Who's ready for a family road trip? As a mom who has wrangled four kids on multiweek summer road trips for years, I love the connection that comes from being together in the car. But I also know how quickly the excitement at the start of a trip can give way to conflict and complaints—if you don’t plan ahead. For more highs than lows on the road, you need to start off well prepared.
Charge up the tablets, pack a cooler with drinks and snacks, and bring the fun, such as games, music, podcasts, and mobile apps. These road trip activities will help to ensure the drive is as enjoyable as the destination.
Games are a must for any road trip, and not just because they keep young minds occupied. We all get so caught up in day-to-day of life (laundry, grocery shopping) that it's nice to slow down and enjoy each other as a family. Engaging car games can be a great way for kids and parents to re-connect.
You don't need a dozen games, but two or three, depending on the duration of your drive, should provide enough entertainment. A good pick is the card-based Scavenger Hunt for Kids. It's fun and easy for small children to understand and play with parents and older siblings. Even better, it takes eyes off tablets and gets them looking out windows (what a concept, right?) for stop signs, tow trucks, motorcycles, and yellow houses. Take a break if a disagreement erupts or motion sickness sets in.
It's a bonus if you can bring along games that the kids can play with each other in the backseat—as in, no parents required. Family bonding is great, but it's nice, and sometimes even necessary, to take a break. But safety should always be the top priority, says Michelle Donati of AAA Arizona.
"Drivers should avoid games and activities that take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off the task of driving,” she says. She also advises passengers to skip games or activities that require them to move around the car, take off their seatbelts, or distract the driver in any way.
Compact travel games, such as Connect 4 Grab & Go and Pop-O-Matic Trouble Grab & Go, are well-suited for moments when parents need to pause their fun in order to navigate heavy traffic or poor weather conditions that make the drive more of a challenge.
You can also search online for printable travel games such as crossword puzzles, mazes, word searches, and license plate finders. You can even find math games, such as count the cars and gas math, if you want to inject a boost of learning into your road trip.
Many classic road trip games, such as car bingo and iSpy, can now be found on mobile apps, like Top Road Trip Games, which has 11 different activities.