“Are we there yet?” This question has echoed down the aisles of many a mini-van, for as long as we can remember. It is a question that has, to our knowledge, never once been met with the desired answer.
Family vacations are an important bonding experience for the family unit. Nothing establishes (or maybe tests?) your familial ties like sitting in a car for hours on end. It can be tempting to let them play hand-held video games the whole trip. But spending quality time together on long road trips can be a positive experience, one that your children will look back on fondly.
Years of research and threatening to turn the car around have yielded the following nuggets of wisdom for creating a fun family road trip.
1. Pack like a champ
If you’re traveling to a formal event, plan ahead to make sure the clothes stay presentable. The last thing you want is to put your boy in a wrinkled dress suit, or brainstorm ways to unflatten a bow on your daughter’s girls formal dress. See if you can fit their outfits in a garment bag along with yours. Or improvise – a hanger draped with a garbage bag works just as well.
2. Get those wiggles out
Whenever you make a pit-stop, take the opportunity to make sure everyone does at least 100 jumping jacks. Ok, there’s no magic number, but it doesn’t hurt to set a goal. The more energy they use up, the less they’ll be able to put into kicking the back of your seat.
3. Get lost in a book
Don’t expect to everyone to read a book the entire trip! Besides the limited attention span of younger travelers, car-sickness is never a cute look. But if you’re a family of readers, the written word can be one of the many weapons in your arsenal. Audio books, especially with an entertaining voice-actor, can provide enriching, (maybe even educational!) road-trip entertainment.
4. Car sing-a-longs
A word of caution: Consider carefully before you introduce “This is the song that never ends.” Children tend to take it as a challenge.
5. I spy…
Don’t dismiss the power of the road-trip game. They can kill an astonishing amount of time, especially if you can muster up enough enthusiasm. Yes, you might use up every last bit of pep from that last cup of coffee, but if you can manage to get your kids excited about spotting a license plate from each of the 50 states, you’ll have transformed a boring car trip into an important mission.
For even more excitement, up the ante: Whoever wins gets to decide where we stop for ice cream!