Our family is planning a major road trip this summer: 19 states plus Ontario in 15 days! To keep everyone happy, I have been collecting ideas and activities from all over the web. You can check out my Road Trip Pinterest board here. Here is what I have planned and organized so far. These are all ideas that I am using for my children ages 6, 8, and 11. My 14 month-old is a whole different story, but my plans for him will be saved for another day.
National Geographic Kids United States Atlas: I purchased this a month ago to help us get to know the states that we will be visiting. It will come in the car as a reference guide to help the children answer their state activity worksheets (see below).
Each child picked out a new coloring/activity book. These Extreme Dot-to-Dot books are a great challenge for my 11-year-old. We have been a fan of the Color Counts Color by Number books for years, and my 8-year-old picked this one. We are trying something new for my 6-year-old, the Usborne Big Maze Book. It looks really cool. I will use a clear laminate sheet to put over the mazes, then Zach can use a dry erase marker to do the mazes multiple times.
Each child gets a 1″ binder to keep all of their activities. The binder can function as a hard writing surface. Binder coversheets (to make it pretty and fun) can be found here (let’s go on an adventure) and here (travel kit with cute cars on a road).
Things to include in the binder:
- A blank map of the USA. Children can color each state as we drive through it.
- 100 Would You Rather Questions: I will keep this in my binder, to use as conversation starters.
- State Activity worksheets: We will be traveling through states that we have never been to before, so we are going to spend some time learning about them. I am putting together a basic worksheet for each state. The children can log the date that we visit the state, and how many miles we travel. Each page also includes a place to fill in basic state facts (capital city, flower, tree, animal, etc), some fun facts, the state flag, and something to color from these cute state doodles.
- Blank Looseleaf pages: I will encourage my children to keep a daily journal. They can write, or draw pictures of our adventures.
- Hole punch a manilla envelope or use a sheet protector: it will be a place to keep attraction brochures and ticket stubs.
- Maps: print a map (or a few) showing your route. Children can trace along it and know how far without asking “Are we there yet?”
- A pencil pouch: keep writing and coloring supplies contained. We prefer to use twistable color pencils so we don’t have to bother with sharpening pencils.
Games and Activities: insert these pages in a sheet protector, and use with dry erase markers. Then they can be used over and over again.
- Map to play the license plate game. You can mark off the state name on the list, or find the abbreviation on the map.
- Hidden Pictures/Seek and find sheets: three pages, with a summer desert, beach, and camping theme.
- Printable Battleship game
- Squares and Dots printable board
- Printable for lots of games: tic tac toe, hangman, travel I Spy, word search, crossword puzzle, etc from about.com
- More printable games from Ucreate: hangman, maze, rainbow car game, ABC road game, etc.
- Scavenger hunt printable from Make and Takes
- Brain games that require no supplies: 20 questions, color car counting, alphabet (or number) spot-it, going on a picnic, etc. Here is a great printable list of games.
- Crossword Puzzles and word searches for each state: my 11-year-old daughter used this site to create personalized activity sheets for each state.
Other ways to pass the time:
- Handheld devices/Movies. Use them when you need to. Enough said.
- Audiobooks: check them out from the library, or try Audible. First up on our list to try is The Hobbit.
- Good music: We created a road trip playlist for our iPod. Each person in the family gets to pick 10 songs to include.
- Ribbon mileage tracker. Pin a ribbon along the inside of the van, with mileage increments pre-marked. Use a clothespin to move along a car marker to mark your accomplishments. Another 100 miles finished!
- Celebrate a mileage marker with a joke. Put a stash of jokes in an envelope and let each child pick one to read aloud.
- Small toys: Shop the house or visit the dollar store. I will try to have one small item for each day. Stickers, small animals, squishy balls, silly putty, etc.
- Pipe cleaners: string cheerios or froot loops on them for a snack. Bend them into creations.
- Sticky note pads: draw on them, stick them on the windows, etc.
- Squiggle drawings on index cards: add a line, circle, or loop to a white index card and let the kids come up with what it might become.
- Reusable sticker books/Window clings: we already have these books that haven’t been used for awhile, but they are great fun.
- Mileage tracker: keep track of how many miles we drive in each day, and how many miles we drive in each state.
- Conduct an experiment: what is the most common vehicle color? Make a hypothesis, collect data, report results.
- Find a rock in each state. Use a sharpie to write the state abbreviation and the year on it.
- Pressed pennies: My kids have been collecting these for years, they are inexpensive and make a great souvenir. Do a google search for “pressed penny” and the name of the state you are a visiting to see a listing of locations.
Encouraging good behavior:
- Each child will have a clothespin clip, decorated with their initial. The clips go on the front visor and stay up for good behavior. Whiny, complaining, disagreeable behavior brings the clip down, and they miss the next fun activity. We went to the craft store and each child chose a pack of stickers. Good behavior will be rewarded with a sticker at regular increments (every hour or 60 miles or 100 miles, etc).
Other sites with great ideas:
Road trip Boredom Busters for Kids on Good Things Realized
26 of the best car games and activities from Cool Mom Picks
Whew! That is a big list. What are your best tips for road trips?