If you're planning a road trip and want it to be as memorable as the family road trips you experienced as a kid - without the fancy gadgets that confine your kids to the places the wifi can reach - you need a solid plan for quality road trip family bonding. Here are some tips:
For a classic family road trip, unplug. Bring your phones in case of emergency, but leave the tablets and mp3 players at home. Leaving extra gadgets at home may even make your trip easier - you won't have to keep track of all the chargers, USB wall ports and tangles of earphones. If your kids object, simply explain the science behind motion sickness which happens when the eyes aren't in sync with the ears. Or, you can always say, "Because I said so."
Grab some good grub
Nothing turns the volume up on a whining child like an empty stomach, unless it's a sibling who's stolen their food. The key to tricking your kids into friendship is individually packaged and labeled snacks and drinks. Cut the junk and consider these healthy road snack options:
Pack fruits that aren't super juicy or easy to bruise like apples, grapes, and berries.
Crackers & Cheese
While small, this timeless combo is the perfect thing to fill little bellies and keep them fuller longer.
Opt for fruit juices, cold water or throw sliced lemons and berries into water bottles (don't forget the labels!) for a splash of flavor. Avoid carbonated sodas which cause dehydration. However, there is one exception you should allow: ginger ale is great for calming queasy motion-sick stomachs.
Supplies to have on hand
The key to a peaceful brood is being able to throw fresh distractions at them, staying on top of tantrum triggers and keeping their spaces clean and organized. Don't forget to bring:
Gallon size ziplock bags
Use for trash bags, sealable barf bags, ice packs and food savers. Fill them with rice and small objects and they make great I Spy games.
Always have a stash of wet wipes in your car, you'll be glad you have them even if you're not road tripping.
Pre-stamped cards are fun to decorate and mail back to grandparents. Or pack a book of stamps and let the kids pick their own postcards along the way.
This is great for spur-of-the-moment picnics when you just can't make one more sandwich on the dashboard.
Stick with family favorites your kids won't fight over. Some great audio books are the Harry Potter series, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, anything by Roald Dahl and the Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
If your kids are prone to territory battles, give them a roll and let them tape off personal boundaries on the go. This keeps them busy and at peace - even if for a little while.
Paper and crayons are the obvious, but did you know a dozen pair of kid's binoculars goes for $13.50 at Oriental Trading? Occupy kids by looking out onto the horizon for interesting things. For a fun twist, tell them you see something that isn't there. This may keep kids entertained for as long as ten minutes before frustration causes someone to snap.
Road trip games are a classic way to build those lasting family memories. Here are a few fun ones:
This is a great get-to-know-you game. Each person has a turn under the spotlight where they have to answer one question from each player. After the questions have been answered, the spotlight moves to the next person. Another version is to spotlight a question and each player must answer it. Players take turns choosing the spotlighted question.
This is a peacemaker's version of Slug Bug. When you see a VW Beetle, wrap your neighbor in a big bear hug while shouting the words, "Hug Bug!" Researchers have found that embracing yields more preferable results than slugging.
This game is a fun way to trick your kids into doing their homework while on the road. Simply pick out age-appropriate words for each kid and have them try to spell them out for you.
Each player takes a turn thinking up one sentence to add to an ongoing story. For example: Child 1 says, "Once there was a fish who lived in a bowl." Child 2 says, "The bowl was painted black, so the fish thought he was blind." Give each player several turns before ending the story.
Who Am I?
In this game someone picks out a person in their immediate or extended family and gives descriptions one-by-one until another player guesses who they are.
This game teaches kids to think positively. A player starts by saying something negative, such as "Unfortunately, my pig has an ear infection." Another responds with something positive like, "Fortunately, I love me some bacon." The next child says, "Unfortunately I just became a vegetarian," and so on.
If the thought of singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall makes you want to grab a zip-lock bag and puke, how about letting your kids practice their creativity? The song can start at any number and can be about anything. If you're still not on board with repetitive lyrics, pop in your old Journey disc and Don't Stop Believing until you arrive at your destination.
Encouraging your kids to be positive about unplugging for a few days can seem as daunting as stuffing a turkey with a rosebush - but it is possible. With the art of playful deceit, you may soon be smiling to yourself as your kids get along, play together and learn things about each other while having fun at the same time.