7 ideas for screen-free travel with kids

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by Megan Tietz

Megan Tietz wants you to join her on the front porch for some long talks and iced tea. She lives in the heart of Oklahoma City with her husband, two daughters, and twin sons. Catch up with her at Sorta Crunchy and join the conversation in her Facebook community.

As the summer season kicks into high gear, families are making plans, packing bags, and hitting the road for a time-honored tradition – the family road trip.

A few years ago, we bought a portable DVD player to keep our kids entertained while we traveled.  And you know what?  It worked great!  But it broke, and we decided not to replace it.  And then we re-discovered how much fun family trips can be when we are engaged with and connected to each other.

We’ve had to get a little creative in coming up with ideas to keep the little people occupied without the help of a screen, especially since neither of them are old enough to read independently.

I’ve been thinking about what my family did when I was a child on road trips in those pre-DVD days, so I thought I might share a few ideas to inspire your travels this summer.

1. Play games.

Go vintage!  Bring back the travel games of your youth and teach them to your children. Even my two year old can play I Spy, and older kids might like the ABC game.

To prepare for long road trips, my mom would load up with travel versions of our favorite games (Yahtzee was always included!).  M.A.S.H., Tic-Tac-Toe, and Hangman are all games that are relatively easy to play in a moving vehicle with just a pad of paper and a pencil.

2. Sing songs.

Of course there are road trip classics like “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” but wouldn’t it be fun to teach your kids the camp songs or cheerleading chants or popular songs of your childhood? I might never heave learned every single word to Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans” if it hadn’t been for my dad serenading us with it on every road trip of my childhood!

3. Read books.


Photo by twodolla

If you find it hard to fit reading time into your normal, everyday routines, perhaps travel time will allow you to catch up on some of what you have been missing.

Include a trip to the library in your pre-travel preparations to stock up on reading material for kids of all ages, and don’t forget about audio books! Look for stories that will appeal to all ages.  The hours will pass by so much more quickly when the imaginations of your family are indulging in the joy of listening to stories being read.

4. Tell stories.

Listening to the stories of others is wonderful, but what about narratives from your very own family?  Do your children know the story of how you and your spouse met?  Where was your favorite place to vacation when you were a child?

In the fast-paced culture in which we are raising our children, it’s easy to let family tales slip through the cracks.  What better time to share stories then when you have a captive audience?

5. Write notes.

For children who are old enough to read and write, a journal is a great way to capture conversations while on the road. You could invite your children to ask questions they have been struggling with, or you could provide them with some prompts to get the conversation going:

  • What makes you really, really happy?
  • What makes you really, really sad?
  • What is your favorite smell?
  • If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?

Pass the journal around and let everyone have a chance at recording responses.  The road trip journal is sure to become a family keepsake!

6. Take pictures.


Photo by Kamoteus

Be tourists! Stop at scenic turn-offs and hop out of the car for a picture.  Capture shots of silly billboards or road signs.  Take a picture each time you cross the state line.

I have an old point-and-shoot that I let my daughters (carefully) play with on long trips.  They get some very interesting shots as well as some great pictures of each other in the backseat.  With digital cameras, all of the wasted pictures can be deleted in a second, but the fun pictures will make a great addition to family albums.

7. Be quiet.

Somewhere along the way, I fell into the trap of believing that I was responsible for the entertainment of my children for every second we were on the road. I had forgotten that some of my favorite parts of road trips as a child came when I was just watching the landscape roll past. Our days are filled with lots of noise, but aren’t vacations supposed to offer us a break from the usual?

I am certainly not disparaging those who bring DVDs and portable gaming devices along on trips.  There is a time and place for everything.  However, if families began to view the time spent traveling as a wonderful part of the journey rather than just means to an end, we might discover there are golden opportunities for memory-making, if only we are brave enough to turn off the power button.

Further resources:

Parent Hacks :: Beyond I Spy
Games Kids Play :: Car Games
Association for Library Service to Children :: 2010 Notable Children’s Recordings

What do you remember about travels with your family as a child? Have you tried any screen-free travel with children lately? How did it go?

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Comments

  1. Great ideas here! We do a lot of storytelling and story building too. We take pictures and videos, stop and collect little things for our journals. We take turns to make up songs as we drive.

