I have always loved a good road trip. For the first year of our relationship, my husband and I lived in different cities, and I would drive the six hours to visit him every second weekend for most of that first year. Road-tripping with kids is not *quite* that easy, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
We’re packing up for our annual summer road trip right now. We don’t always go to the same place, but we always go somewhere. Two years ago we drove the 19 hours from Ottawa to Nova Scotia, and one of these years we will make the longer drive to the Pacific coast from here. I’m excited about that one already and we haven’t even started planning!
My boys, ages 4, 8 and 10, are pretty good road-trippers. We have a couple of tricks that help make road trips somewhere between ‘tolerable’ and ‘joyous’. I have a grocery bag full of various treats and diversions in the front seat with me, and I dole them out as the kids get squirrely. Most of it is simple – fruit snacks, raisins, juice boxes, and maybe a mini-chocolate bar or two. There are crayons, because my kids love to draw and colour, and one fresh sketch pad per boy. A magnetic drawing pad like the Doodle Pro is great, too, and perfect for games of hangman and tic tac toe! I’ll also try to find a couple of inexpensive books, whether comic books or word searches or puzzle books. Count up the number of items you have, divide by the number of hours in the road trip, and you know approximately how often to pull out something new — but don’t forget to save something fresh for the trip home!
If you’re stocking up at the dollar store for a road trip, here’s a great tip: pick up a metal cookie sheet with a deep rim. These are great perched in a lap as a desk (the rim helps keep stray crayons from rolling away) for older kids or as a base for colourful magnets for littler ones.
You can play some fun games in the car to pass the time. The alphabet game is a tried-and-true success for us: find the letters of the alphabet in order on passing signs and license plates. If you’ve got a bit of time for prep, you can make up a couple of road-trip bingo cards with items like a red barn, a blue car, a sign with missing letters, etc. And we also play variations on ’20 questions’ like ‘what animal am I?’ — which often degrades (or improves, depending on your perspective!) to ‘which superhero am I?’ I usually have to drop out when the game migrates to ‘which Pokemon character am I?’ Unless you’re yellow and Pikachu, I’m at a loss on that one.
Much as it pains me to admit it, I have to confess that the real key to our roadtrip success is a set of electronic devices. For our upcoming nine hour drive, we’ll have one mounted DVD player, one iTouch, and two Nintendo DSs of various vintages available. In a pinch, I may even hand over my iPhone. After I wipe the leftover chocolate off their fingers, of course!
Okay, I think I’m ready to hit the road. What are your favourite road-trip sanity-savers?