Family road trips aren’t just about getting from here to there. Ideally, the journey is just as much a part of the fun. There’s so much to be learned from the road, whether it’s geography or meteorology or just catching a glimpse of other people’s day-to-day lives as you whiz by.
But, really, does it actually play out that way? Stuffing kids into a metal box and hurtling with them down the highway for long stretches of time isn’t most people’s idea of happy family time. And, while DVD players and game systems may have made the process quieter (at least for families with older kids), they’ve also sucked the “family” part out of the road trip. Each person plugged is into in his own electronic bubble, never even glancing out the window.
The answer? Break up the electronic entertainment with road trip games! There’s nothing better (besides stopping for a picnic) for coaxing people out of their bubbles and back together.
Your kids may not know it, but you’re way more fun than a Game Boy. Still, you might meet with some skepticism, especially from your tweens and teens. Keep the big picture in mind. If one of your kids is less than enthusiastic about participating, try to keep the mood light. Better to let the outliers witness the fun the rest of the family is having, and join in willingly. Try staging friendly competitions between the front and back seat. When your kids can join forces to beat you in a game, it just may turn things around.
I’ve actually written up a loose “schedule of events” for long road trips that lists lunch and gas stops, and, for the time in between, slots that alternate plugged-in time with family time. For my kids, having a concrete schedule helps them deal with the inevitable discomfort of long drives, and it also assures them I won’t force them to play the License Plate Game with us for three hours.
But what to play? My family is I-Spied-out, so here are a few of our current favorites:
Cooperative stories: One person leads off with a story hook, the sillier the better. “Once upon a time, there was a tiny elephant who lived on the head of a pin…” Each person adds a line to the story until it’s so ridiculous everyone’s laughing uncontrollably. This method works well with a magnetic poetry set as well (create poetry on the back of a small cookie sheet).
Identify the crops: This is surprisingly fun when you’re driving through agricultural areas. My kids were surprised to see what a cotton field looked like, and to notice groves of almond trees in bloom. Bonus: stop at a roadside fruit stand for a great snack and good people-watching.
Text message secret codes to each other: I have been known to hand my cell phone to the back seat and my husband text messages the kids from the front. Yes, it’s electronic entertainment, but one that brings us together.
Point out state license plates: An oldie but goodie.
Travel games: Don’t forget the amazing selection of travel games you can buy, from magnetic versions of favorite board games to card games meant to be played on the road.
Mad Libs: Who doesn’t love Mad Libs? Road trips are the perfect time to pull out a fresh new set.
I’m sure you’ve come up with a bunch of ways to keep the family entertained while on the road! What’s your favorite road trip game?