    I always see a whole different kind of creativity with the kids while we are driving – the scenery, the quiet and togetherness is all really special.
    We love and value driving together! And yes, that always surprises friends :)

  2. avatar
    Fromagette says:

    At least once a year, my family would take an all day car trip to see grandparents and family. One of our favorite games was car baseball, where different color cars meant different things: blacks for strikes, white for balls, blue for a single, red for double, green for triple and yellow for home run. We’d keep score just like a regular baseball game. Of course, that only worked well when there weren’t so many cars going the opposite direction.

    One of my favorite memories what a story that one of my brothers told during a long stretch through Nevada called The Three Little Pigs and the Unibomber. Politically correct? No. Hilarious family memory? You betcha.

    Most recently, I took a trip without my husband and we managed just fine with books from the library and snacks. Planning our trip around my 20 month-old’s nap time also helped.

  3. We do many road trips each year with our kids. The kids range in age from 5 to 9 with two girls and a boy. The one time we tried a DVD player it kept them entertained for about 20 minutes before they started complaining they wanted to watch their “own” shows. So I’ve stuck with the old fashioned, tried & true games like I Spy, Places & I went on a trip & packed …

    I print maps out for each child. Even the ones that can’t read a map can pretend and the older ones can track our journey, try to figure out how far we have to go or suggest places for a break and so on.

    We have lots of singing and music, and the kids each have a small MP3 player with their own songs and a couple of stories on them. I’ve found it’s best to steer clear of reading books while in the car as it seems to induce travel sickness.

    Plenty of stop offs, like you suggest are great sanity savers. Some even unearth touristy treasures that you might otherwise have missed :-)
    .-= Leanne´s last blog ..Buchan Caves =-.

  4. I explain a lot of what I see. How bridges are built, why villages are near rivers, how we use mountains, how farmers use the landscape. It is so educational to travel and explain the landscape.

    • I like that idea Paula, because it responds to your child’s curiosity. Another great way to get the whole family involved, is to do a quiz. This can be a quiz about factual knowledge as well as one about things that happened in your personal or family life. You could even get your kid involved by letting them create the quiz by themselves.

  5. We don’t have a portable screen in our car and it’s really okay even for long trips. The children like to watch out of the window, searching interesting other cars, seeing the landscape… we hear music, play little games… enjoy being on the road!
    .-= Micha´s last blog ..Fundstücke / found =-.

  6. We do a number of road trips with our kids (9, 7 & 5) each year. The one time we tried a DVD player it was a matter of 20 minutes before the kids were bored. So instead, I stick to the tried and true games: I Spy, Places, I went on holiday & packed …

    I also do maps for each of the kids. Even if they can’t read it (although they’re all getting to the age they can now) they can pretend. The older kids can track our journey, guesstimate how long we have to go and so on.

    We have lots of sing a longs too. And for quiet times the kids each have a MP3 player with their own songs and a couple of stories. I steer clear of reading books in the car as it seems to induce travel sickness.

    Plenty of stop offs, like you suggested, are sanity savers and we get to see spots we otherwise would miss. I love your idea of telling family stories. Must try that on our next trip :-)
    .-= Leanne´s last blog ..Buchan Caves =-.

  7. Great ideas, Megan. Since we only have one toddler we’ve always traveled screen-free and yes, songs, games and activities make up a large part of our travel fun. I agree about quiet time. Even our toddler loves to spend time quietly looking out the window at the scenery and sights that pass her by.
    Thanks for sharing these!
    Best always,
    Prerna
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..How to Declutter in 10 Minutes or Less – Part II =-.

  8. I encourage “treasure” collecting by giving each child some ziplock bags and a large clear plastic envelope or folder file. My kids collect till slips, sweet wrappers, brochures, maps, cards and other small odds and ends. During a short break or sleep-over, they sort and chat about their finds. These “treasures” are wonderful pasted in scrapbooks or journals during/after the trip!

  9. Great thoughts, Megan! I just put a list of age-appropriate audio books on my Monday post at Simple Homeschool:

    http://simplehomeschool.net/4-natural-ways-to-learn-on-vacation/
    .-= Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool´s last blog ..4 Natural Ways to Learn on Vacation =-.

