I was born in Canada. My mom and her family were from the States, which meant that growing up, we made lots of trips back and forth, especially after my parents got divorced. This made my mom a bit of an expert in traveling with kids on long drives. And, this was the 90’s guys, there was no iPad or Smartphone to hand us. So, here are some of my favorite memories of things to do for some screen free time in the car.
We always packed our own backpack for the car. This included things we would want to play with in the car. Coloring books and colored pencils were a must (Crayons melt in the hot car in the summer!). Possibly books to read, though I got car sick, so I didn’t usually have one. A blanket or small pillow for naps, and a stuffed animal or doll to cuddle. Magnetic games were great! Larger toys, such as Barbie dolls, dinosaurs, cars were preferable. The larger the easier they were to not lose in the seats.
We played several games growing up to keep us entertained:
- The License Plate Game — try to find as many states as you can on license plates. Want to go up a level? Add all the Canadian provinces and Territories.
- The Alphabet game — looking for a word that starts with every letter on the signs and billboards.
- Popeye — Look for cars with one headlight out. Cars and trucks are worth 1 point. Semis are worth 50. Motorcycles are worth -1. Sometimes we played as teams, other times it was every person for themself.
Treasure Hunt Clues
My mom would sometimes write rhyming poem clues for a treasure hunt we would have when we got back to the home. Sometimes it would hint about stopping to visit cousins, and where we would stop for lunch, and then we had a treasure hunt when we finally got home. This gave us something to look forward to after a long drive, where we were dying to get wiggles out.
One year she wrapped presents from the Dollar Store for us to open at certain points through the drive. These things could be snacks, coloring books, small toys, new car or whiteboard style games, that would keep us entertained for a bit, and built anticipation for the further we had to go.
Border Photo Ops
If you are crossing several state borders, stopping at the signs to take a picture of your progress also makes for some excitement. We used to watch sooooo closely when we knew we were getting close to the border to see who would be the first to spot the sign. When my Grandpa was in the car, he would start saying “Weeeeeeeeeeeee’re INNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN ….. and drag it out until he could shout whichever state we entered into.
Kids need to move. So on trips where there wasn’t a huge rush, my mom would try to find fun places to stop. One year we stopped in Deer Lodge to tour the old jail, and doll and car museums. On other trips to Arizona or Southern Utah, we would stop in Vernal, UT to see the dinosaurs, or to see the Moqui Caves in Kanab.
Trips are so fun, but can be tricky with littles! I hope this helps you think of some creative ways to make your summer travels more enjoyable!