Each summer since the girls were little, the three of us would take two long weekend car trips. We make the five hour trip to the Outer Banks, and the nine hour trip to a family reunion in upstate New York. While we have one, I’m not a big fan of the car’s DVD player. They’ve always been allowed one movie per day on long trips, then the rest of the time is spent learning how to entertain themselves. Here’s what worked for us:
- Travel friendly art supplies – This includes a gallon bag of new crayons and several coloring books, stickers and plain paper, and Color Wonder markers and books.
- Bag of car toys – We have two paper grocery bags in our garage packed with car toys at all times. This includes a few Woodkins doll packs with fabric, magnet dress-up dolls, houses and sceneries, a few matchbox cars and a few action figures.
- Activity books and magazines – Activity books include Where’s Waldo, Look Alikes, Hidden Pictures, mazes, word-finds, dot-to-dots, invisible ink books, sticker books and puppet books.
- The empty backpack – We always brought an empty backpack for collecting travel brochures, interesting placemats, menus, tickets and small souveniers.
- Snacks – This one is an obvious must. We brought cereal cups, granola bars, bags of chips, water bottles and small juice boxes.
- Travel board games – Many board games have a travel version. We have Trouble, Othello, Sorry and Connect Four.
- Magnet games – Magnet games include chess and checkers, tic-tac-toe and Hangman. There’s also Wooly Willy, Hair-do Harriet and Lil Squirt magnet games.
- Car games – Car games include the Alphabet Game, 20 Questions, the License Plate game, travel bingo, and punch buggy.
Sing-alongs and stories
- Sing alongs – Remember all the old campfire songs “Little Rabbit in the Woods,” “On Top of Old Smoky,” “Head and Shoulders,” and “Home on the Range,” or patriotic songs like “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” – a long car ride is the perfect time to teach these.
- Read alouds – If it doesn’t make you car sick, a long car ride is the perfect time to read a chapter book aloud. It might be a nice time for an older sibling to read picture books aloud to a younger sibling.
- Books on tape – In my car, these count as read alouds.
- Family stories – This is one time of the year when you spend a few undivided hours with your family. This is the time to tell stories about your own family growing up, how you spent your summers or about traveling and vacations. This is a time to tell stories about when they were babies and growing up as well.
- Talk games – This includes Table Talk for Kids or Melissa and Doug’s Box of Questions or American Girl’s conversation starters.
Stops along the way
- Plan for it – On our way to the beach, we often stop for an hour at the Virginia Living Science Museum. On our way to the family reunion, we’ve stopped at Boyd’s Bears and the Corning Glass Museum.
- Movement breaks – At least every two hours, it’s nice to stop and stretch your legs. This may be just taking a quick walk around a rest stop, or if you plan ahead everyone could spend a few minutes tossing a beach ball or jumping rope.
- Travel brochures – Part of trips with my younger daughter Claire is collecting travel brochures. She likes to look through the pictures and plan stops along the way. When we can, we take small detours to check out places from the brochures. For sure, this is how we found Mr. Sticky’s cinnamon buns in Pennsylvania.
- Scenic stops – This would be my dad’s favorite and there’s no planning required. It’s nice to stop and scenic overlooks and historical landmarks.