The Great American Road Trip is no joke and as full-time travelers, we are on the road many times. We have been doing this for more than three years now and our children are entirely proficient travelers! This doesn’t happen a ton however some of the time we are out and about for 3 – 4 days on end an excursion over the USA. We have a business online so I work while hubby drives and the children should be fairly tranquil so Frank doesn’t wind up driving off a bluff in view of the excitement in the rearward sitting arrangement!. We have attempted numerous excursion thoughts and these thoughts have worked the best for us.
Here are some fun Trip Hacks for long road trips that have worked for us over the years:
Looking Out The Window
This works much easier when you are traveling through the West! We embarked on this journey to see what life has to offer and what we’re missing. Two years ago when we were leaving Yellowstone my 7-year-old son stared out the window looking for animals all through that drive from Yellowstone to South Dakota. There were animals everywhere and he was mesmerized, my daughter joined in and they kept trying to outdo each other as to how many animals they could find. Treasure hunts and printables are so much fun, but looking out the window and taking it all in is what it’s all about. We were at Glacier the other day on the bus riding up to Logan’s Pass. The kids were sitting together in the front seat glued to the window looking for animals and enjoying all there was to see. Suddenly I saw my son look at the seat behind me where there were two kids glued to a tablet playing a game, on the other side sat the father staring at his phone. Nobody was taking in the beauty that Glacier has to offer. Their intention was to head to Logan’s Pass to do a hike, but they were missing everything in between.
Of course, as all good things come to an end, and soon is the inevitable “Are we there yet?” That means it is time to pull outsome time consuming activities. Here are a few of the ones that have worked well for us.
Our kids got a gift of a sketchbook from their aunts and they bring it on all road trips. It was a brilliant idea on their part. They use it to make notes along the way, or if they see something pretty they draw it. It’s also great for doodling and for playing X’s and O’s. I found something similar on Amazonor you can pick up a notebook at your local Dollar Store.
Coloring Book and Pencils
Taking coloring pencils in the car has been a nightmare for us, they end up on the floor, behind the car seat, or they fall out of the truck everytime the door opens. But but the kids love coloring in the car. We were at a stop light in Jensen Beach and I saw what I needed. Two kids were in the back of the car coloring, they had a red plastic cup in their cup holder and all the pencils were sitting nicely. It looked very calm and serene. Naturally, I ran out the next day and bought some cups and they have worked super well. It turns out they work great for snacks too. These coloring books work great for the older kids too.
My kids are too old for this now (sigh) but we used to have a backseat organizer similar to this one. The kids loved the fact that they could access everything they needed and I would include some surprises in the pockets which added to the fun. It makes them a little more independent and prevents you from having to turn around every 5 minutes. You can include some pencils, notebooks, books, stickers and an iPad for movies.
When they were little my kids have always loved sticker books and can happily spend an hour putting stickers on the pages. Now that my son is 9, it’s a different story but my 8-year-old daughter is still interested. It’s a great way for kids to pass the time in the car on various road trips QUIETLY.
I usually pick some up at the dollar store but if you don’t have one close by, you can take a look at these also.
National Geographic sticker Book
Frozen Sticker Book
Fisher-Price Travel Doodler Pro 2+
We bought two of these when we first started traveling and they were awesome. I love that the pen is attached to the doodler because otherwise it would be lost within seconds of opening the box. I also love the size, it’s a nice size for younger kids to still be able to hold one, plus it doesn’t take up a lot of room in the car/truck. When our kids were small, we would throw them in backpacks so when we went out to dinner, the kids would play on these and we could have a conversation. The screen is a nice size, its big enough so the kids can actually see what they are doing. Ours lasted for over a year with the magnetic strip still working, shortly after that part of the screen wouldn’t erase but it didn’t really bother my daughter as it was only a tiny part of the screen.
Unfortunately, by the age of 6, these are no longer fun for kids! But it was AWESOME while it lasted.
This is the one we had but I can’t seem to find it anymore, ours cost $9.99, not the price they are quoting on Amazon. You could check back and see if it comes back into stock. In the meantime here is something similar.
