library before each trip and choose a few books on tape that will appeal to everyone in the family. We aim to get a variety of genres and lengths, but our favorites are always silly short stories that make everyone giggle.
Memory games. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve started doing more memory games in the car. One of our favorites is When I Go to London—the first person starts by saying “When I go to London, I’m packing (fill in the blank)”. The next person then repeats what the first person says and adds an item to the list. It keeps going around and getting longer until only one person is left to remember the entire list. Memory games can be simplified and tailored for younger children as well.