When I was little I fondly recall reading The Little House series while on a road trip one summer, I honestly don't even remember where we went on our trip - but I do remember reading about Laura and Mary, Ma and Pa, and imagining what it would be like if we were traveling in a covered wagon instead of our Volvo station wagon. Some people prone to motion sickness can't read while in the car without getting sick, so books on tape or CD are a great alternative to bound books.
I would strongly recommend The Little House series as well as the diary-based Dear America and My Name is America series, especially for school aged kids. They are historical fiction stories from different times and places all over America, written from the perspective of young boys and girls - so you are bound to find one related to the place your trip is going and that your child identifies with.
For all ages here are a couple more fun books of facts and fun for the summer - Greetings from the 50 States: How They Got Their Names by Sheila Keenan is chock full of fun facts about all 50 states, their history, nicknames, and of course, how they got their names. Go, Go America: 50 States of Fun by Dan Yaccarino is full of entertainingly illustrated pages, following the map in the table of contents through all 50 states, each page with fun facts about the states.
What follows are some ideas for car games and survival kits to make road trips more bearable (along with the books of course). There are of course many books of car games available as well!
Making a Car Trip Survival Kit
Grab a backpack or tote bag, your child's school back pack can work - but if possible - having a special bag just for trips goes a long way in getting them excited about the trek ahead! Make sure their name is on it, that way it cuts down on spats about whose bag and whose. Here's a list of suggested items to stock it with:
- A Small Pillow - for naps, camp pillows and travel pillows are great options
- A Music Player and Headphones - because I don't know any kids that want to listen to dad's music all the time, or any parents that want to listen to their kid's music all the time either; you can also pre-load it with some of their favorite books read aloud - for younger kids pick something cheap and durable like the Lego MP3 player
- An Activity Book - more than just a coloring book, but also with activities like word searches, mazes and math problems
- Travel and Trivia Games - Brain Quest makes great portable decks of trivia questions on many topics and for all ages
- A Road Atlas - a great opportunity to teach geography and map reading skills when your kids inevitably ask "are we there yet?!", you can help them follow the path of your trip in the map, ask them "what town comes next?", "what town is north of us? south of us?", "what direction are we heading?", "are there any rivers or lakes nearby?", "where is the next rest stop?", etc. Rand McNally makes great maps and road activities for kids.
- Snacks and a Water Bottle - salty snacks make you retain water, sweet snacks can make you need to pee more often, so choose wisely when picking your road trip snacks; dried fruits, nuts and seeds are great options
Make Your Own Car Game Placemat
- 11x17 paper - heavy weight, card stock if possible . . . 8.5x11 will work too
- Slip cover, contact paper or laminator
- Wet erase markers
On one side of the paper print a full color map of the US, with all of the states labeled. On the other side print or draw blank game boards such as Tic-Tac-Toe, Bingo and MASH. Laminate this on both sides with contact paper or take it to your local copy store to laminate. On the road you can use the map side to play blackout bingo with license plates - see if you can find all 50 states on the road with you! On the other side you can play multiple games of Tic-Tac-Toe, etc. all you need is a wet wipe to wipe your mess away and start all over again.
The bonus is that because it is a placemat - you can use it to make messes easier to clean up when you stop for lunch along the road side - and especially if you are having to eat in the car!
Safe and Fun Travels!!