  10. avatar
    Jennifer says:

    The best tip I have ever gotten and loved is… remember to relax your standards of eating healthy and on that note, my tip…

    For any trip over 5 hours (car, plane, train, etc). We have a St*rb*urst candy (or any other small, quickly eaten, NONmelting candy) in a baggie. On a car trip we do one candy for every 30 miles – which ends up being 1 every 1/2 hour. They are then NOT allowed to ask the famous dreaded questions, “Are we there yet?” :) They can look at their bag of candy and SEE if we are almost there! The younger ones get one gentle reminder of that rule and after that they lose a candy if they ask. Our older kids keep up with their own trash and bag, we hold the bag for the younger ones (under 4).

    The 30 mile number was randomly chosen and ended up being a good one, it was close enough together that the kids did see it as a milestone but not so close together that they were constantly eating candy. You will need to adjust for mode of travel and speed of travel. I think the goal of one candy milestone every 1/2 hour is a good one.

    Happy trails!

  11. avatar
    Catherine S. says:

    Megan, we had a similar experience where we bought the portable DVD, enjoyed it for a while, then it broke and we never replaced it. I have 4 kids under 10 and we drive 400 miles and back several times a year to visit relatives. My two older kids are big readers, which helps a lot. They also enjoy doing Mad Libs together, and I sometimes buy those invisible ink books which I LOVED when I was a child! We have sometimes used the trip to listen to a book on CD – The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane was a good one, and we all enjoy Roald Dahl books. My two older ones were given small MP3 players this year and we have loaded them up with their favorite audio books so they can choose what they want to listen to.

  12. I really feel sorry for families who need portable devices in order to be together.
    The biggest trip my family did when I was 10 (with younger sisters) took almost one week to get to the place (non stop maybe would take 3). And as always, the best part was the journey… It was in my home country, Brazil. We went from Sao Paulo to Salvador (Bahia) along the coast.
    My dad stopped several times during the trip – like in a small farm who happened to have a very small school, a big fruit stand by the road, a small city with peculiar way of life, a beach – so we learned a lot and had lots of fun. Talking with people with different backgrounds, realizing the geography, the architecture, accents, plants… Small stops turned the trip in one of my best memories of my childhood.
    Even today, with my kids, I encourage them to look outside, to realize everything that surrounds them. And in this way, I also teach them how to be patient, how to find a way to enjoy the company, the moment, even the silence. The family time. And let the boredom comes, small problems, being angry or tired, so in this way they can also learn how to deal with this.
    Happy summer trips everyone!

  13. I can’t believe you have a favorite child. :(

    My parents always had a special tub of toys that my sister and I were only allowed to play with on road trips. We also had coloring books/drawing paper.

    • Yikes! That was a typo! I think I started that sentence out saying that one of my oldest daughter’s favorite things to do is play with my old point-and-shoot – but then I must have edited to change the word order and obviously did a poor job of proofreading! Be assured, both of my daughters are my favorites. :)

    • Okay, Kara! I’ve fixed my typo. Thank you for pointing out my mistake!

  14. Funny that this post came up. My sister and I were just talking about going on road trips back in the day. We were reminiscing about days laying on the floor of the mini van reading books and listening to our walkmen. Our parents would take out the middle seat and let us have free reign on the floor! How times have changed! I wouldn’t dream of going to the store around the corner without my kids buckled in car seats never mind driving halfway across the country.

  15. We like to do a combination of reading time, games, music, and a DVD – but the DVD is almost always “Parent’s Choice”. We’ve watched so many educational movies and documentaries with our “captive” audience. We also love to listen to books on cd, not only while we travel long distances, but even around town doing errands. Our recent favorite is A Little Princess. The man the reads it has a wonderful British accent that makes the story come alive!

    And for moms who are traveling sans males and children, or want something other than talk radio to listen to around town, I highly recommend Eat, Pray, Love read by the author. There’s no way to do that book justice by reading it yourself (particularly the part where Elizabeth learns Italian!)

  16. Thanks for sharing your tips!
    I work on behalf of State Farm and it’s always great to hear people swapping stories of summertime travel.

    State Farm has prepared information just for families taking to the road. You can learn more information at the Learning Center (http://www.statefarm.com/learning/be_safe/road/road.asp) about safe driving, keeping kids entertained and making the most of your trip.

