It’s Spring Break season, and my kids had an early break. As I write this, we are on our final leg of a 10-day road trip that took us to six hotels, four states and 1,654 public restrooms, all in my econobox of a car that I bought just because I liked the color.
We survived, and I wanted to share some of the finds I took with us on the trip to help your family plan yours!
Printable Activity Sheets: Remember when you were growing up and your family would play scavenger hunt or “I spy” in the car?
Pinterest Moms have helped us bring it up a notch with an array of fun printables for road trips. My favorite is the car bingo. There are versions for kids who can find makes of cars or for littler ones who can find by color. The possibilities of road trip printables are as limitless as your printer cartridge.
Tip: Don’t forget to pack the activity sheets after you print them. A friend told me that happened to her.
Playaway books: Reading in the car is a great way to pass the time, but what if your child is not a confident reader, gets car sick or just gets bored? Enter playaway books, tiny audio book players that require only a AAA battery and a set of headphones. Available at some drug stores and other road trip stops, I found a gold mine of them at my local library (sorry, other Spring Breakers). I rented them for my younger son, but my older son loved the concept and decided he wanted some, too. They even have them for adults! And any child who knows how to operate an iPod can figure out these 2-ounce wonders.
Beat the Parents Card game: This card deck has a set of questions for parents to ask their children and vice versa.
This game is best kept for when you’ve been in the car a while and they’ve grown bored of their options (or run out of electronic time). The bonus was that my emerging reader practiced his reading in the car as well, with help from big brother.
When we ran out of cards, we started making up our own.
Playable Lego storage: With options from Amazon to Etsy to a DIY, playable Lego storage kits essentially have space to store Lego bricks, often with a base piece glued on top. Some hacks include using a metal lunch box with a plate glued inside, or a pencil box with a base plate on top. Or, simply use a storage box and be strategic about the pieces you pack. It comes with printable design challenges! I love these because you can also take them to manage the wait at busy restaurants.
Cookie Sheet Lap Trays: Back in the day, I tried a legitimate kids’ lap tray that was all fancy but too bulky. Some genius thought up a dollar-store cookie sheet lap tray. Your kids can color pages, play with magnets, build with clay, use their action figures, make paper dolls—all kinds of fun things. Pinterest moms also figured out ways to customize them (it involves a sewing machine), and you can even find printables specifically to use on the tray.
Car seat organizers: There is an array of options for seat back compartments. I bought these in a 2-pack on Amazon. They are sturdy and don’t look cheesy*. My kids were so excited about them. One asked, “Mommy, can we keep these even after the trip?” They have pockets for devices, baby wipes or tissues, books and more. It helped us keep track of things in the car and avoid fighting over cup holders. Plenty of options abound on Amazon, or for the crafty types, Pinterest has plenty of DIY offerings.
Roadside America App: A friend clued me into this App that alerts you to interesting stops on your road trip. Sadly it’s only on iTunes, but you can research the website ahead of time for stops. Some of the places your kids might not appreciate until they are older, but I still like to recall my time at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota back in 1990.
Timer: I’m a huge fan of the Time Timer, and the Time Timer Watch Plus is the most convenient way to help your kids keep track of time in the car. Whichever you choose, there are many things to track: How long your kids have to read, how much time they get on electronics, how long until the next planned food or restroom break.
Cheap Play-Doh or modeling clay: When my kids were younger I loved to take the cheap dollar store version on airplanes and we could model things on the seat tray. Another idea, while heavier, would be the air-dry modeling clay that takes a while to dry. Plenty of time to sculpt, and the next thing you know, you’re almost “there.” *Photo credit: Daily Mail.