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Some people think the best part of a trip is the destination. When you forgo getting a plane ticket or decide that you’d rather take a car, it can get a little draining.
Some of my favorite times are on a long trip in the car with the family. To make your trip a more enjoyable next time around, I’m sharing the best travel games and other things we do to make long road trips less boring.
The Best Travel Games
Everyone knows the license plate game, eye spy, and of course bingo. But have you ever played headbands? What about the Alphabet Game? There are tons of great ideas in the book: The Penny Whistle traveling with kids book : whether by boat, train, car, or plane–how to take the best trip ever with kids of all ages / by Meredith Brokaw and Annie Gilbar.
The dollar store is my favorite, but remember that sometimes smaller is better. My kid’s favorite ended up being a poopsie squishable toy.
I bought it as a joke, but they got more entertainment out of it than I thought possible. Look for something that might keep their attention for a little while. Chances are it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
The Road Trip Activity Binder
Keep all the best travel games in one location with a Road Trip Activity Binder. One of my favorite things to do before any trip is to get together the road trip binder.
Using a three-ring binder, pencil case, and tons of printouts, I create a custom road trip book for each kid. You can change it up based on their age level, but here are some of things to include:
- Favorite Coloring Pages
- Word Finds
- Hidden Pictures
- Dollar Store Board Games
- Travel Bingo Board
- Reading Activities
- Word Games
- Game ideas to play with a sibling
The idea is to have everything contained in one place and provide enough variety to keep them entertained for days. Don’t be surprised if the novelty wears off after an hour, but I find they keep going back for more throughout the trip.
Listen to a Book
Family-Friendly Audiobooks can be tricky sometimes. You need to get a book to entertain the driver, but at the same time keep the kids entertained.
Or maybe not, but it needs to be clean enough that it’s ok for the kids to overhear. Trust me when I say nothing by Stephen King unless you have teenagers!
What surprised me the most was how much my daughter was actually listening to the books. She looked unengaged but when it stopped, she immediately started asking questions.
Bring Real Travel Maps
Sometimes a paper map is what you need to get the big picture. Did you know you can get them for free? You can also start introducing how maps work to the kids.
Start with the basics and have them follow along. As they get older have them plot out the course.
Speaking of Maps, download the Waze App. This has been around for years. What sets Waze apart from Google Maps, is the crowdsourced part.
See a cop, and mark them on the map. Find a car on the side of the road, and mark it.
When people pass by, they’ll get your notification and can verify or remove it from the app.
It ended up being a fun travel game and broke up the drive. Google Maps has now added this feature but limited the number of tags you can mark per 5-minute block.
Celebrate the Milestones
Traveling through multiple states? Have a cookie celebration at every state line. It doesn’t require stopping the car or doing anything drastic. Just hand everyone a cookie and celebrate the milestone.
You don’t have to have cookies each time. It could be any of their favorite treats. With enough enthusiasm, you can make anything fun.
Stop at rest stops every few hours to stretch your legs. One thing parents forget is that kids need time to wiggle. It shouldn’t always be about the potty breaks. More and more state rest stops have picnic areas, walking paths, or even playgrounds.
The rest stop in northern Missouri had all three. Another option besides rest stops is to follow the random sign to something cool. Or make a 30 minute stop at a landmark along your route.
Take the byways
Highways are mind-numbingly boring. They give people the smoothest, most direct route places in most cases. Byways on the other hand offer some of the best views of the state. I drove all the way through Oklahoma on toll roads.
On the way back we found the 259 scenic byway. I had no idea Oklahoma had mountains until that time. We even circle some places we want to do again.
Snacks on Hand
The best part about a road trip is often the unlimited snacking options. It doesn’t all have to be junk food either. Packing up some healthy snacks will make everyone in the car so much happier than candy.
It will energize the driver, keep the kids from bouncing off the seats, and drive everyone crazy. It can also pass the time along.
Before leaving consider packing up two groups of snacks. One for the trip there, and one for the way back. I like to make sure everyone has snacks near them too.
I like to throw a bundle of healthy snacks in the back of my car for the return trip. It’s filled with non-perishable foods everyone loves.
Traveling on Holidays
If you end up traveling on a holiday, be prepared. Depending on the state and their culture, they may or may not be as available.
This took me by complete surprise as I was under the impression most gas stations, especially those on highways are open for travelers 24/7.
We were traveling on Christmas day and found almost nothing in Missouri, with the exception of 2 big cities on the border. I was so grateful we filled up at a major city and got lunch at the adjoining Subway.
The same could be said for restrooms. State rest stops were everywhere, until the stretch in Missouri. I hate calling them out, but when you gotta go and it’s been a 100 miles with no end in sight, you can bet I’m going to remember you.
Know how many miles your car can go on a tank of gas, and start looking 100-75 miles for a place to fill up. Pack some sandwiches and other goodies.
Take a look at the map before leaving, or download a rest stop locater app to ensure there are plenty of places to take restroom breaks along the way.
When you get tired
It’s bound to happen at any time of the day. I know how tempting it is to keep moving. Your GPS gives you the estimated time of arrival and seeing it increase at each stop can sometimes be crushing.
Just remember that truckers are only allowed to drive for 14 hours at a time. If you’ve gone over this, you are putting everyone at risk.
Don’t be afraid to pull over and spend the night. Seriously! In most cases, arriving at your destination the next day is not that big of a deal.
You’ll arrive fresh and safe, compared to groggy or worst because of an accident you just had. That’s why I download the Holiday Inn Express append to reserve a room when it gets too late.
How will you make your next trip less boring?
People have been going on road trips for years without electronics to keep them entertained. But if you do end up bringing out the Kindle Fire or other table to entertain the kids, no judgment.
I personally love the Kindle Fire because of its storage expansion possibilities and the ability to download movies directly to the device. The biggest thing about any trip is to add in a little variety.
So next time you decide to take a long trip, make sure to plan some of these fun travel games and tips to make it a little less boring.