I’ve never been a fan of long car trips and by the way, I define long as over 2 hours. I grew up in Virginia and every summer, we made the 10+ hour car trip to Lake Michigan to visit friends. I can remember as a kid packing my bag full of things to keep me busy and coming home having touched maybe 5% of what I packed. This was back in the dinosaur age before portable DVD players, electronic devices of any kind and maybe before Walkmans. Raise your hand if you remember those!?! How in the world did parents have a successful road trip with tweens before technology? Life used to be so simple.
When my kids were younger, they could bring a few Lego people or stuffed animals and play with them for a while and then we’d put on a movie or three. We’d get to our destination and all of us would be in a decent mood.
As the kids have gotten older, it’s become more difficult. My son would spend all day in front of video games, iPads, tv, basically anything with a screen and be totally content if I let him. When it comes to road trips, I make an honest attempt to engage him in other activities but I’m pretty quick to waive the white flag. If I’m stuck in a car for hours on end, I’m simply not going to subject myself to the arguments. Call me lazy, call me a bad mom, whatever, it’s nothing I haven’t already called myself at one point or another. Once we get to our destination, I’m back in electronic hawk mode. I really don’t like being in a car for more than a few hours, I get car sick reading or doing anything I need to concentrate on so I just basically sit and stare out the window. Fun time, I know. My daughter is the same way, she can play games on her iPad but even gets tired of that after a while so as I prepared for a recent car trip, I knew I had to find some other options for us.
How to Have a Successful Road Trip with Tweens
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Years ago while sitting at a stop light my kids were arguing and as I anxiously waiting for the light to turn green, I blurted out, I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 10, who can guess it? The arguing immediately stopped and we played the game for what seemed like 10 hours but was probably more like 10 minutes. Somehow, this game has stuck with my daughter and at 10 years old, she still wants to play it. I’m not sure why it works but somehow, it entertains my tweens while they stare out the window.
License Plate Game
Who remembers the license plate game? I’m an only child but can remember playing this game with my mom on road trips as a kid. I don’t know that we ever kept track of the plates we found but somehow, we always seemed to remember which ones had been called out. These days, there’s an app for that! Don’t they say to meet kids where they are? This is where the old school game meets technology. I’m a fan of free apps so I always look for the freebie, thankfully there are plenty. State Hunt is a digital version of a checklist. My kids are very competitive with each other so games like this are great for starting arguments. Try it at your own risk.
Chat Pack for Kids
A friend said she was using the *Chat Pack for Kids at dinner time and her family was having so much fun with it. I bought a pack right before we left for a road trip and the cards didn’t disappoint. Somehow, when I ask my kids a thought-provoking question, they clam up but when I read it off a card, they’ve got a lot to say. Questions like, what do you think is the most important thing that friends can do for each other or if you could permanently eliminate one color from the world, which color would it be? Theoretically, it could be a one-word answer and end right there, however, it turned in to a discussion that involved defending your choice and then challenging other answers.
Snacks, always pack snacks and make them easy to get to. We travel with water and only when we stop for a meal, do we get something else. Snack size bags of chips, cookies, nuts, etc. can be a good idea but although we are away from the house, we are still mindful of the waste we generate. Regular size bags of pretzels, popcorn, chips, etc. are divided out into reusable snack bags. We also carry along a small cooler with things like fruit, cheese, yogurt, etc. A designated bag for recyclables makes the trip as well. If we find a place to recycle them during the trip great, if not, we bring them home and recycle them here. The iRecycle app from Earth911 can help you locate recycling facilities around the country. Seriously though, if you travel without snacks, a successful road trip with tweens is something you will not have. That my friends, is a guarantee. If you’ll be doing any grocery shopping along the way, don’t forget your reusable shopping and produce bags.
Somehow sitting in a car for hours on end makes everyone hungry. So when the snacks are gone or it’s time for a meal, I found a great app for locating that next restaurant (or grocery store, gas station, hotel, etc). It’s called iExit. Open the app and it finds you on the highway, then lists, by exit number, the restaurants, hotels, gas stations, etc. at upcoming exits. The app also tells you how far it is to the exit so you can plan accordingly. We found it very helpful on our last road trip when we were looking for a place to stop for lunch. It was close to lunch time but not all of us were hungry. I looked at the app and see how far apart the upcoming exits were so we were able to better determine when to stop. I don’t know about you but I surely don’t want to be stuck in a car with two hungry tweens when the next exit is 50 miles further down the highway.
Are you a roadtripper? I’d love to hear some of the places you’ve been and how you pass the time in the car. If you have any secrets for combatting motion sickness, please, I beg you to send them to me. A girl can only sniff so much peppermint. After we retire, my husband and I want to rent an RV and travel the United States with our bulldog(s).
Make it a green day!