Getting There Can Be Half The Fun
Robbie Tarpley Raffish
some families, driving to the grocery store can be agony; yet others seem to get
to far off destinations refreshed and ready to go. As a parent whose family is
usually in the first category, I have often wondered, "What do they know that
a lot. Many parents reach back into their childhood, teaching their children traditional
car games (Ghost, Eye Spy, and the perennial favorite, the License Plate Game).
More than one parent I spoke with half-jokingly noted that Benadryl and Dramamine
play a big role in keeping the (drowsy) peace.
Yet some parents
have taken road trip entertainment to a new level by turning up the creativity,
and in doing so have made trips fun, creative, family-bonding experiences.
is to have our kids have as much fun getting there as being there," says Sharon
Tillman of White Hall, Maryland. She has her kindergartner bring a small spiral
notebook and colored pencils, in which she writes letters, plays games and draws
pictures, often for an hour or more. Her preschool age son has a box of "go toys"
- ones he is only allowed to play with on long rides, which keeps them fresh and
are just a start, as travel-sized art supplies and kits are plentiful and affordable.
Wrebbit's Color 'N' Roll is a travel size desk with refillable coloring book inserts,
Crayola has travel sets that include stencils and Crayons, and Dover makes small
coloring books in perfect sizes for preschool hands.
If you are on
a more stringent budget, a simple clipboard helps kids keep papers secure on their
laps and is great for passing tic-tac-toe and Hangman games back and forth. Teens
of both sexes enjoy making in-vogue "surfer" necklaces and bracelets from macramé
twine and glass beads from a craft store. When all else fails, making constructions
with a roll of tin foil and colored piper cleaners can often save the day.
Suzy Naber of
West Chester, Pennsylvania usually packs a few small wrapped presents for her
kids, ages 12, 10 and 2 ½ and schedules times in the ride for distribution.
"Our age range make things interesting, so we need to keep them occupied. I take
things like a new small doll for the baby or a game for the older ones. It gives
them something to look forward to."
Success for some
is in the timing. "For long rides we pull out of the driveway at 5:00 a.m. while
the kids can still sleep," notes Courtney Simmons, who often travels with her
children, ages 9, 6 and six months. "When rush hour hits we stop for breakfast
and a break, then get back on the highway once the worst of the traffic is over."
When Jan and Mike
White of Newark, Delaware travel with their preschooler, they resting is the last
thing they should do at a rest stop. "We often pack an inflatable beach ball,
which we blow up at the rest stop. We play catch and dodge ball to blow off steam,
and then deflate it for easy re-packing." Frisbees and hacky-sacks are good choices
for older kids and are equally easy to store.
a key role in travel, too. Several parents mentioned trading books on tape with
other traveling families and borrowing them from the library. Jill Miller from
Baldwin, New York often has her pre-reading son, Matt, look for letters on billboards
until he has completed the alphabet.
Travel is also
a way to teach geography. One family gives each child a copy of the route map
with key landmarks highlighted, and another uses the map as a variation on a game
of "Bingo" (with the first person to spot key signs getting the points.)
Music is useful
for bridging the age gap. Debbie Israel of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania noted that
her teenage daughters often bring their own music, which gives her a chance to
hear what her kids are listening to. Also suggested: lullabies, classical music
and jazz; kid tapes like "Free to Be You & Me" and "Elmo's Sing Along Travel Songs";
and parental favorites Peter Paul & Mary, Jimmy Buffett and Loggins & Messina
Food is both needed
and a diversion, and stops along the way can greatly increase the price of the
trip. Suzy Naber's answer is to pack individual snack packs that include fruit,
celery sticks, goldfish, crackers, chips and boxed drinks. Another mother said
that she saves certain favored snacks for the ride, such as M&Ms and certain brands
of cookies. (Take paper towels, tissues, baby wipes and Wet Ones for fast clean-ups,
My family has
found one piece of equipment indispensable for our small children - a portable
training potty, which has saved our car upholstery more than once. And keeping
a bag close at hand with an extra change of clothes for each traveler makes inevitable
messy moments easier. We also keep Children's Motrin and Children's Mylanta in
ours for fast access.
There is no doubt
that technology is playing a larger role in calmer trips. "My son Jake just got
a Game Boy and it is hard to tear him away," said Bob Budlow of Chatham, New Jersey.
His observation was echoed by several parents, one who noted her son played from
Philadelphia to Orlando with hardly a peep.
Ellen Weber, also
of West Chester, Pennsylvania, is planning to bring her laptop with DVD player
on the next family trip; our family has also used the laptop to play computer
games. There is also the opportunity to bring
videos along with TV/VCRs that are made to play in cars and vans.
But my favorite
is the "if you can't beat 'em, pay 'em
approach," with a game called Penny Ante. Each child gets 25 pennies at the start
of a trip; then they get fined a penny each time they whine or argue. Most parents
who mentioned it said they doubled the number of pennies remaining for each kid
at the end of the trip; one parents of teen pays a dollar for every penny left
at the end of the trip - a great incentive for acquiring souvenir funds.