It wasn’t long ago when we attempted our first couple of long road trips with our kids. I had everything packed and organized, but failed to take into consideration that our kids needed more mental stimulation than just pleasant conversation, and watching the corn fields and wheat fields go by.
After glancing into the back seat to find some very bored kids, I decided that when we returned home, I would put some real effort into researching and testing travel games to make sure we had a much better drive experience on our future trips. It was an educational experience to say the least.
I discovered that by simply providing a variety of different games, toys, coloring projects, audio books on CD, and (as a last resort) DVD’s of new movies the kids hadn’t seen, we were off and running in the right direction for an entertaining and educational travel experience. As the saying goes, “It’s not reaching the final destination that is important, but the journey getting there.”
I immediately learned that some travel games weren’t worth the time and effort, being too complicated, too many pieces, or just not able to hold the kids attention. While other games were total hits, and many of them were extremely affordable. So we rounded up our travel game treasure trove and off we went our long road trip to test out these new products and see if we were able to have more entertainment, and less boredom with our kids.
Hour 1: Right off the bat, we discovered that magnetic games were a big hit, and kept the kids entertained for easily an hour at times. The games by Smethport Specialty Co. like Wooly Willy, which has been around for over 50 years and there is a reason why, were not only affordable games, but compact, and provided simple fun for our kids.
Hour 2: Then we would switch out to coloring. Crayola has some great travel coloring kits with fun pages, magic pens, and popular characters that always seem to be a hit with our kids, thus buying us another hour of fun on the road.
Hour 3: After cleaning up the pens and paper, we pull out the car bingo games and everyone joins in on the fun – giving us an easy 30 to an hour more travel time.
Hour 4: We then have snacks, or lunch depending on the time of day.
Hour 5: After an hour of meal time, the kids can play with some toys they brought along such as finger puppets, dolls, dinosaurs, or other small travel toys that they can use their imagination to play with. This is more of a quiet time and lasts for another hour easily.
Hour 6: Then we pop in an audio book on CD of American Tall Tales, or Fairy Tales, or King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, etc. The tapes are about 30 minutes long, and the kids usually enjoy listening to a couple CD’s back to back – giving us another hour.
Hour 7 & 8: So we are at approximately 6 hours of driving time. If we have more road to travel, there is always the best for last option of popping in the DVD for a good 2 hour movie, which will give you what you need for an eight hour drive with the kids.
We have traveled for 12 hours on one road trip before, but took a lot of 15 minute rest stop breaks to stretch our legs, throw a Frisbee with the kids, use the potty, or eat some food. It’s not easy, and we try to avoid being on the road that long. Sometimes though when the destination is far away, and you only have so much vacation time, there aren’t a lot of options. So let’s say you still have 4 hours to go of driving time.
Hour 9: That’s when you pull out a new travel game, one that you have been stashing away and that nobody knows about – travel game that everyone can join in on and play together. We discovered a handful of really fun travel games that fit this description including Family Time Fun games which are so easy to play, and great for car trips, or even while you are waiting for food to be served at a restaurant with your kids. This bought another hour of entertainment.
Hour 10: Three hours to go while traveling down the road, so I pull out some new snacks and meals and we eat and talk while listening to a music CD. There goes another hour. Now we are down to two hours left.
Hour 11 & 12: Ok, I don’t usually do this, but 2 hours is the perfect window for one more movie. I don’t like to abuse the DVD player, but when traveling on a really long road trip, and even on a long flight in an airplane, two movies are shown. So we pull out the 2nd and last movie of the day and the kids quietly watch the movie as we pull up to our hotel.
I hope this information will help other parents to travel easier with their kids. Sometimes the journey is long, but it does not have to be miserable. With the right items and a little pre-planning, parents can take control of long road trip boredom, and turn even the longest drive into an entertaining, and educational experience with the kids.