Keep road trip boredom to a minimum with these tips - The Mommy Insider
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Keep road trip boredom to a minimum with these tips

by Alicia on July 8, 2008 in Travel

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It’s that time of year again when parents pack the kids into the car after having stuffed it full of suitcases, and topping the cargo area off with a stroller and playpen.  Ultimately, the car (mine at least) is so full, it’s almost likely that either Tim or I are going to have to forfeit our spot and catch the nearest train to our destination.

Here are a few tips that will help keep you and your kids occupied and sane during your next road trip.

A week or two before you are due to depart, determine the amount of time you will be in the car, plain or train then ask your child what kind of things she wants to play with or do during the ride. Have her give you a list of 7-10 things she enjoys playing with or doing.  If your child is too young to verbally share this information with you, think of what she’s likes to do, like read books, play with action figures, or play games. For older kids, consider more interactive toys such as electronic games (I know, I know) or art.

Narrow your child’s choices down from seven to ten items to three or four items but only after observing her play and usage patterns for a week or so.  If all else fails and you aren’t able to determine what she might enjoy spending time doing during the ride, think back to your own travels: did you spend the most time reading, coloring, or playing games?  Make a shopping list of the items you need to buy and consider the space they require so you are sure to have ample room in the car or cabin area of the plane or train to store the items.  Once you have narrowed your child’s list down to three or four items, add two or three items (for a 6+ hour trip only) that you will pack as surprise, or ‘Mommy, I’m bored’ items.  Surprise items can be as inexpensive as a Cahootie or a Rubik’s Cube to as expensive as a new Nintendo DS game or a new DVD, such as TripFlix which is both educational and entertaining.

Get a blank sheet of notebook paper, list each item your kids want to take in the car and then write down how long you think your child will play with each item.  If you are a superb time manager, you can even jot down a schedule of activities so you have an idea when each toy, game or book will be played with, read, or used and thus plan your time on the road even more precisely. However, it is highly unlikely that any child is going to stick to ‘the plan’. Add the lengths of each activity. The total time should be the length of your trip minus food, bathroom, and rest breaks.

It can’t be that easy, right? 
Uh, no!  You know the drill, you’re on the road for a few hours and all of the games, books, and DVD’s your child packed to play with are suddenly the most boring things on the face of the earth.  Be prepared to switch things up a little with some printable road trip games.  Go to Google.com and type "printable road trip games" and you will find dozens, maybe hundreds of links to websites from which you can print bingo game sheets, coloring pages, mazes, and travel journals.

Pack a large print map or two.  Don’t let your husband see them though. You don’t want to undermine his directional skills.  Kids love to help out.  Give your age appropriate child (6+) an easy to read map that shows the way to your destination and ask her to help you figure out where you are, how many miles until you get to the next major city or just to tell you a few towns you might pass through or over on your route.

And, of course, every road, plane or train trip needs some yummy goodies.  But keep in mind that they don’t have to be the same snacks that you keep in the cupboards at home.  Stock up on some fun snacks like teddy bear cookies, gummy bears, and goldfish crackers.  When the kids are begging for a snack, get them out and surprise your kids by starting a silly gummy bear dialog about your road trip or any other fun topic.  Before you know it your kids gummy bears will be chatting up a storm.  Don’t forget to pack the good stuff too like cut up grapes, cheese cubes, and pretzels to keep the kids energy levels at a norm.

Don’t forget to put the kids favorite blankets and stuffed animals in the car or cabin with them.  Sometimes just having these comfort items can help a child keep calm and relaxed during frustrating traffic jams, or runway delays.  Plan on playing a soothing CD to lull the kids off to sleep around their normal nap time and you may find that attaching a car seat sun-shade to your toddler’s car seat around her normal nap time will help her relax as she might not be as distracted by the cars driving by as well as the sounds and sights in the car.

Enjoy your trip!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Leslie July 14, 2008 at 3:05 pm

This is perfect timing! My clan (4 kids, husband and me) are planning a road trip down to DisneyWorld next week and the 4-hour car ride is definitely going to get to my 2 year old, not to mention my older kids. I’ll be sure to keep these tips in mind. I especially like the idea of narrowing down the activities…kids will say they want to do this and that but in the end, it’s just a pain to pack all of this stuff they don’t end up using.

One thing I thought might be helpful to add to your post is a quick reminder about making sure your current car seats are adequate for the trip. We’re in the process of packing/prepping, and we realized that our youngest’s car seat had a sizable tear in the cloth. Poor guy, I wouldn’t want him sitting on that for a long ride. Although activities are important for their entertainment, their comfort (and of course safety) also play into the overall experience. We actually ended up buying a new car seat over the weekend (Britax)…if others will find it useful, here’s the site we used to do some research.

Thanks again for the road trip tips! I’m sure they will make a difference for my clan :)

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