They say life is a journey, not a destination.
I’m not sure who originally uttered this, and neither is the internet. I’m guessing, however, that it wasn’t parents en route to a vacation in the family minivan.
Kids can get restless and irritable trapped in a motor vehicle for hours. Here are a few ways to make the journey not only more fun, but more educational.
PLAN ONE OR MORE STOPS If you do your research and plan a couple of stops along the way, you can give your kids a chance to stretch their legs, get a snack and even learn about a random place. A perfect example of this is the roadside Cabazon Dinosaurs, giant sculptures so huge you can buy souvenirs in the belly of one of them. Cabazon, California is 13 miles west of Palm Springs, right off the highway. It’s not only kitschy, but also provides an opportunity for kids to learn about California and of course, dinosaurs.
MAKE IT A GAME Time can be a difficult concept for little ones. If you break up the trip into 30-minute increments, you can give out “prize” tickets every half an hour, and when the kids get to four tickets, they get to pick a prize. I highly recommend the 99 Cents Only Store for purchasing a cache of road trip prizes. Also, based on how far you’re going, you can answer “Are we there yet?” with “No, but we will be there in three tickets.”
LIFE IS A HIGHWAY Putting together a family road trip playlist can be a great way to prepare for a trip. You can select songs that reflect your destination, or just tunes your kids already love or both.
STORY TIME There are some incredible kid books on audio. If you download a couple stories ahead of time, you might find yourself completely immersed and putting miles and miles behind you before you know it.
OLD SCHOOL GAMES Whether you played Punch Buggy or Eye Spy or Ghost as a kid, I guarantee you those same games will still fly with young ones. For how long I can’t say, but anytime your kids are observing the world around them and interacting with you and each other instead of staring at a screen, it’s a win for family travel.
POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE Depending on how old your kids are, they might enjoy collecting postcards from the destinations you hit along the way. Better yet, bring stamps and the addresses of their best friends and write and mail postcards from your road trip stops along the way. In the age of email, a snail mail postcard is surprisingly fun to send and charming to receive.
Buckle up and try to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. It’s a cheesy sentiment, but it’s probably also the secret to life, so there you have it.
Safe travels and good gas mileage to you and your family.