    We hope you find this helpful and feel free to drop me an email for more information!

  17. Great ideas! These tips would certainly make the half hour to Grandma’s house a whole lot more enjoyable.
    .-= Rose´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday with Fenix =-.

  18. Great ideas~we love to do this kind of stuff when road-tripping it! We do have a dvd player and let the kiddos watch videos some, but we also shut it off and have other activities. We love travel games, reading, music/singing, taking pics at special signs…. Road trips are as fun as you make them!

  19. MAPS, I really enjoy teaching my children how to read maps. We are doing a stay-cation in our city (Omaha, NE) by finding all of the visitor center “Push-Pins.” Each of the children have a map where the Push-Pins are located and they continually ask what street we are on to see if there is a Push-Pin close by.
    They have a blast. Even the 3 1/2y.o. tries to read the map.

    • Honestly, I LOVE maps. I spent many, many hours as a child on road trips studying my parents’ atlas – looking at states and cities and populations and drive times. Thanks for reminding me of this!

  20. avatar
    Christine says:

    I always joke that the best things my parents did for me were being quakers and going on long car trips. At our church services, at a small church with no children’s services, we sat in silence for a half hour often. On car trips, pre-DVD, I was horribly car sick. I learned to entertain myself with my imagination and the window (and I slept a lot due to dramimine). That being said, that walkman I finally got was REALLY nice. I got so sick I couldn’t even play the license plate game and we drove cross-country on occasion. Variety is nice. We’ve resisted the DVD or anything of the like in the car, which has worked out really well. Our two year old is a fantastic car traveler. In fact, both kids, including our ten month old, really hung in there on memorial day weekend when we got stuck in a multihour, 27 mile backup in the mountains with no exits off. It’s nice to have kids that know how to travel.

    However, this weekend we’ll be taking an airplane trip and for the sake of everyone’s sanity, we’re bringing a friend’s DVD player. We’ll work on air travel when they’re old enough to understand the flight attendant’s instructions!

  21. Call me old fashioned but I have never had a screen-filled trip with kids. We kick it old school style all the way! To me, traveling with family is about traveling, connecting and having fun, not watching TV and movies or playing video games.

  22. As a mom of 11 (between 11yo and 32), I encourage younger moms to make sure they have good reasons for why they do or don’t do certain things. Many decisions are about preferences, not hard and fast rules. I have two children that get very car-sick on trips, so the DVD player has been very helpful to us. What I want to avoid is a mindset that sees endless movies as a way to keep me from having to parent just because we’re in the van vs. at home. Resist the urge to do what’s best for you, not your child – whether it’s by NOT allowing DVD’s just to make you feel better about your superior choices – or whether it’s allowing non-stop DVD’s just to keep a quiet car where you can finally read that best-seller (spoken by a mom whose done both! :)

    • avatar
      Miranda says:

      Thanks for that advice! We haven’t had to travel more than 4 hrs in the car with our boys yet and we don’t even do that very often, but we try to schedual our departure time around the littles nap time and then put a DVD on for the bigs. The quiet car allows for some great conversation between my husband and me, so worth the 45 min of screen time!

    • Absolutely! And I certainly didn’t mean for the tone of this to be superior in any way. We have used DVDs before and who knows? We may again in the future. Just wanted to throw some ideas out there for those looking for things beyond DVDs and games to fill the travel time!

  23. from my own road trip memories, I mostly remember being in the back of our station wagon with a pile of luggage between the dog and I, hanging over the back seat and bugging my brothers, lots of “he’s touching me” and “he’s on my side” to drive our parents insane, and a stop at Friendly’s half way through our trip as well as a stop at a rest stop/information center as well each and every time.

    For my own kids, we have resisted the DVD – too much hassle, but I do allow the older ones to use their handheld games. I bring snacks and picture books for the younger one and try to schedule our travel at a good napping time. The most unlikely source of fun is a CD we rented at the library the past 2 years until I finally found one to buy – its a set of stories by Bill Harley and they make my kids laugh hysterically. Even better, they up the ante to their uncle and he makes up even more side splitting incredible stories so the fun continues during our vacation!! I recommend the cd to anyone travelling – they are seriously funny and side effects he makes are hysterical.

