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What do you think of when you hear the word "road trip"? Do you groan and remember being stuck in a car for what felt like forever? OR do you get excited and start planning right away? I have to say that I have felt some of BOTH of these emotions. BUT...over the years, as we have traveled literally from the South to the North on both sides of the country, I have come to feel excitement all of the time now. Most of this is due to figuring out how to make road trips successful and making everyone in the car happy. And today I'm going to share all of my great tips with you to do just that!
Plus I have over 25 game and activity ideas for many different ages that you can play in the car...including a tutorial to make this fun and easy DIY Travel Activity Center.
It's magnetic and keeps everything in one place and from falling all over the floor. So keep reading to see How to Make Your Road Trip a Happy One For Everyone.
The key is to prepare!
Okay, so first things first! First thing you want to do to get ready for a road trip is to figure out your dates and travel plans. Think about what works for you and your family and for how much time you realistically need to travel and to not feel stressed and rushed in getting to and from your destinations. Give yourself time to make stops along the way in going to your destinations AND to get home and unpack (at least a day or two with long road trips) before real life sets in again.
Even though your phone has a GPS, go over a map online (and maybe even print some out and put in a binder to keep in the car), so that you are familiar with your route. GPS's don't always work. Our family was in downtown New York City a few years ago when we lost cell service for a time, and had no idea where to go. So don't rely on JUST your GPS/cell phone for directions.
This one is huge! Whether it's a small day trip or a long two week road trip, NO road trip is fun if your car breaks down. (Well...it might make for some big memories, but it's never something you want or like in the moment.) So, spend some time getting your vehicle ready for the trip.
Clean it out really good (because believe me, it can get messy fast when you're living out of your car!), vacuum it everywhere, make sure you have a first aid kit and emergency car kit in your car. Check that your spare is filled up with air and that your jack is in the car and in good working condition. And get your oil changed and fluids checked. For me, the easiest place to get my oil changed is at my local Walmart. Our family vehicle has almost 200,000 miles on it and is still going strong and I love that! Because of the miles on it, we use Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® oil when we get out oil changed. It's great for cleaning out sludge that lesser oils leave behind, I get to shop while they change my oil,
I would also suggest you have them rotate and balance your tires if needed and check the air in the tires as well.
4-Make a Packing List.
Start making a packing list at least a week (or even two weeks) ahead of time. I guarantee that you will forget some items if you don't. You'll keep thinking of more things to add to the list and without any list at all, inevitably you will forget MANY items.
5-Organize as you pack.
This is a big one that has helped us a LOT on our family's road trips. Like I said earlier, when you are living out of your car, it can get messy really fast. Here are a few pointers that have helped us:
-Have a designated trash in the car (or in multiple places of your car if it's a bigger vehicle like ours is), so that it doesn't get dropped just anywhere.
-Get some plastic drawers to keep in the back of the car. These work great at helping to organize and find things quickly AND they protect food items (like bread, chips, bananas...) from getting smooshed in bags and tubs.
-Pack an overnight bag that has one pair of pajamas/one outfit for everyone in the car if you are going on a long roadtrip. This way everyone doesn't have to take their bags in to the hotel at night. You can just take in the one bag that has one for everyone in it.
-Designate everyone's space that they sitting in and are in charge of keeping straight. Make sure they have enough room and have small pillows and blankets available to grab.
-The last thing I would suggest in this area, is to have a cleaning tub in your car. Include paper towels, wipes, hand sanitizer, a bottle or two of water, and some extra trash bags.
6-Get everyone Involved.
Everything goes smoother if everyone has a "job" and helps. We assign every one of our kids to help carry or unload the car when we reach our destination.We do the same when we load the car before we leave. And even along the way, many times they have something to help with. It goes so much faster this way and gets everyone involved.
7-Activities and Games. (Plus a tutorial!)
Whether you have a newborn, a 16 year old, or your grandma riding in the car with you on this road trip, you need to plan ahead as to what will keep them interested, engaged at times, and occupied in the car.
I have six kiddos and they range from age 6 weeks to almost 17 years and we have made lots of road trips over the years with kids of all different ages. And believe it or not, the younger the baby, sometimes the easier it is to travel. Yes, you have to make more stops to feed them, but as they get mobile, the less happy they are strapped down into their carseat for hours. So don't feel like you can't go anywhere with a young baby.
