Summer road tripping season is upon us which means it’s time to pack up the family roadster and hit the highways and byways in search of unique and iconic roadside fun. However, if the sheer thought of being trapped in the car with your little ones (for hours on end!) makes your head spin, we’ve put together a list of road trip must-haves to keep you and the Littles happy and entertained throughout your journey.
To keep toys, art supplies, and gear within hands reach, we recommend a good car organizer. The Alex Car Valet is a portable and adjustable mobile play center and organizer. Simply attach the Car Valet to the back of the front seat, fold down, and Voilà! The steady surface allows kids to color, draw or play and the handy-dandy mesh pockets and zip bags provide a great place to keep snacks, small toys, and art supplies.
How many times have you heard, “are we there yet?” Probably too many times to count. That’s why we recommend printing a map of your trip (try MapQuest or Google Maps), sliding it into a plastic protective sleeve, and giving it to each child. Then, when your kiddo asks the infamous question–have them pull out their map and see where they are, how far they’ve traveled, and how far they have left to go. Hint: You can also make a family game of it! Have your kiddos pick a place on the map (a city, landmark, state capitol, etc.) and see who can spot it out the window first!
Kids love surprises and that’s why we recommend putting together a prize box for the car. Simply wrap up a bunch of small toys (check the Dollar Store or the dollar section at Target) and let your kiddo pick a prize every 100 miles traveled (or 50 miles traveled for shorter trips).
Games are a great way to keep kiddos (and parents!) occupied in the car! And these days, game manufacturers have designed miniature versions of some your favs including Travel Qwirkle, Memory, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Candy Land, and Sorry.
In addition to the old school favs, we highly recommend Spot it! On the Road by Blue Orange Games. This super-fun game (think Spot it! meets travel bingo) will result in countless hours of searching the landscape for matching images! Yay for getting kids to look out the window and enjoy the scenery! And for little ones, we recommend Spot it Jr! Animals. This fun matching game will not only keep kiddos busy, but will sharpen their visual perception and cognitive skills.
For older kids, Yamslam by Blue Orange Games is another one our travel favs because the folks at Blue Orange Games have designed this compact, self-contained game with a chip rack which means no paper or pencils required. And of course, we can’t forget Auto Bingo by Regal Games LLC and its cousins Highway Bingo and Travel Safety Bingo.
Workbooks | Sticker Pads | Reusable Color Mats | Wikki Stix
If you’re looking for a wide assortment of workbooks, sticker books, reusable drawing pads, and other fun toys for the car, be sure to hit your local toy store. One of our fav toy stores in Seattle is Curious Kidstuff because of their wide variety of high quality products. Curious Kidstuff even has a travel section (located right across from their counter) with enough stuff to keep you and your kiddos busy in the car for days!
For workbooks, we recommend the grade-level ones by Brain Quest. Hands down, these workbooks are the best on the market because they’re jam-packed with hundreds of curriculum-based activities, exercises, and games in just about every subject.
If your kiddo is into stickers, we recommend Reusable Sicker Pads by Melissa and Doug. Kiddos can accessorize houses, create animal-themed landscapes, and play dress-up with stickers that magically re-stick over and over again!
If you’ve got a little one who isn’t quite ready for stickers, than we recommend Scribble Mats, Scribble Books, or Scribble Puzzles. These durable, washable vinyl mats and pages are great for the car since they wipe clean with a dry cloth. And, no road trip is complete without a package (or two!) of Wikki Stix. These fun, wax covered playthings adhere to almost any smooth surface (yes, even the car window!) with just fingertip pressure, and can be easily lifted off and re-shaped again. Hint: Bring along a cookie sheet to use as a flat surface if you don’t have a Travel Valet or Lapdesk.
Portable DVD Player | iPad and Smartphone Apps
Mobile technology is a wonderful thing and we have no idea what we ever did without it! If your car isn’t equipped with a built-in DVD player, we recommend borrowing a portable one and stocking up on a bunch of DVDs. Most libraries offer kid-friendly DVDs (with at least 7-day rentals) as well as plenty of books on DVD. You can also find used DVDs at local thrift stores and don’t forget the $5 section at Target. If your kiddo is into apps (and who isn’t?), we recommend pulling out your iPad or smartphone and letting them try out some new educational apps along with a few favs (think Angry Birds and Doodle Jump!). Before you hit the road, be sure to check out our list of 85 Apps You Can’t Live Without.
Lastly, it’s no secret–boredom equals hunger! So, be prepared with lots of kid-friendly snacks! Instead of buying the big bag of fish crackers, opt for smaller individual packs (yes, we know they probably cost more, but getting your fav snack in a small bag is just plain fun!). Other kid friendly recommendations include apple slices with single serving cups of peanut butter, animal crackers in those cute lil’ boxes, small bags of Pirate Booty, mini baby carrot bags and ranch dressing cups, string cheese, raisins, and single serving boxes of cereal.
What are your tips and tricks for keeping kids busy in the car?