  24. We generally travel movie-free, but we travel a LOT, and sometimes, after the kids have already drawn pictures, written stories, played Mad-Libs together, read until their stomachs felt sick from the movement, eaten a snack, eaten lunch, played travel games like looking for out of state license plates, sung every song on every kids’ cd we own, and played three rounds of “My name is ___ and I like to eat aardvarks, bumble bees, cats, donuts, and earwax…”, read a little more, and we’ve been driving for 5 hours with another 3 to go, well, sometimes we let them watch a Harry Potter Movie when their baby sister finally falls asleep.

    We have family who lives 8 hours away and we make the trip several times a year, sometimes more than once a month for special events. 16 hours of driving in one weekend, in my opinion, gives us the prerogative to allow one 2 hour movie somewhere along the way without being a family who turns the player on every time they run to the grocery store, or feeling guilty about it. We don’t do it every trip, but we do it sometimes.

    Sure, I made long car trips when I was a kid without any kind of electronic entertainment, but I also had no car seat that I was unable to escape, and I didn’t have such far flung family that we were forced to log thousands of miles every few months. It’s a big difference between a kid properly strapped in his booster seat (until 4’9″ remember) in the very back of a van and a kid who could lie down and sleep, hang her head out the window, climb over the seat and sit up front for a while with my head in my mom’s lap, play with the radio, or turn around and look out the back window at the trucks right behind us.

    • ACK! YES! If we were making an eight hour road trip, there would most assuredly be screens of some kind in use. I totally hear what you are saying here!

  25. This is a great list and reminder that there are so many ways to enjoy a trip without a screen. We finally bought a portable DVD player last year, but it’s not playing for a majority of the trip. We look at the scenery, admire and describe cloud formations, sing songs, and bring drawing supplies. Screen time is something we break out when the other options have already be tried and exhausted.
    .-= Julia´s last blog ..How to Make a Fishing Game in Five Minutes =-.

  26. Great article! We hit the road every summer driving from coastal Texas to Colorado. It took several days to just get out of Texas! We played I-Spy, and sung (made up) songs, etc. Some of my most fond memories came from those road trips.

    My father had a great game (which as I grew older found it was to keep us quiet), he’d buy hard candy and we’d see who’d keep theirs the longest. Rules: it must be kept in your cheek and you can’t talk b/c it would fall out. I laugh at this now-but it was my favorite game…maybe b/c we only got candy during special occasions.
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..Strawberry Gelato =-.

  27. I couldn’t agree more. We discovered the “no-plug” rule by accident and every time I’ve tested road trips with and without screens/electronics it’s been proven right. Movies and games and other stuff with an on/off switch makes kids MORE cranky in the long run. It shortens their attention spans and you lose all that time to really interact as a family. We’re going to do 6 weeks on the road this summer and I will admit there will be times when I let my daughter watch something on the iPod or play a game. But the time in the car will be without screens. I love your tips, thanks for talking about this.
    .-= Sheri Wallace´s last blog ..Top 10: Best 4th of July Fireworks 2010 =-.

  28. We just took a family road trip, 25 hours EACH way with five children, ages 14-4. We talked, played games, colored and drew pictures, sang songs, took crazy pictures, napped, and listened to radio dramas. Our children (and the grownups) love radio dramas. Everyone gets quiet, and when it’s over we have a great conversation about what we just heard.

    There is much to be said for just enjoying the scenery, especially if you are traveling to places you have never been.

    Also, stop and enjoy the historical markers along the way. It gets everyone out of the car for a short while, and everyone gets a good dose of history to boot!

  29. I remember LOVING listening to Adventures in Odyssey as a child. They are wholesome, fun and great for road trips. http://www.whitsend.org/
    .-= Heidi´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Oh, Men Are SUPPOSED to Drive Faster! =-.

  30. Great article… except…

    I have an old point-and-shoot that I let my favorite (carefully) play with on long trips.

    Please tell me I’m reading this wrong!! Moms should never play favorites!!

    • Yes, yes, yes! As I wrote in a comment above, that is a horrible example of me COMPLETELY not proofreading carefully! I had started to say that my oldest daughter’s favorite thing to do in the backseat is play with my old point-and-shoot, but I rearranged the sentence structure and left favorite in in the most awkward of places!