As for any age, just think to what they enjoy doing and plan some fun and surprises for them. Making a binder with lots of the activities below has worked great for our family. Here is a list of over 25 games and activities to do in the car:
25+ Road Trip Games/Activities-License Plate Game-Try and find a license plate from every state in the US.
-ABC Game-Use signs and billboards to find words that begin with every letter in the alphabet.
-Magnetic game and activity centers (tutorial):
These are so easy to make!
Here are some supplies that I used to make mine:
1. Pick up a small metal tray or cookie sheet.
2. Optional: Decorate it up with patterned tape or other fun stickers and tape.
3. Add all kinds of fun activity items to the board with adhesive or magnets. I added sticky notes, a chalkboard area, a pen (with some removable adhesive to keep it on the board) and some magnets.
And wala! There you go!
(For the magnets, I took some small circle stickers and applied them to the magnets to create game pieces to be used on the back to play checkers as well and printed off a free checkerboard online. (Just google free printable checkerboard. There are lots to choose from!)
Super easy and fun where everything stays on the board and is all together! Kids can also use the magnets to in their drawings and and also to put color pages or dot-to-dot pages on the back as well. This gives them a flat area to color on and the magnets hold the pages in place.
-BINGO-Find yellow cars or trucks. (They cannot be moving trucks or other vehicles that are not your standard car or pickup truck type vehicle.) For each one you find, you get one letter in the word BINGO. First one to get five, wins BINGO.-Play Pokemon Go
-Tin foil creations
-Draw a portrait of the person next to you in the car.
-Memorize your times tables...or all 50 states...or US Presidents...
-Play Card games
-Play dough pictionary
-Start a Road trip journal
-Word Searches (You can even make some of your own up ahead of time (online) and customize them to your road trip.)
-Geocache along the way.
-Have everyone map out your road trip. (Print out blank copies of the state you are traveling in, or a map of the United States and let your kids draw the route that you are going and the stops and attractions along the way. They get more excited to follow along and see how far you've gone this
-Listen to music and take Lollipops to be used as "microphones" to sing into.
-Play Name that Tune
-Check out some audiobooks from your local library before you leave on your trip.
-Play the "When I go on a road trip ABC Game" (different from the above mentioned one)-This game you say, "When I go on a road trip, I like to take...(fill in the blank with something that begins with the letter A) apples. Then the next person repeats what you just said and then adds another item that begins with the next letter in the alphabet. (Ex: "When I go on a road trip, I like to take apples and bananas".) It keeps on going and you keep saying everything listed on each turn from the letter A all the way through the alphabet. (Ex: "When I go on a road trip, I like to take apples and bananas, cookies, dishes, elephants, fur, goats...") If you skip something that has been said or can't remember, you're out.
-Buy and send postcards from every state you go through.
-Make or pick up some road trip BINGO card games to play. These are easy to make yourself! Just draw a table and grab some clip art online to put in the table and print! (Clip art examples could be a shoe, gas station, cow, semi-truck, pay phone, etc.)
-Cell phone/Tablet games...games that go back and forth between one player and another.
-Have a contest to see who can find the most rare or odd thing each day of the trip.
-Tic Tac Toe
-Read. Hit up the library before you leave, so you have a bunch of "new" books to entertain with.
-"First thing you think of" Game: One person says, "What is the 1st thing you think of when you hear the word...(say any word here. Ex: dog)? Everyone blurts out what they think of. If you say something that nobody else said, you get a point. Keep going until someone wins with 20 points.
-Laminate some mazes or dot-to-dots and put in a binder with a dry erase marker.
Nobody likes to be hungry. And again, no matter the length of the trip...food makes everyone happier. Enough said. haha
One of my last suggestion is to have a "Mary Poppins bag",as I like to call it. It's a bag full of "surprises" that they can pull one thing out of everytime you make a stop and they get back into the car. The key though...is that they get something AFTER they are back in the car and buckled and ready to go. This helps the ones that are not so excited to get back in the car and makes it fun to keep going. It can also hurry along those restroom stops to be shorter and not so drawn out. The bag can have items like toys, notebooks, new fun writing utensils, etc (all of which are great to pick up from the dollar store), to a new book. or a new shirt...or even their favorite snacks. Like I said before, food and snacks help keep EVERYONE happy in the car!
When we decided to have the attitude, "Come what may, and love it", our road trips go much smoother. Just take it how it comes and go with it.
Hopefully these top ten tips will help you the next time you are heading out on the road. I know that they have taken the stress out of road trips for us and replaced it with smiles!