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Monday, June 17, 2019

Parenting Hacks for Road Trips

Are we there yet? How much longer? When will we get there?

These questions. I’ve heard them. Over and over again. I’m not alone. Every parent out there that has attempted a cross country trip has faced these questions.

Necessities for an enjoyable road trip are: games, books, snacks, and exercise. Also, if you can’t avoid traveling during the months with the most traffic, at least use an app like Waze to avoid construction zones and rush hour pileups. 

Below are some hacks every parent should have up their sleeve to keep their kids (and everyone else) happy on road trips. 
Games to Pass the Time
The most obvious hack is to set your kid up with a tablet with downloaded games. But, if you’d rather your child didn’t spend the duration of the journey glued to a screen, here are some other options.
I Spy
Things get fast paced when you spy something you see out the window. Once it’s past, it’s too late.
Give your kids a BINGO board like these from Target or print your own like these
License Plate Game
Print this sheet with all the states and then cross off each state when you see their license plate. You can also keep track by writing down the ones you’ve seen.
Song Change-Up
My kids love this. You may be begging for it to end, but if you have the fortitude to join your kids in an hour of The Muffin Man, they’ll love every second. Just make sure a different person starts each round so everyone has different letters each time.

To the tune of “Do You Know the Muffin Man,” replace “muffin man” with something that starts with “A.” For example, “do you know the apple man, the apple man, the apple man….” The next person thinks of something beginning with “B,” like “Do you know the blueberry man….” It gets old, but not to six-year-olds. Sigh.
Going on a Picnic
This is another alphabet game. The first person starts with “A.” They would say, for example, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing avocados.” The next person has to come up with a word beginning with “B” that you’d bring to a picnic and add it to the previous, like “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing avocados and bananas.” 

By the time you get to “Z,” you have to remember the previous 25 items. I played a couple of rounds with my sister last summer. We’re in our 30s and it was still fun.
Best Books for Traveling
A mixture of audio books and traditional books are perfect for traveling. If your trip involves relatives, The Relatives Came is a classic for getting in the family spirit. If you’re going to a national park, get a copy of Who Pooped in the Park. There’s a whole series and you can get the one specific to the park you’re visiting. 

If there’s an edition of Good Night Our World (e.g. Good Night Philadelphia, Good Night Beach, Good Night Seattle) for your destination, check it out. It’ll be exciting for your kids to get a preview of what’s popular where they’re going. Then, on the return trip, they’ll remember doing the things that were in the book.

For audiobooks, try a classic like Peter Pan, something hilarious, like Captain Underpants, and an adventure like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
Creativity on Your Lap
Providing your children with art supplies sounds like a great idea until you find every single item haphazardly strewn across your vehicle. Here are some ways to prevent that:
Shoe Cubby
Use a shoe cubby that’s designed to hang in your closet and tie it to the back of the seat in front of your child to store activities for the trip. The slots for the shoes can hold all kinds of treasures.

Alternatively, you can hang a tote bag from the headrest in front of your child where they can store their trip activities.
Activity Cards
I like these from Usborne and these are great, too. I also recommend punching a hole in the upper left corner of each card and using a ribbon like a keyring to tie them together.
Boogie Boards
Kids can write and draw on these tablets and then erase by pressing a button. Make sure to tie the pen to the board because the pens are easy to lose.
Art Set
An art kit where everything is self-contained is perfect for the car. Crayola makes one and it has great reviews. 
If you want to build your own, put paper in a three ring binder and put art supplies in binder pouches and add those to the binder.
Exercise While on the Road
When on a road trip, I usually just want to get where I’m going in as little time as possible, but I have found that everyone’s sanity can be preserved if we “budget” a half hour for a playground. 

North Dakota has gas stations with playgrounds, which make for an ideal stop because the kids can play while you get gas. Most parts of the country don’t offer that option, but when you pass a town or city, there will be a playground. If your day is over halfway through, It’s worth the time to find it.

Every stop for gas, food, or the bathroom should include five minutes for exercise. Try one minute of each of the following exercises
Food in the Car
Once upon a time, we said, “the kids won’t eat in the car.” And that resolution went out the window the first day. If you’re driving for a while, snacks can be a lifesaver. You’ll need to think through food to bring. Think of low-mess snacks. I’ve found cupcakes to be an awful in-car snack. Crumbs and icing get everywhere! 

Grapes, bananas, and apples are good. Peaches are not.
Trail mix, crackers, and cheese are good. Powdered donuts, not so much.

You know what your kids will eat. Now ask yourself if you want to clean up the car after they eat that. Bring the snacks you’re OK with cleaning up after.

Pack those things in snack size bags so you can hand them back to your kids when they’re hungry.

Car seats often have cupholders, your vehicle has cupholders, but have you seen what your children can do to a cupholder? Keep them clean with silicone muffin liners. If your child plays the “how much water can this cupholder hold?” game, the liner isn’t going to help you, but for most circumstances, you’ll find cupcake liners to be a valuable hack.

Your next road trip can be your best one yet! These ideas are just a starting point. The options for activities are endless. And remember, you still have that iPad or tablet for backup!

Melanie Musson has been a writer for CarInsuranceComparison.com for over three years. She is passionate about making sure people are informed on car insurance options so they can be properly protected on the road. When she’s not writing, she’s usually on an adventure with her husband and four children.

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