Ways to Not Lose Your Mind While Traveling with Kids.

On our recent vacation, I took some time before we left to plan activities for the kids to do in the van to hopefully avoid a ridiculous number of meltdowns. My mom used to collect little things as gifts for us for our trips, and it always made travel easier, so I’ve always done the same thing.

Here is a list of some things that kept the boys entertained!

1. Of course, the DVD player. Yes, I know, we didn’t have these in the old days1984 when we were kids taking cross-country trips with our parents (I mean, really…could you even imagine what you would have thought back then if you knew that you could WATCH A MOVIE in your car?). I let the boys choose what videos to bring and put them in a little shopping bag for them. The key, though, was that we borrowed some movies from a friend, so that they had new things to watch. I love redbox for at home, and the concept is great for on the road, but unfortunately we’ve had trouble in the past with redbox videos working in our portable DVD player. And I didn’t just let them watch DVDs all the time. OK, on the way home, post-pericarditis-attack, I did.

2. I’ve mentioned before that we have this talking map puzzle, and it’s one of the boys’ favorites (bonus: the boys know so many states/capitals/state mottos I can’t believe it!). So they’re already really interested in the different states. Several weeks before we left, the boys wrote out a list of all the states…at their ages, they weren’t going to be able to just write them down on their own when we spotted one. They just made a mark beside the state when we saw a new one, and we wrote down the Canadian provinces we spotted, too. So, this game was ongoing throughout the trip.

3. Kind of to go with #2: The Kids’ Atlas. There are other “backseat books” in this series, and I’ve already bought them for future travel.

4. Pez dispensers, and refill Pez candies (can be found at Cracker Barrel stores!).

5. Sheets of stickers. This was great for Jack Henry, who covered himself in stickers, which kept him quiet and busy for at least 25 minutes while he rearranged them until they no longer stuck. Nana Jo gave us these and they were great!

6. Nana Jo also bought the boys these travel dry erase sets, which kept the older boys busy for quite a while. Just remember to take the crayons out of the car and into your condo/cottage/whatever so that they don’t melt.

7. Don’t just give them everything at once! You can wrap up the individual gifts or just surprise the kids with them at some point when they’re getting bored.

8. I bought this Melissa & Doug Travel Bingo game, and it was a HUGE hit. The only thing is, we’re going to need another set so that Jack Henry can play, too, on our next trip (which I hope will be to Disney World). The boys continued to bring this in the car for a couple of weeks after we came home and just played it around town.

9. When we crossed the border into Michigan, we stopped at the first rest area and got everyone their own free map of Michigan. We showed the boys the route we were taking, and then they tracked it for a bit. Since our kids love maps, this was a great unexpected, free activity to keep them busy for a while! And most states have free maps in their welcome centers (some are much more thorough than others), so this is something you can do when you cross a state line anywhere.

10. Of course, snacks. We kept a cooler and a basket of food in the backseat that was easy for Matt or me to access.

11. Kim’s comment below (with a fun idea!) reminded me that we taught the boys to play the alphabet game, where you spot letters in alphabetical order on signs. We don’t play against each other yet, but as a team. We had to have played this 20 times on the trip.

What things do you do in the car to make the time go faster?

11 responses to “Ways to Not Lose Your Mind While Traveling with Kids.

  1. I haven’t done this, but I just read about a mom who tied a string across the backs of the front seats and made a mark for every 100 miles they had to drive. She had a clothespin that they would move every time they hit a 100 mile mark . . . and they got a small toy, book, snack or game every time they moved the clothes pin.

    When I do try it, I think I’m going to turn around multiple times throughout the trip just to ask if we’re there yet.

  2. Whenever we are in the car for more than an hour, so every trip to Effingham, we go through the alphabet and name animals for each letter. All 4 of us have to think of a different animal. You would be surprised how long this takes. When we drove to the Dells, we did animals, food and names too.

  3. These are great ideas – going to use some – my sis lives 4 hours away – we don’t go often because i lose my mind trying to keep the girls entertained in the car. I use the food/drink nearby and some new games/books by me that i can mix it up half way through – but i am going to have to get the bingo boards – they are old enough for that I think they would like it! Thanks for the ideas!!

  4. movies, snacks, the alphabet game and license plate game definitely get us through our trips. on our last trip to omaha, we did redbox and watched a movie on the way up and then traded it out for a new one for the way back. luckily it worked on our player or i probably would have made eric stop at the nearest store to buy a movie:) those travel books look great – i had never seen them before. don’t you wish you would have thought of that idea first?

  5. We have done everything you have mentioned! Another thing I do for their gift is the sticker by number pictures you can create. I will say Kayla gets way more into those then Andrew, but he will do it for a while. We definitely always have our leapsters with us, too! And, for the younger ones – have you seen the small travel aquadoodle pictures? Kenzie loved doing those and they work well to bring to a restaurant with you, too!
    http://www.amazon.com/Aquadoodle-Mini-Mats-Spongebob-Squarepants/dp/B002AWLLDG/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=toys-and-games&qid=1284492687&sr=8-10
    Like these, only we don’t do spongebob. Just another idea that I’m sure Jack Henry would like!

  6. Oh – and those mats – at Target I got them for around $5. I wouldn’t spend $30 on them 🙂

  7. I have a future blog post on #6…….ugh.

  8. What? We just dose our kids up with Benedryl and encourage sleep.

  9. LOL @ Karen!!

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