My parents met and got married while they were in college. They both attended college out of state, and once they got married and started a family they decided to move to North Carolina, even further from their homes. The move was a good one for our family, but it meant that all holidays and vacations where spent traveling long distances in the car to visit family. This was LONG before the days of ipads, portable cd players or other entertainment devices existed. My mom had to get pretty creative to keep two small kids entertained for 12+ hours in the car.
As an adult I have so many fond memories of these road trips. They always included lots of singing, games and what my mom created called the “holiday travel pack”. In an effort to survive road trips while limiting screen time, I use do many of the same things mom did for us.
The Holiday Travel Pack
What is a holiday travel pack? Well, it varies every time, so there is no set thing, but depending on the length of the car trip there are basically two ways we put this into use.
For shorter trips ( 4-6 hours) I usually create a pack for each kid which is basically some sort of new container with new items to keep them entertained. Sometimes I use gift bags from the dollar store (or reuse ones I already have). I’ve also picked up inexpensive cotton bags from the craft store, colorful synch sacks or even little metal boxes. From there I stuff them with fun little things to keep them entertained. Depending on the age of the kid, depends on what I put in it. For my little ones I usually include a new coloring book, stickers, a dollar store toy and a small treat that I wouldn’t normally give them like a Little Debbie’s. For the older kids I usually include some type of cool pen and paper, some type of travel game, gum or candy and something new they can use on the trip like a pair of sunglasses, or a pair of gloves if it’s winter time. I don’t spend a lot of money on these. It’s more about getting them excited about a long trip in the car, because let’s be honest, who is excited about that.
For longer trips ( 7+ hours) we have done one pack for the whole car to share together. This one requires a bit more thinking than just a trip to the dollar store, but I’d rather put the energy in on the front end than trying to keep them entertained in the car for that amount of time. On our last trip to Disney we had one “gift” for every hour we were on the road. In order to open their gifts they had to do something first, for example, find 5 different state license plates or make up a story using these three different words, or receipt the alphabet backwards. Just goofy little games to keep them entertained and occupied. The “gift” would be something similar to what they would normally get, a cool candy or race car, but they had to work for it a little hard and it passed the time. Again, not expensive. The every hour concept really helped the time go by quickly as well as kept them from going through everything in their bag in the first 30 minutes and then claiming boredom for the rest of the trip.
Yes, we do have a dvd player and let the kids watch movies and yes, my kids all have some type of device they bring along, but there are only so many hours they can do that before they even get bored with that. We also play a lot of car games to help the time pass quickly.
• 20 questions (we normally don’t make people only stick to 20 questions but they do have to be yes or no questions)
• The license plate game
• Build a Story – where we go round robin around the car each person building onto a story that one person starts.
• The first person to find x – this is a really great one to play at Christmas. We just name off an item such as Santa Clause or Frosty, and the first person to see it and call it out gets a point.
I have also bought a few things over the years that are fun to pass the time.
• “Have You Ever….” Is a small book and is a really cool way to learn new things about people you think you know. For instance, have you ever tasted something so bad you thought you would throw up? Where were you? What was it? What did you do?
• “Would You Rather” is another small book with loads of fun questions like would you rather fart bubbles or popcorn. Very silly and the boys especially love the gross ones.
• Brain Quest challenges kids on age appropriate questions they should know at their particular grade level. They also have an app.
I have a love hate relationship with road trips, but with a little advance planning I usually love them. Hopefully these tips will help you love them a little more too.