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Embarking on a road trip with kids can be daunting, but it does not have to turn into a nightmare. Quite the contrary.
With a bit of planning and preparation, you can ensure that it is a smooth and happy experience for everyone involved.
While you cannot expect kids to sit still happily for hours on end, there is a lot you can do to entertain them ingeniously instead – let me show you how:
1. Road Trip Snacks for Kids
Kids = Snacks! It’s as simple as that. And if you can even pack their favourite snacks, your kids will reward you with contentment and happiness in return. I promise!
Don’t hand (or show!) your kids all the snacks at once. Keep some surprises for the times when you really need to use your magic wand to tame your little tigers.
Our favourite road trip snacks are cut-up fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, energy bars, seaweed, chickpea puffs, rice cakes, cheese, boiled eggs, oat cakes, and home-made muffins.
Also, don’t forget to keep your kids (and yourself!) hydrated. Make sure they have access to water at all times. We love Kleen Kanteen’s stainless steel water bottles which are available in different sizes and funky colours.
2. Audiobooks & Podcasts
Audiobooks are certainly the best way to keep my kids entertained (after snacks, that is!). And the best of all: you’ll also learn a thing or two along the way (pun intended). Try to choose a mix of books that meet everyone’s needs.
We usually listen to non-fiction audiobooks within the adventure, health & wellbeing and history genres with one or two kids’ fiction books thrown in. I am very lucky that my kids are happy to listen to adult non-fiction books – I doubt that I would cope with listening to kids’ fiction books for hours on end. Check out our all-time favourite adventure audiobook below.
3. Travel Games
4. Paper & Colouring Pencils
Give your kids some paper & colouring pencils and they will surprise you with how long these can keep them engaged. I would highly recommend storing them in a pencil case as otherwise they would be strewn in the car already on day one.
5. New Books
If your kids are of reading-age, get them a new book as a surprise. Who doesn’t love a surprise?! My 11-year old daughter will soon be publishing her Top 11 Books that range from adventure to fantasy fiction.
6. New Magazines
Get your kids new magazines which they will only be allowed to open on the road trip (but not during first minute either!). That way, they will have something to look forward to and it can be another magic wand for you.
Usually, I get my kids a surprise magazine each. (Can you tell that I love surprises?) In the past, these included National Geographic Kids, The Octonauts, and others.
7. Listen To Music
You can either listen to any local radio station that you receive while on the road or compile your favourite family tracks and take them along.
I do the former for two reasons.
Frankly, after planning and organising an epic road trip, I neither have the time nor the energy to compile and download songs onto a USB stick to take along.
But more importantly, it is actually quite fun listening to local radio stations – especially abroad – and getting a sense of the music culture of that country.
8. Take Regular Breaks
Regular breaks will give everyone a chance to literally stretch their legs as well as have a change of scenery.
Some service stations on motorways even have playgrounds, but this will depend on luck as I am not aware of how you would plan for pit-stops at those particular ones.
If you are planning to be en route during meal times, take a break and turn it into a little picnic. Your kids will reward you with contentment on the next leg of your journey.
Every family’s needs are different. Some kids will manage to sit happily in a car for an hour while others will last for 4 hours or longer.
Even if your kids were happily entertaining themselves on a 3-hour journey the previous day, do not expect that they will behave the same way the next day.
Every day is different but you will be able to find your rhythm if you listen to your and your kids’ needs.
9. Look Out The Window
This one is obvious but oftentimes underrated. Chances are that you will be travelling through picturesque places. Let your kids look out the window and enjoy the scenery.
On motorways, you can ask them to play a game of counting particular car models or counting them by colour.
My kids have spotted some wonderful wildlife just by looking out the window, such as a family of wild boar, deer, tortoises, hares, frogs, foxes, birds of prey, and the cutest Highland calf below.
If you have a child that gets car sick, looking out the window may also help ease the nauseousness.
With a bit of luck – especially with young kids – they will take a nap.
On our first road trip – when my kids were 3 & 6 years old – I had promised my eldest that we would stop for some ice cream once her younger brother woke up from his nap.
Can you guess what happened next? My daughter leaned over and pinched her little brother to wake him up! This obviously didn’t go as per my plan, but it certainly taught me a lesson!
11. Electronic Tablets
This is my very last resort. As mentioned above, every family is different and so are their needs. So, take them along if you think they will help you keep everyone happy and content.
I bought our kids these Kindle Fire tablets for our first road trip. Don’t forget to get some protective cases too along with some car headrest tablet holders so that your kids can use them hands-free in the car.
In preparation for our road trip, I downloaded a few films and audiobooks which they watched during the first couple of days. I usually don’t bother to get them out and set up for shorter legs of the trip (which in our case is anything less than 3 hours).
Pro Tip: After 7 weeks, when it was time for our return journey, we discovered that:
a) we couldn’t download any new films abroad due to licensing rights and
b) the ones we had already downloaded, had in fact expired.
So, this is something to bear in mind if you are planning a road-trip for 4 weeks or longer.
A road trip is a special occasion, so treat it as such. Do spoil your kids with their favourite snacks and little surprises. Also, make sure that you keep some tricks up your sleeves when you really need them.
Kids get bored, and that’s OK, too. Boredom will spark their creativity. Unless it becomes unsafe for you to keep driving – because your kids start to fight and throw things around in the car – don’t try to fill every minute with activities. Let them be creative and see what they surprise you with.
- 12 Epic Reasons to Solo Road Trip with Kids (and 5 Against)
- How to Plan a Europe Road Trip – The Essential Guide
- The Ultimate Family Road Trip Packing List
- How to Get Your Car Ready for a Road Trip
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