      So I’ll say again – both of my girls are my favorites! And they both get to the play with the camera!!! So many apologies for the error there.

    • And now it’s fixed. Thank you for helping me be a better editor!

  31. Growing up, I can remember a game where you slid a clear plastic “cover” over signs that you saw – I think it was called Car Bingo (?) . Loved that and Mad Libs and fighting over the space in the middle seat with my sister .

    I always bring educational toy catalogs along and let my kids peruse and tear out pages at their leisure. I am usually do the same thing with my mommy magazines so it’s fun :)

  32. DVD’s in the car have their place in our family (it’s like a date for my husband and I sometimes!) as we make the 18 hour drive to family. They help with carsickness and we use them during traffic jams or big cities where stops would be challenging. Surprisingly, no one has to go to the bathroom when the movie is playing!
    Our favorite thing to do in the car, however, is to read books as a family, our listen to audio books. Focus on the Family has FANTASTIC dramatic radio theater that our whole family enjoys. On our 3 day road trip – we listen to the entire Chronicles of Narnia and several of us were in tears as the 7th book ended!

    Also – look in the auto section of target and walmart for flip down activity trays that attach to front seats. Our children loved them.

  33. I have so many great memories of traveling with my family. As others have said we had family that was about 12 hours away that we would venture to see numerous times a year. We enjoyed doing many of the things that people have already mentioned. But one thing we had so much fun doing, that I haven’t seen mentioned yet is recording ourselves on blank tapes on a tape recorder. Of course these were the days before DVDs or ipods or even walkmans. My parents would bring a big old school tape recorder with blank tapes and we would spend lots of time pushing the record button and recording ourselves singing, talking, laughing, interviewing one another, etc. We loved playing it back and listening to ourselves. The really cool part is that we still have some of the old tapes today. We bust a gut listening to the things we recorded back then!
    I hope I can make traveling as memorable and enjoyable for our children as it was for us growing up. Thanks for the great post!

  34. Madgabs….they are a book that you write random words on one side of the book. It tells you what to write and then you read a story and fill in the random words. It works out to be hilarious!

  35. Mad Libs – yes! One of our favorites :-)

    And singing in the car is something that I remember my mother doing with us, so it always brings back a little of my own childhood to sing in the car (plus, the acoustics of the van make even my voice sound vaguely rock-star like LOL) It is fun to sing rounds and make up silly songs, too.

    We were one of those families who swore we’d never have a DVD player in the car, but then our van came with one. We use it mainly for long trips (it is a 3 hour drive to Grandma’s) but sometimes the bad habit creeps in of using it for shorter trips, too. Thanks for the reminder that family roadtrips have been fun long before you could watch a movie together …

    Great column!
    .-= Kara Fleck´s last blog ..Stress Free Flying with Infants and Toddlers =-.

  36. Ok- here’s a very funny one- I had 6 brother’s and sisters and we squished into a station wagon- floors, laps, cargo, you name it- kids everywhere! One trip to Canada we brought rolls of scotch tape and did “plastic surgery” on each other’s faces. It was hilarious!

  37. When I was a kid (before DVD players, let alone ones in the vehicle!), we regularly made the 9 hour trip to my grandparents’ in one day. Myself and a couple of my sibs were the kind of kids who got carsick too, so there wasn’t much reading going on, but we still managed to keep ourselves occupied. I remember hours of staring out the window and just daydreaming, but we also played lots of games. My dad created a few “educational” games which were actually a big hit. One year he made a stack of cards with countries on one side and their capitals on the other. My mum would read out either the capital and the first kid to shout out the country would get a point (or vice versa). We also had province/capital and state/capital cards. Useful info, maybe not, but it stuck with me (and the cards stayed in the van for years!). We also had a van dictionary and a van encyclopedia (both cheap paperbacks) and someone would call out a page number and then a second number which would designate which word on that page. My mum would read out the word and then someone would try and give the definition or explanation. It was amazing how often we played these games. In fact, the first time my husband (then boyfriend) joined our family for a long-ish car ride, he got to take part in the dictionary game (and we started that game when I was about 8!).

