16 Hours in the Car

without the use of electronics {or tranquilizers}…

I’m so excited to keep the conversation going about road tripping with kids! It’s not easy, but with intentional planning, I do believe we can look back on those adventures with fondness.   

Remember, the journey to anywhere takes lots of grace and practice, but you and your kids can experience the joy quality time can offer, even on a road trip. 

1. Create a reward or incentive for each hour of your trip. For my crew, I pack a sweet treat (gum, mints, gummies, chocolate) and if they don’t argue or complain (within reason), they get one after an hour of driving. My sister-in-law gives quarters and lets them buy something at the gas station stops, or they can save them for souvenirs. I also use some of our pit stops as an opportunity to buy a bag of chips or a special drink they can enjoy for their reward. 

2. Plan a different activity/toy/theme for each hour. This is something I used to write out and have on hand to remind me what I planned for each hour. Now, I’ve done my eight-hour trek to Colorado so often I have this down to a science. But, for our 16-hour road trip, we make some summers, I write it out to help me remember or for my kids to read so they won’t have to ask me what’s next. : )

I recommend starting with simple things like music, reading, audiobooks, or quiet time. The sooner you begin the electronics (if you use them), the harder it will be to switch them off.

3. Choose an audiobook (or several short audio picture books) that the majority of the family will enjoy.  You know we LOVE, and we’ve always had one ready on audible.com or borrowed from our library. Sarah Mackenzie has so many super recommendations by age and interests on her website or extensively in her new book. We’ve listened to most of the Little House books, the Penderwicks series, Chronicles of Narnia, Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang and any picture books we could find at the library with a CD included. We’ve read so many, I won’t try to put them all here, but feel free to comment below with your favorites!

4. Download Focus on the Family’s Radio Theater and Adventures in Odyssey. Though age appropriateness and topics must be determined for your family, we’ve really appreciated the timeless classics and lessons provided by these two listening resources. 

5. Keep a box of travel activities at the ready and wrap a few items even if they aren’t new to prevent them from using them all within the first hour.  We love these IQ games, my kids are thrilled with an unopened box of crayons, our fav colored pencilscoloring books (you might want to get one for yourself too), Travel Bingo, tic tac toe, paper airplane materials (we’ve made rules about not testing them in the car) and so much more.

A trip to the dollar bins at Target or the Dollar Store can give you hours of sanity. Just pack them strategically, so they aren’t all dumped out within the first hour of your trip. Wrap them, keep them up front with you, or in a box with a lid to keep them hidden.

6. Be willing to do some silly games or songs to get the giggles going and smiles big. I know you're sick of, “The Wheels on the Bus,” but your kids love to hear your voice and anything they can easily rhyme or sing with you. 

7. Create a personal playlist. You have the family trapped, it’s time to help them learn the classics. Do you love Paula Abdul as much as my husband? Well, the only time we put up with a few of these songs is on a long road trip. I guarantee you, this is something my kids will tell their kids someday or when some an 80’s music trivia game question is asked, they might actually know the answer. 

8. Invest in a story starter books/game or Mad Libs. Or if you are super creative, make up your own! We’ve found all these things on Amazon or in random shopping trips. These Story Starters are ones I can personally recommend, and we even used them for a homeschooling project.

9. Run around the car three times or race to the restrooms at each stop {if it’s safe, of course}.  This one is for me! I need to get my blood flowing and cramped legs moving.

Wishing you safe travels and happy returns. Bon Voyage!

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