I am participating in a blogger contest held by Cabins For You. Cabins For You specializes in cabin rentals located in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN. For more information about cabins, events and attractions please visit their blog.
We travel as a family quite a bit. Usually we only take one big vacation every year, but with my husband's job requiring some travel, we have recently been able to accompany him on some business outings as well. Now that I have convinced him that our kids are old enough travel well and not slow him down, I have to keep up my end of the bargain and come up with ways to keep them entertained. These are just ideas...some I have tried and some that...well...may just be imaginary things I have thought of that I wish I could do. ha.
1. Treat bags with prizes. I first did this in 2008 when we first took our kids to Disney World. It was the first long car drive for them and I was obsessed with bringing plenty of on the road entertainment. I scouted out the dollar store and Target for cheapo toys and "wrapped" them in brown paper bags marked with mile numbers. Every 100 miles on the way and on the way back they got to open a new prize. Each one entertained them for about...5 minutes. ha. Actually, I want to point out that the on the way home prizes are probably even more important than the on the way prizes. Infinitely so.
2. Electronic Games: I love some electronic games for the road. Some people find it hard to read in the car because it makes them carsick. Nothing like wasting the hours trying to serve all your customer tables on Diner Dash, or making yourself feel smart with an electronic version of Sudoku that offers hints. You will make it from home to destination in no time with your mind preoccupied with the endless distraction of portable video games. Oh, and kids love it too! (Don't forget plenty of batteries/games/adaptor for charging the battery in the car!)
3. Car Bingo: It is great when your kids get old enough for classic car games. I found some great printouts that take the "I Spy" license plate game to a much more fun place. I mean really, I can barely identify the states on the plates anymore until we are smack riding their bumper, especially with all the donation/cause tags out there now. These games have you looking for various construction/road signs, types of buildings, and airborne items. The plus side to these printable cards is that even small children can enjoy looking for them without having to read, and they are FREE to print! Also very useful if you aren't going to be around a lot of traffic on your way to rural Pennsylvania or similar locale.
4. Food: Why stop and eat in a restaurant when you can use that time to drive further on and keep the kids occupied? No waiting around forever for them to finish four nuggets while you mentally begrudge all the miles you could be moving along instead. I have found that the drink carriers provided by some gas stations have perfect little compartments for dividing out fast food fare, or cooler food. It makes a great lap tray so food doesn't end up everywhere, and they are reusable for several meals (as long as you don't squirt condiments out on the actual tray). This is a great win/win for the kids and the adults. That way, when you DO stop to stretch your legs, they can actually run around like crazy instead of having to accomplish eating a meal at the same time. Added bonus: You know that they will be screaming to go the bathroom about 36 minutes after you get in the car after stopping to eat......mission accomplished: maximum miles and entertainment...plus minimum time wasted!
5. School Work: We are homeschoolers...a great bonus that allows us to travel more than we would if our kids were on a school system schedule. But, this tip is great for any family. If your kids need help with a certain subject or need to study, then bring along something they can work on in the car. It will pass some time, they will learn a little, and they can be rewarded when they are done with something obnoxious that isn't on this list, like watching a DVD on a portable DVD player. Yeah, it's not on my list, because I despise having to listen to their shows really loudly up in the front and/or not be able to listen to the radio while Elmo serenades our trip over and over and over and over. Our kids are now 7 and 6, so maybe its time to give that one a try again...ours broke several years ago and was never replaced...I guess Spongebob would be a little less annoying?? nah....
(Oh, and whoever thinks that headphones would help, has obviously never watched a tv show with a 6 year old.)
6. Have a GPS: Your children can be immersed into the foreign language world of the GPS teacher for hours at a time! We didn't know what a great entertainer for the kids the GPS lady would be until our children started imitating her and asking questions like, "What does motorway mean?" and giving advice like, "You are supposed to turn left Dad, left in 1.2 miles." I just know they are becoming geniuses and will be able to intuitively tell distance by bumps in the booster seat or how many trees go by or something in a few years. Oh, and you get to model civilized adult conflict management skills when you "discuss" how you still got lost while using the GPS.
7. Travel Brochures! You don't even have to visit iffy looking places to pick them up anymore! I recently ordered travel guides for about ten different states. The quality varies by state, but many of them are beautiful, colorful, and actually helpful, rather than just being an ad for such and such tourist trap. If you google "the state you want travel guide", you will get a link somewhere for a place to order these via snail mail, totally FREE. From the time you leave the house, you and the kids can preview little known things to do, state parks, and attractions for the place you are going, without having to wait till you get there to see pics and read reviews. Several of the cities that I ordered guides for, featured a "free" section, that highlighted, yes, free things to do. And not all of these are lame... many of them are little known "free days of the month or week" to certain big attractions like childrens museums and zoos! Yes, I am aware that all of this information can be found online, but for car entertainment, this is a perfect idea!
8. Clean the Windows: I haven't actually tried this one, but I can't believe I never thought of it till now! Let your kids clean the windows....and everywhere they can reach for that matter! Just get some kid safe cleaning wipes or paper towels dipped in your natural cleaner of choice, and let them at it! I could see my kids loving this, as they are way past eating the paper towel, yet still at the "big" chores are fun stage. I bet that sticker grime on the window would be totally gone in about....2 hours of hard scrubbing, max! :)
9. Looking out the Window: Take your kids back to the original method of in the car entertaining. Tell them it's cool and retro and they will too. Right? Seriously...I think we skip this step way too soon sometimes and pull out the full blown entertainment, thus running out of things to do early on in the trip. Sometimes it's okay (because you are the parent) to say, "Look out the window! It's fun, see what you can see... When I was little, we didn't have -fill in the blank high tech car entertainment-" It will kill more time than not looking out the window, I guarantee it!
10. Nothing: Sometimes when we run out of things to do...we actually end up doing nothing. We will find ourselves.... talking to each other.... laughing.... singing...discussing where we are going and what we want to do there.... SOMETIMES, my husband and I actually get to have an uninterrupted conversation and our children do the same... for example...one time my husband and I were talking and I heard a tiny voice squeal, "Mommy!!!" and I said, "What?!?!" and my daughter's regular voice reponded..."Oh, I'm not talking to you, that's my foot calling Noah's pencil."
It can happen!
Do you have any other ideas to add to my list? We have an 11 hour drive to Chicago coming up... and my kids are going to grow wise to the window washing and nothing before too long!