We love to travel as a family.  Unfortunately, that also means we spend time on the road.  When we are traveling by car, we have learned to stay proactive.  Mom comes prepared with an arsenal of kid entertainment.

I break down the drive into segments.  We have movie time, snack time, quiet time, and entertainment. 

Movie time is the obvious favorite.  My kids love to watch movies on road trips, and I can sit and relax.  Before we go, I take the kids to our local library and check out kid-friendly (and hopefully educational) DVD's for the trip.  Actually my kids would like to watch movies the entire time, but we have learned not to over-use the movies, as it can make our children quite grouchy and takes away from the family bonding experience a road trip provides.  So, after about 30 minutes of movie time, it is time for another activity.

I purposely over-pack for snack time.  We have healthy snacks like fruit, raisins, and string cheese.  We, also, have an assortment of non-healthy "special treats".  I buy pre-packaged goodies that we don't usually have at home and create a mobile vending machine.  Once every few hours, the kids can "shop" the vending machine for a treat.  Since we allow sugary snacks on the road, we limit juice intake and try to stick with water to drink.

Quiet time is always enforced on our long road trips.  After lunch usually works best for us.  There are no movies, snacks, or talking.  This is a time for children to nap or just take in the scenery.  If your child has a special stuffed animal or blanket, you'll want to have it accessible during this time.

Now here's where mom's (or dad's) work comes in: entertainment.  Whoever is not driving should be proactive in providing entertainment for the kids.  Sound hard?  It's much easier than having grumpy kids in the back asking, "how much longer?", and it can be quite fun.  For our long road trips there are usually several suprises awaiting the children. 

  • For example, a new puppet (complete with a name and special voice) is the road trip director.  The puppet talks to the kids, tells stories, and makes announcements (i.e. announcing lunch time). 
  • Another surprise, is wrapped gifts from the dollar store (for our youngest children, I've even used toys from home).  It is always fun to unwrap a present, and the novelty of a new toy can often carry us for many miles. 
  • I, also, bring each child a coloring book with a baggie full of crayons. 
  • This year we started doing learning games appropriate for each child's level.  For math, our 6 year-old was asked division word problems (i.e. We have nine pennies.  If each of the three children want to get the same amount, how much will each child get.)  Our 4 year-old did addition, and our 2 year-old practiced counting.  For each correct answer, they got an M&M.  We, also, played similar games with reading and alphabet questions. 
  • CD's with children's music or a book on CD are a fun addition.
  • Tried and true favorites such as Simon Says, I Spy, and the Alphabet game work well.
The important thing is to make the day of travel PART of  the vacation, not simply the means to getting to it.  Since we began planning out our day of travel, our kids have enjoyed the car time as much as (if not more) than the actual vacation time.

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