Long road trips: keep the kids happy and stay sane

If it were as easy as them having a nap and then a snack, you wouldn’t read this article. Family road trips are where I formed some of my best lifelong memories, I’m sure my parents wouldn’t reflect so fondly on all of them though…

A long journey on a family vacation can be made to feel longer if you can’t tame the kids. So if you need some ideas or just want a sounding board, we’ve got some ideas for travelling with kids.

What are some games for kids on a road trip?

“I spy” is banned in my family. “Fun for 10 minutes – hell for an hour” – My Dad.

You need some games and things that make time fly, keep kids engaged and won’t send you ’round the bend’.

  1. Family Tall Tales. You start off a story, which is entirely make-believe, and once you finish a sentence the person who’s next – rotating clockwise from the driver, continues it. You keep going until the timer runs out. Set 10 minutes on the timer, you’ll find that the kids don’t get bored and your brain stays alert. It’s also pretty fun and makes for a good family-inside joke.
    Just remember to watch the road and not get too caught up in your own fairy tale.
  2. 20 Questions. An instant classic, much like Family Tall Tales. This is great because it keeps you sharp, and teaches your kids deductive thinking. Two birds, one stone.
    One person in the car thinks of a place, a person (real or fictional), or an object. The rest of you gets 20 questions to pepper the thinker with. They can only respond “yes” or “no” and once your 20 questions are up they win. A great game to pass the time and it also helps with logic-based thinking.
  3. Guess The Song. We always loved music based songs in the car. Plug an iPhone into an AUX port and put it on shuffle. As soon as the song starts you all race to guess the title and the artist.
    Just remember that they are kids and their music taste is somewhat limited. Or don’t play fair, I’m not here to judge your style of parenting.
  4. Whoever Talks Next Loses. It’s self explanatory and usually used as a last resort.
  5. Download a Few Apps on Your Phone or Tablet. If they get carsick or there are “winedies” (lots of corners) on your trip, then it’s not as advisable. A little screen time is a good way to get some peace up front. Just remember that it might be best in the middle of the trip, if you’re trying to get them to sleep it may not help the cause.
  6. If you go through a tunnel you all have to try and hold your breath till you get to the other side. It’s not really a game so much as it’s essential. I still do it when I’m driving by myself.
  7. Talk About Yourself and Talk About Them. Tell your kids all your good stories, even tell them the bad ones. The good thing about being old is that all the lessons you learnt the hard way, you can teach them the easy way. Kids want to know more about their parents. Parents want to know more about their kids. You’re trapped in a car, you won’t get a better chance.

Other important things to remember

Make up your own games, or just talk, or sing along to music. Stop at rest areas and stretch your legs, kick a ball around. Get an ice cream and eat it with a nice view. Enjoy it, the destination isn’t going anywhere.

The stress of trying to get somewhere and everything that goes with it can be incredibly annoying and leave you impatient. Kids are just excited to be going somewhere. If you remember to breath and be sympathetic with everyone else in the car, you can keep the peace.

I remember when I got my license, it occurred to me that at some point I’ll have gone on my last road trip with my family. I probably won’t even realise it until much later.

Do anything you like to pass the time, just don’t waste it.