We don’t allow the kids to watch too much tv on car trips but on long road trips, tv is essential. We bought the kids 2 Insignia computers for Christmas. They are mostly for school, but on travel days we download one movie each and some educational shows for them to watch. If it’s an exceptionally long day, they can switch movies and watch their siblings movie. We love The Magic Schoolbus, Wild Kratts, Spirit Running Free, Veggie Tales. There is always something appropriate for the kiddos no matter what age.
I’m a HUGE FAN of IQ Twist, it keeps them amused for at least an hour and sometimes more in the car. The games come in a travel case so everything can be kept together neatly. There are 100 puzzles for the kids to do, we got this when my kids were 7 & 8 and they were able to do the puzzles no problem. They enjoy competing against each other to see who can solve the puzzle first. You can find the game here.
The classics are always classic. We started playing UNO with the kiddos earlier this year and we are absolutely addicted to it. Each morning we all sit down and play a few rounds before getting to our day. Now we take it in the car for the kids to play and it keeps them amused for quite a while plus they have a lot of fun with it. You can find Uno here.
Good ol Fashioned books are a great way to pass the time on the road. We have the kids pick their favorites (ones that I know they will actually read) and this keeps them entertained for at least an hour. We recommend The Magic Treehouse Series, our kids have read every single book at least three times! We also love audiobooks for the car if we can get daddy off of that dang classic rock station!
I’m warning you this will be messy but let’s face it, the vehicle is going to be a wreck when you arrive at your destination. You try to keep things clean but kids are kids and crumbs are bound and determined to make a mess and they do and so will this. You want this set because it will provide hours of play time for your kids. My son is 9 and LOVES his lego so this was perfect for him. He will sit in the back and play with this set for hours, yes he gets frustrated when bits and pieces fall on the ground as they do, but all in all, he loves it and we take it on every car trip. The case is nicely lap sized so it helps hold the pieces in.
Etch a Sketch
We found out how much the kids loved these when we ate out at a restaurant in Williams, AZ a few years ago. They offered these to the kids and they never looked up until their food came. I couldn’t believe it, so naturally, I ordered two the next day from Amazon and we’ve been using these for road trips ever since.
Goodie bags are a fantastic way to pass the time in the car. If you have a dollar store nearby, take a wander through the aisles and see what you can come up with, my kids love word search, anything arts and crafty, sometimes you find books in there for nothing. I also might pick up a small pack of gummies and throw it in there. In the toys section, you can usually find something for nothing. I put stuff in their backpack where they have to search for it and that’s part of the fun too!
Our kids are homeschooled where they follow an online program. When we are on road trips I have the kids do some school, usually stuff they won’t need help with and that they enjoy like science, easy math, spelling etc. They don’t love doing that but then they know that once we get there they won’t have school to do. You can read about my homeschool resources here.
The best thing I ever did to keep the kids happy in the car was to change the snacks up. I got so used to buying the same snacks because why fix what’s not broken, right? For us moms, it can be a pain putting all the food together for a road trip, especially if it’s a multi-day one! So now I change the snacks up each time we have a road trip and for each day. Here are some suggestions for snacks:
Vanilla Pound Cake that I cut up into individual pieces and put them in a ziplock bag, I do this with muffins too.
Cheerios work great for breakfast in the car, I put them in individual Tupperware.
Apples Cut up
String Cheese/Sliced cheese
Smoked Sausage Cut Up
Crackers and Cheese
Celery and Peanut butter
Peanuts (I buy a large jar from Sams Club and use that to make individual baggies)
A variety of sandwiches, PBJ Uncrustables after the first 2 days because I can’t look at another sandwich!
Hummus and Chips (I buy the large one at Sams and scoop it into individual Tupperware)
Carrots and ranch
GET OUT OF THE CAR
At some point in the trip and you will know when this is happening, you will need to find a rest area where everyone can get some much-needed exercise. Park the truck and RV and let the kids run around, this is a great time to give them a little treat (gummy bears, a small piece of chocolate) and let them run around, let the dog pee and take a walk around yourself and get your muscles moving. After that, you’re good to go for another few hours.
We have been on our American road trip for the last three years and survived! I hope you will too with these suggestions.
Did we miss anything? What suggestions do you have to keep everyone sane during long road trips?