Believe it or not, it is possible to not only survive a road trip with kids in tow, but also enjoy it. The trick is to plan ahead, and come up with a variety of activities for the kids to do in the car while you're traveling. While iPods will keep kids occupied for a little while, after a few hours, get your kids involved in some good, old-fashioned car games. Your kids won't even think to ask you when you're going to get there.
Car Games for Younger Kids
This game is a version of the popular children's game that doesn't involve running. Each player is given a specific symbol he is to watch for while the vehicle is on the road, such as a symbol for a gas station or a type of sign. The person who is "It" watches for his symbol and when she sees it, she needs to tag another player. The next person then takes a turn watching for his or her sign.
Counting games are another enjoyable way to pass the time on the road. Decide what the children are going to count. Some popular items are cows, barns, phone booths, or cars of a specific color, such as red or blue. The person who counts the most within the allotted time limit wins.
Car Games for Older Kids
Another option for car games for kids is to get the children working together and using their creative talents to create some funny pictures. Have the children decide whether they are going to draw people, animals, or a combination of the two. The first person draws a face or a head at the top of the paper and then folds it over so that the next person can't see the image. The second person draws the body and folds the paper down. A third person draws the legs of the person or the animal in the bottom section of the paper. When this step has been completed, unfold the paper to reveal the creation. The children can give it a name, if they wish.
License Plate Acronyms
License plates have unique combinations of letters and numbers, some generated randomly and others chosen intentionally. Older kids will enjoy coming up with meanings for the letters and numbers on license plates. Start by looking for custom license plates and guess what they stand for, then move on to random license plates. Another twist is to watch people in cars and guess what type of custom license plate the driver should get.
Make Your Own Car Games
Turn a metal cookie sheet into a word board. Print out words and glue them onto magnets or purchase a magnetic poetry set. Children can turn the words into short poems or funny rhymes. For younger children, add magnets with pictures and let them practice matching words to pictures.
The family might enjoy a scavenger hunt while on the road. This game starts before the trip. Buy a pack of index cards and have everyone in the family draw some pictures of things he or she expects to see while driving to the destination. Use a pack of 50 index cards and put one picture on each one. The children can also draw pictures of things they see on the way to the destination and switch packages of cards for the return trip. Then they can try to find each item in their deck on the way home.
Make your own I Spy bottle by filling a plastic bottle with rice. Add small buttons, plastic toys and beads. Create a piece of paper with pictures or names of the objects in the bottle and challenge children to find as many of the objects as possible by shaking and twisting the bottle.
Laminate a tic-tac-toe board, a basic hangman game or a few connect the dots pages. Instead of using up paper and creating a mess, children can use dry erase markers, then wipe the boards clean after every game so they can play over and over again. Word searches and crossword puzzles may also be laminated so multiple children can enjoy them.
Play a game of 20 questions with famous landmarks or cities and states. Those playing the game can only ask yes or no questions and get 20 chances to guess what the place is.
50 States License Plates
Challenge children to find license plates from as many of the 50 states as possible. Talk about how license plates from different states look and why they may have been designed that way.
Map Your Trip
Print off an extra copy of the map for your trip and have children track your journey. As you hit specific intersections or landmarks, call out "map check" and see who can find where you are on the map the fastest. Use stickers or highlighters to mark off checkpoints. If you have younger children who cannot read an actual map, draw a simpler map that includes major roads and landmarks so they can participate too.
Pass the Time
While you may not decide to take long car trips all of the time, when you do, playing games will let everyone focus more on the destination and less on the time it takes to get there. In fact, with the right games, the longest car trip will seem to take no time at all. Your kids will be too busy to ask, "are we there yet?"