A Long Road Trip? Noooooooo!

Almost summer! Here you go.You’re headed out on the road with the kids. Sure, you can put a movie into a player and that’s an easy two hours. But what about creating memories? I feel disconnected from my child if the whole trip is spent staring into our portable devices.

When I was a kid (ha! there’s that line!), boredom brought about invention. We played traditional games, sang songs, tried to best one another with “What if’s” and then, before resorting to blows, we made up our own games.

Share Appreciation

What better place than an enclosed environment with wiggly kids and tired parents to share gratefuls about one another? Try a round, each saying what they appreciate about another family member. Have as many rounds as it takes to include everyone. There might be resistance at first, but it can miraculously change up a low energy mood.


Gulp! Did she say SILENCE, you ask? While I’ve included some great ideas, don’t PANIC if every moment isn’t filled. Encourage periods of silence. Some of the best thoughts in humankind have come from the gift of NOTHING going on.

Seven Family Favorites

Okay, enough silence. Here’s some group activities:

  1. Add a Sentence Story– everyone adds to a story one sentence at a time.
  2. Alphabet – Divide into teams. Find each letter of the alphabet in order on the signs and license plates.
  3. I Spy – “I spy with my little eye something that starts with ‘B’” – players try to spot an object.
  4. I Packed My Bag – Each player has to remember what is in the bag and then add their own item. One variation is to list items alphabetically.
  5. Bizz-Buzz – Start counting. 1 – 2 . . . Every time you get to 3 or a multiple of 3, you say Bizz. Every time you get to 5 or a multiple of 5, you say Buzz. If it’s a multiple of both (i.e. 15) say Bizz-Buzz.
  6. Are we there yet?  – Have a jar or bag of treats. Every time someone asks “Are we there yet?” a treat is taken OUT of the jar. The idea is to get to an appointed place without any treats leaving the jar.
  7. Remember a Memory – Each family member describes a family memory. Then everyone gets a turn at filling in the details of what they remember.

What to Bring?

Pack the kids a cooler full of healthy snacks (with a few special treats thrown in.)

Don’t forget:

  • car bingo games
  • books
  • audio books for the whole family to enjoy
  • activity pads
  • drawing materials
  • a deck of cards
  • pre-stamped blank postcards to fill out
  • duct tape (the crazy colorful designed duct tape) and make bracelets
  • a roll of aluminum foil (let them go to town with arm bands, masks, hats, etc.)

The Power of Music

Of course, I would make sure to include MUSIC!

What are some favorite songs to sing? The Ants Go Marching In, Skip to My Lou (make up your own verses), On Top of Old Smoky, She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, Clementine, 100 Bottles of Coke on the Wall, or I’ve Been Working on the Railroad are a few. And if the traditional stand-by’s aren’t cutting it, you can always learn all the words to “Thrift Shop” from your older child.

Make a CD of sing-along songs or good driving songs. Music Together has some wonderful CD’s of children’s music that are well-produced and engaging (even for adults!) Include favorites of EVERYONE – parents included.

If . . . IF . . .your ear can take it, what about packing a recorder in the car? My son made up his own tunes and developed his ear at the same time. Side Note: My husband had much less tolerance for this activity than I did. 🙂

Driving trips = FUN!!

Now it’s your turn. Where are you going this summer and what ideas do YOU have for car trips?


5 Responses to “A Long Road Trip? Noooooooo!”

  1. Depending on how old your kids are, I highly recommend Bill Cosby’s early comedy cd’s. The best are “Wonderfulness”, “Revenge”, “When I was a Kid” and the epic “To My Brother Russell, Whom I Slept With”. My kids – now both teenagers – & I have listened to Cosby’s cds many times, we have most of them memorized, and they still inspire howls of laughter in the car. When the kids get older, get Jim Gaffigan’s cds, which are also clean, funny & addictive. Laughter always makes the drive go faster.

  2. GREAT addition to this conversation!! And I remember the whole bit about Cosby sharing a bedroom with his brother – such a great set-up! Thanks for jogging my memory on that one. And including one of the MOST important family memories – the times laughing together.

    Aside: Bill Cosby is coming to our small town on July 5th! My son will love him.

    Going off to check out Jim Gaffigan now.

  3. My memories of childhood drives are horrible. Corporal punishment was normal. Today my dad would be in jail for what he did to us on the side of the freeway. How times have changed. I enjoy the long drives now and love the variety of interactive, solo, and group activities we do. Bill Cosby – great idea. Jim Gaffigan… we opened for him once and he was not impressed. After our 3rd standing ovation I saw him walk out of the wings and pace. Oh well… I’m sure he’s never had jugglers open for him again.

  4. Katrina

    We’ve been doing 8-hr drives (to Sunriver and Smith River) since babyhood w/ the kids … so driving games are key! We had many blessed years of no electronics and still have never gotten a DVD player. Now w/ 9 and 11 yo’s, we still hold to electronics (ipod, dsi) for less then half the drive. The rest of the time – a lot of your games above, also 20 questions (“is it smaller then a bread box?”) is a favorite. We also have areas where we do the same thing each drive – whether finding the snow geese in the central valley in the winter, or counting the eagles near Klamath Falls (we broke our record this last year with over 60! it was amazing!!) – there are parts the drive where we all know what to do. And every time we go by Mt Shasta we talk about climbing routes! Black Bear diner has also become a key incentive to get just one more hour in on our drive before we stop.
    : )

  5. Humor, like music, is very subjective & often age-appropriate or not. With that in mind, here are a few more comedy cds that you might enjoy on road trips with tweens & teens. Jerry Seinfeld’s “I’m Telling You for the Last Time”. Brian Regan Live. Steven Wright’s mind-blowing “I Have a Pony”. And Woody Allen’s classic “Standup Comic”. A warning to whoever is driving: You may lose control of the car when you can’t stop laughing. Pull over & enjoy the moment. That’s what a road trip is all about.


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