Today’s post is written in partnership with Plackers. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
This year as part of our new homeschooling adventures, my family is upping the amount of road tripping we are doing, from a quick trek up to Pigeon Forge to play at Dollywood, to a very long drive down to Orlando (we’ll be making that 10 hour trip next month!). We are even doing more trips around our metropolitan area since we have more time freedom to say yes to fun.
All of this is AWESOME in theory. But in practice, strapping your kiddos down in the car for trips that take more than 30 minutes can be a real challenge. My girls are 5 and 8, so we are thankfully out of the stage where we need to change diapers, or be in a constant worry about a recently potty-trained child’s announcement that she needs to go to the bathroom righthisverysecondnoicannotwait (those were such stressful times! It gets better, mamas!). But now we are subject to, “Mom, I’m so BORED!!!” 90 seconds after leaving our driveway.
So today I want to share with you 10 different things we do on our road trips to help our kids endure the long rides. I hope these ideas give you some new material to work with on your next adventure!
- Strategically plan your pit stops. Do everything in your power to find a place for your children to get to play when you stop for any meal that you need to eat on the road. If you have packed all of your food, just be on the lookout for a rest stop. If you are going to buy food on the road, there’s a heck of a lot to be said for the places with playgrounds, friends (McDonald’s and Chik-fil-a both usually have them). You can also download the free app Playground Buddy if you want to order food from a restaurant without a playground but can go have a picnic at the closest playground in the area. Yes, allowing kids time to play takes time, but I always regret when I eliminate this from our schedule for the day. These little bodies need to get some energy out! Give them the opportunity to do so. You can even opt to have them eat their food when you are back in the car to help save time if you are trying really hard to get there as quickly as possible.
- Pieces of Pie. When the kids ask about how long the trip is going to take, we tell them the amount of time (4 hours, 10 hours, 2 hours, whatever) and then we tell them how many “pieces of pie” that is. One piece of pie is equal to 15 minutes, so a 1 hour trip will take 4 pieces of pie. This really seems to help both of them feel a sense of accomplishment when we “eat” one more piece of pie and get a little bit closer to the end. Give it a try and see how your kids like it! You can also use your pieces of pie to hold your kids off on a request (for example”Darah you’ve got to wait for 1 more piece of pie to be eaten on the clock before you can have a snack”).
- Get Your Floss On. Both of my girls are working on their flossing skills, and there’s no better time to practice than when you are stuck sitting in a car for hours. Grab a package of Plackers Dental Flossers before your next road trip, and you’ll be surprised by how totally entertained your kids will be as they floss between their teeth! This is one of my favorite hacks because it really surprised my kids the first time I pulled out the Plackers on the road, but they loved it! Plackers makes it easy for beginner flossers to have success, too.
- Try Audiobooks and Podcasts. You need to have several of these options lined up in case you get any duds, but podcasts and audiobooks, if they can capture the attention of both of your kids, can be entertaining for quite a long time. You can usually borrow audiobooks from your local library (or check out Cracker Barrel’s audiobook rental program, which is ideal for lengthier road trips). And here’s a list of great podcasts for kids. We will typically state that we are going to listen to a program for at least 1 piece of pie. When that time is up, we ask the kids if they want a break or if they want to keep going. Typically, if they ask for a break, it means that we need to try something different the next time we have listening time.
- Sing-a-long CDs. My girls are big, big fans of Caspar Babypants (we have at least 3/4 of his albums and the parents like him, too!) so we do work our way through some (if not all) of those CDs during a road trip. Each girl takes turns requesting which album she wants to hear. They also both really like the Disney Classics CD set we have. It’s a good idea to try to pinpoint some music that your kids particularly enjoy so that you can have that available at any time.
- 20 Questions. Yes, this classic game can really help you hack away at those pieces of pie! One person thinks of something (we usually stick to animals) and the rest of the people in the car can ask questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” to try to figure out what it is. We don’t usually even count the number of questions we ask, just to keep things as easy as possible. The girls love this game!
- Animal Hunt. If your travels take you through farm lands, then the animal hunt game is a must! Each person in the car is trying to get 1o points. Common farm animals such as cows, horses, sheep and goats are worth 1 point each (one herd only counts as 1 point, otherwise the game would be over very quickly!) and harder to spot animals (dogs, cats, llamas, roosters, etc.) are worth 2 points each. First one to 10 points wins! We will often have this as an ongoing game (because it can take a few hours for someone to win) while we are listening to music.
- The “yes” game. My niece Thea invented this game while our family was hiking together in the Swiss Alps this summer. These hikes can be rather lengthy, and so games help pass the time. Basically everyone who is playing is not allowed to say, “Yes.” You play simply by engaging in normal conversation with one another. If you are playing the game, you must converse. We learned early on that one of the easiest ways to win is to simply stay silent until everyone else gets eliminated, so that’s not allowed. Sounds easy enough, right? But you’d be very surprised by just how hard it is to not say those 3 letters together! Give it a try on your next road trip.
- Plentiful snacks. Your snack game should be on point during any road trip. But DO NOT hand over the bag. The adult in the passenger seat is the Snack Master. Make snacks available at certain points throughout your trip (first snack break is after we get through 3 pieces of pie, for example). Pick out a few new things, and have a good mix of savory and sweet. Clementines and string cheese are always winners with my crew.
- Netflix Downloads. Finally, if you are a Netflix subscriber, take advantage of the fact that you can download lots and lots of stuff and then watch it later when you do not have Wi-Fi access (such as when you are on the road!). I think my kids typically download 3 or 4 hours worth of stuff, and then we give them set amounts of time to watch (usually 30 minute increments, unless they are getting on our last nerves, and then we let them just binge for an hour). This is the time when the grownups can actually have a conversation with each other (yay!) or listen to a podcast together. Definitely space out the video time, though, for the sake of your battery and so that your kids don’t blow through all their favorite stuff in the first few hours of a long trip.
Anyone else have some helpful tips and tricks to make road trips with kids easier to get through? Please leave a comment below so we can help each other out!