A family road trip is tons of fun, but also a lot of work. Small, tight spaces and a change in routine mean that your little ones can be less than cooperative. However, there are a number of ways to make time in the car enjoyable, making countless memories along the way.
Putting together a travel binder is one way to give each kid a customized activity to do in the backseat. Here are some other road tip tips to help you along the ride!
Prepare ahead of time
The thought of a family road trip may bring to mind constant bathroom breaks and “are we there yet”s, back seat squabbles, and arguments over music and movies. Fortunately, there are some things you can do ahead of time to plan for a better experience.
Talk to your kids ahead of time about your trip’s logistics: how long you’ll be traveling, where you’ll be staying, what the weather will be like, and so on. This will help set expectations for your travels and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Bring a positive attitude from packing up to buckling up. Your family can sense when things are tense, so do your best to roll with whatever missteps come your way. Instead, try to look at the journey as part of the destination. This can change your perception of family travel to a hugely enjoyable part of your adventure and it should only get easier as kids grow older. After all, being together is the idea of a road trip, and while your destination is the most exciting part, it is the togetherness that makes vacations so fun.
Plan for breaks
Try to leave enough time in your road trip to enjoy sites along the way and not be pressured into long stretches in the car. When traveling with young children, scope out playgrounds or places to run around and stretch your legs. In addition, there are many roadside attractions and places to visit along with any travel plan that will give your trip an element of excitement.
As with any trip, a combination of preparation and flexibility is key. Check along your route to find fun restaurants or interesting destinations, but if you aren’t feeling it at the moment, or if something is unexpectedly closed, allow for that eventuality and roll with the punches.
Here’s a tip: Have something fun to do for the ride home. Often, on the way there, time flies by, while the way back can seem arduous. Consider saving something like a day at an amusement park or a trip to the movies, for the return journey, allowing for some anticipation for going home.
Bring along activities
To break up boredom in the car, you’ve probably planned to bring electronics, movies, games, snacks, and activities. These are all great but they do seem to have a short lifecycle when it comes to keeping kiddos entertained. Plan to switch out the variety to keep things new and fresh.
Switch out entertainment
While electronics and iPads can be lifesavers, there are plenty of other ways to occupy your little ones. One idea is to only use an iPad if you are driving after dark. Most other activities require some light to accomplish and once it is dark, settling down to a movie can be a great way to wind kids down.
There are tons of activities you can bring along with you, but buying them from the store or online can end up being needlessly expensive. Most of the activities you need are simple and can be easily printed and put into a fun travel binder.
Create travel binders
The thing about the travel binder is that it can be personalized to the little traveler in mind, so you can add games or coloring pages to fit your child’s interests. Just get a three-ring binder and some DIY road trip activities to create your own activity book. Pack some art supplies and you’re all set!
The Zebra recently put together a collection of travel-themed printables that you can use for children of many different ages. Just download, print, and add to your binder so you can hit the road. You likely have everything you need on hand and the binder can be kept in your child’s backpack or the back seat for the next trip.
Another great thing about the travel binder is that it’s relatively clean so your car can stay nice and neat too (for the most part). Putting everything into one binder makes a big difference and keeps kids from taking each others materials too.
One of the best parts about a travel binder is that they create a tangible memory of your time on the road. Trip after trip, your child can look back on previous pages and you can keep adding new activities to keep them new and exciting.
Printables for preschoolers
Cutting out puzzle pieces beforehand can create a great binder game – or the classic game of spotting different colored cars can be made into something fun with a printable to really keep score of red cars vs blue ones.
Printables for K-2nd graders
At this point, kids can be very curious about what is happening along the way — give them the ability to do things like learn road rules or fill out a scavenger hunt. Make the hunt more fun with small rewards like jellybeans, marshmallows or pennies for spotting items. There’s always the classic game of trying to find license plates from many states too.
Printables for 3rd-5th graders
Journaling about your trip is a great way to engage young learners. Have them write a silly story about something they wish would happen, or about the weirdest road trip in the world. Have them keep the official logbook and ask them to record things like the time you started and stopped the weather and strange incidents along the way. Have them write a new song and then everyone can sing it, maybe even give them a tune and a topic.
Make memories on the road
Again, bringing kids along on your road trip doesn’t have to be stressful. With a little preparation and imagination, you can easily discover printables online to enhance your trip and keep young minds occupied while you travel. Consider giving your children some ownership over what activities might interest them too. Work with them to customize their binder before heading out and build anticipation for your trip.
The Zebra has collected many more printables for you to use, but you can also find them all over the internet with a little research. Get ready to hit the road and make unforgettable memories with your family!