Traveling with Kids


“Are we there yet?” That constant refrain has become so much a part of traveling with the family that it even turned into a feature-length movie. Taking car trips with kids can be challenging. It’s not fun for anyone to sit in one spot with nothing to do for hours on end. Personal DVD players have taken away some of these challenges, but for most kids, even that won’t keep the happy the entire trip. So if you’re looking forward to a car ride on your vacation this year, here are a few tips to keep everyone happy, for most of the time anyway.

Watching movies in the car passes for travel entertainment these days, but to me, the best part of a family car trip is all the together time you get. How often is the whole family stuck together in a space so small? It’s a great time for interaction, and one of the ways to do it is to play some games.

Remember playing punch buggie? There aren’t as many Volkswagon bugs on the road these days, but you can change that game around however you want. And make it a little more family-friendly by not hitting each other. We used to play by counting how many we saw, and the first one to get five wins. The first one to see five red pick up trucks, the first one to see five patrol cars, the first one to see five corvettes, you get the idea.

Another great game is bingo. You can even print your own cards online at Squigly’s Playhouse. Take this game a step further by creating a scavenger hunt while you’re in the car. For ideas check out

One thing my family enjoys is trivia, and while Trivial Pursuits might be a little messy, you can always just use the cards. There are lots of choices in the card and game section of your favorite toy store. Or check out these: science and nature card games from Professor Noggin, or Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents.

Of course, you can’t play games forever. Once everyone gets tired of trying to think, or your eyes are strained from looking down the road, try putting a book on CD into the car stereo system. The days of families sitting around the radio for their nightly entertainment are long gone, but you can relive that in some ways on your summer vacation. There are plenty to choose from, including the teen favorite—the Twilight series, or even picture books for young children.

No matter what age your kids are, traveling with food is a must. Packing the right snacks can help the time go by faster by giving you something fun to do, it serves as a diversion, and it might even make some of your rest stops quicker, since all you’ll need to do is stop to pee and stretch your legs.

When it comes to eating in the car, convenience is the first rule of thumb. Purchase juice boxes and the small-size Gatorades to pack in a cooler, and the old standbys of goldfish, cereal, carrot sticks and grapes are great ideas.

Get a little more creative this year and make your own travel snacks. Even though you’re in the car and not on the trials, stir together some GORP for your trip. All you need is M&Ms, raisins and peanuts. It sounds simple, but the mixture is addictive.

Stay Relaxed
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from our many 8-hour car rides to Ohio, it’s that when traveling with kids, you have to be prepared for anything. Going to the beach, a trip that used to take you three and a half hours? Now that you have the baby, expect it to take five. Then when you get there in four hours, you’ll be pleasantly surprised rather than extremely stressed out.

If you haven’t had a lot of experience traveling with kids, be prepared to take plenty of breaks. My advice is to give up on going through the drive thru’s and eating in the car, it’s just too messy. Use lunch or supper as an excuse for a break, it will help everyone’s sanity. Let the kids run around a little at the rest areas. Be prepared to stop and change a diaper or two in a random location. And most important—pack lots of wipes and hand sanitizer!

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