- Prepare your kids in advance. If the journey is going to take 3 hours, then tell them that’s how long it’s going to be. If they’re not old enough to understand how long 3 hours is, then tell them it’s like watching their favorite TV program 6 times, or they’ll get there a lunch-time, or it will be dark when they arrive. Giving children information that they can understand means that if they do start “are we there yet?” you can then use this as a guide to illustrate to them how much travel time is left.
- On a similar theme, you could make a cardboard clock and mark the time in red when you expect to arrive at your destination (allow time for traffic delays or you’ll run out of time on your “clock”). Move the hands about every 15-20 minutes so that your young passengers can see that they are getting closer to their destination.
- Another idea is to use a map. Put a ring around your destination and then every 100 miles mark a line on the map so that again the children can get a visual image about how much longer it’s going to take to get there.
- Have a mystery bag of treats and surprises. Every half hour or so let your children choose something from the bag. These don’t have to be expensive things, just something that will give you a few minutes of peace and quiet. Things like activity books and magnetic puzzles work well. Avoid anything that has small pieces which could fall onto the floor in the car and require you to stop and find it!
- Remember that kids have energy that’s constantly building throughout the day. Before you leave home, look at the journey you’re going to take and make a note of any places that look suitable rest areas – parks with playgrounds are great places to let your kids run off some steam for a little while. A break from the road will also help keep the driver refreshed. Have a small picnic, then make sure that the kids have a bathroom visit before getting back into the car and then you’re good to go for the next hundred or so miles. Even a 15 minute snack and run break can help keep kids tempers from flaring.
- Play games such as counting games (how many trucks in 5 minutes, blue SUVs in 10 miles, stop signs etc) to keep your children’s minds occupied. Other games could include memory games where you start a spoken list of things and each person has to remember what has already been added to the list, and then add something new, and the ever popular license plate spotting game – in the US/Canada, these could be states/provinces, within Europe then country plates can be used.
- Think about specific landmarks you will see on your journey and make a list of these for each child in your car. Have them cross them off as they see them. Offer a small prize for the first person who spots each landmark with a larger prize for the person who has the most firsts.
There are few things worse than being imprisoned in a stuffy vehicle for hours at a time with children who are restless, bored and full of energy. Plan your road trip with care so that you all know how long it’s going to take, what you’re going to do to get through the time, and how much fun you’ll have when you arrive at your destination.