  38. We do a number of road trips each year with our kids. I’ve found DVD players only keep them amused for about 20 minutes, tops (well, the one time we used one anyway). Instead, we have lots of singing and games interspersed with pit stops, like you suggested. We’ve seen many great places we would’ve otherwise just passed by. Maps are great, too. Even the littlies that can’t read can pretend. The older kids can track the journey, guesstimate how far we have to go/have been, and so on.

    I find reading in the car tends to induce travel sickness, so I pop a story or two on each of the kids’ little MP3 players for quiet time. I love your family story suggestion. I’m going to give that a try on our next trip.
    .-= Leanne´s last blog ..Buchan Caves =-.

  39. I don’t usually like being a “back in the day” mom but this stuff is some great nostalgia folks are sharing. My own favorites (we did long car trips a LOT):

    Any of those games you can pick up at a Cracker Barrel — the yes-no invisible ink books, the magnetized drag the little metal slivers around to decorate a face, etc.

    Geeky, but my brother and I, if we knew a trip was coming, would make game books for each other with mazes, crossword puzzles, and yes, our own mad libs.

    My very, very favorite: mom would start drawing until one of us guessed what she was drawing, and then she’d finish the picture and move on to the next one. It was years later that she revealed it was just doodling and she would wait for us to say something that caught her fancy — “yes! You’re exactly right! It IS a mermaid on the moon playing darts!”

    Thanks for the post — so fun to share this stuff.

  40. Oh how I love road trips!! We see how many different state liscense plates we find, read books, count cell towers, tell stories, listen to books, our family faves are the Chronicles of Narnia. We listen to old music and always Weird Al.

    Add snacks and you’ve got enough entertainment for the 6 of us for the whole day!

  41. These are tips for “scream”-free travel, right? Although, I can see why a screen would be helpful too. :D

    Great tips! I think we used all of these tips growing up, and road trips are some of my favorite family memories! We loved sticking our puppet lion out the window to cheer up other cars. :)

  42. oh….. a tv screen. You can tell that thought hadn’t even entered my mind for travelling. Got it! :)

  43. I am not a parent, but I take my 13-year old nephew on regular weekend day trips in my home city. I try and make them educational without him realising it. For example we went to a tropical centre this weekend, and I asked him to read off the names of the animals and where they come from etc.

    Great post.
    .-= Darren Cronian´s last blog ..Guide to five cheap hotels in Leeds =-.

  44. I think a Johnny Horton cassette at a random gas station was one of the best investments my parents made in our road trip arsenal. We may have rolled our eyes, but we know all the words!

  45. Once a year I take a road trip with my family to see relatives in Florida. Its a long drive but we find entertaining ways of enjoying the trip. We try to make it a time to remember.

  46. It’s summer time again and I am also thinking of having a summer trip with my two kids. This article would really be helpful in what I am planning to do and the activities we would do for our outing. Thank you for posting this. I would definitely go for power buttons off with my kids gaming gadgets and television, its so unhealthy and it ruins communication. So this summer outing of ours will definitely be free from technology and yes to silence, pictures and more stories.

  47. Singing would drive me absolutely up the wall, sorry. The other suggestions were great, but singing — no way.

  48. haha…. its great ideas

  49. Looking back, the drive was always the best part of our family vacations. 3 (tall) kids in the back of a Buick Skyhawk. Good times!!

  50. I just saw your post on Pinterest and am a little relieved there are families who have not succumbed to the DVR in the car. I don’t have anything against them as we have used a portable TV/DVR when we drove cross country but my husband and I agree that if we didn’t have it (or our parents or grandparents), our kids certainly didn’t need it. I keep photo albums from past trips in the car and they love looking through them over and over again. Also, they get excited about “filling up their backpack” with their own stuff; books, games, journals, etc. The DSI gets thrown in too but they lose interest pretty quickly, thank goodness.

    I have found that long road trips expose them to different genres of music. We don’t have satellite radio and are probably the last to get a CD player/iPod adapter in our car but I don’t mind. I listen to everything, from rock, salsa, top 40, classical, country, hip hop, talk radio, and everything in between.

    Great post! :) Alma

  51. it’s always have been fun being amongs children. but at the time i was a kid, my father must be the busiest guy in our journey. because i always ask the name of all the cars that passing by. haha, he always answers patiently. great guy he is.

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