For 30 hours and nearly 2,000 miles, our family drove across a major portion of the United States. For days we prepped and planned, adding toys and activities to my son's backpack in hopes they would entertain him for the duration of the trip, and limit that dreaded phrase, "Are we there yet?"
In preparation, I was in search of the best toys and activities for family road trips. While I am sure these aren't the only toy and activity suggestions, here are several of the items we... brought to help pass the time during our long family road trip.
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Coloring and Activity Books
While looking for coloring books, we chose a few themed ones that were aligned to my son's interest in Minions and Rescue Bots, but the choices are endless.
With older school aged children, look for books with interspersed activities such as simple dot-to-dots, hide-and-find and color by number. Mandala coloring pages can also be a great way for kids and even adults to color away any stress during traffic or with the anticipation of a big move. Sticker books are another great option.
We chose to bring colored pencils instead of crayons, since we were driving through much warmer climates and crayons were prone to melting. We housed the colored pencils in a case that were stored in an organizer on the back of the front passenger seat, so there was less chance of them being lost or dropped en route.
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Just like you would if you were traveling by plane, find a backpack that can house all of the child's travel belongings, that way during pit-stops at rest areas and hotels, they are able to carry all of their own items.
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Find A Good Activities Book
While you can spend countless hours scouring Pinterest and the internet for activities on your own, save yourself time and smartphone battery power, because for roughly $15 you can invest in a book to keep in the car, such as 250 Activities to Keep Little Ones Busy and Happy—Anytime from Amanda Morin. Sometimes the most well thought out plans are good in theory, but aren't as well received in the moment. This book has over 250 activities to entertain children in the car, on planes and trains, in waiting areas, and even when you are on a work-from-home conference call!
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Nintendo 3DS XL
The Nintendo 3DS XL is traditionally a portable video game system. The large, colorful screen on the 3DS XL is perfect for gaming. However, when in hotels and in areas of free wifi, children and adults can utilize its internet capabilities. For those with Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, these apps can also be dowloaded on the device to watch television shows and movies in wifi areas as well.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
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iPad, Android Tablet, E-Reader or Educational Tablet
While you could just go buy a brand new iPad, send the word out to friends and family members looking to upgrade their own iPads. I wasn't thrilled about buying a new device for a young child for many reasons. Recently, my parents had attempted to trade-in their first generation iPad and were offered very little for its value. So, we asked if we could keep it for our son. We loaded his hand-me-down iPad with some apps, a few feature length movies and 2 seasons of Paw Patrol. Since he prefers television episodes over movies, there was enough content available for him to watch. Just make sure to download apps that do not require the use of the internet to play.
For those of you with younger preschool aged children, the LeapPad and InnoTab educational tablets have games and learning activities that are easier for younger children to access. Music and television shows can also be downloaded onto the device. While the amount of data that is capable of being stored on those devices is much less than an iPad or Android tablet, within wifi areas at rest stops, hotels and restaurants, children can engage in peer-to-peer gameplay and safely access educator approved content on the internet or through YouTube.
After you configure devices like Android tablets and iPads, make sure to test the tablet in airplane mode to make sure the content that has been loaded on the device is really accessible outside of a wifi area.
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With the radio and GPS in the vehicle, as well as the potential for other noise with tablets and gaming devices, invest in a good pair of headphones for each child. There are several considerations when finding the best pair of headphones for kids, such as sound limiting features and retractable cords.
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Depending upon your child's interests and where you are ultimately heading, a small soccer ball, tennis ball or NERF football can be a great quick rest stop activity to release some energy and stretch their legs.
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Picture card games like Spot it are a great road trip game. They can be played alone, or with multiple players. Children can also use the pictures on the cards to play any number of games, such as verbally offering clues about the person, place or item on the card, while family members try to guess. All of the cards are portable and easily stored in a metal tin.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
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My 5-year-old loved this game during the road trip. As a driver it can be difficult to play along with games that distract your eyes from the round, but not with Sound it! The game includes a large deck of cards. On each card there is either a picture or a phrase. Younger children can look at the picture and attempt to make the sound, while older children can read the clue before performing. As the co-pilot, I was able to pre-sort the cards, locating simple cards with animal and environmental sounds I knew my son could perform. He enjoyed making the sound while my husband who was driving attempted to guess. This is a great road trip game for families with multiple children of different age ranges.
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Painting Lulu is a coloring book that arrives with a tablet stylus. After the app is downloaded onto a tablet, digital copies of the coloring book pages are available to color with the stylus right on the device. It is also possible to take pictures of items with the tablet, then children can create their own individual coloring pages with the stylus. What a fun way to remember pit stops and a child's favorite road trip destinations, by creating their own personalized coloring pages.
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Rory's Story Cubes
There are dozens of fun dice games, that are great for playing once you arrive at your destination but aren't easy to play with in the vehicle. However, Rory's Story Cubes is an exception. Several different dice with pictures on them are stored in a small, durable box. Players take turns rolling the dice, then create fun stories together as a family based on the pictures they see on the device.
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AmiGami Paper Craft
If by chance kids have access to a clipboard or hard, flat surface in the vehicle, AmiGami paper craft kits are a lot of fun. Using stickers and small pins that attach decorative paper to a plastic toy, children can design and create their own animals. All of the accessories are re-usable, so as long as there is a storage option for the pieces, there is a lot of long-term play value in these kits.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
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VTech Kidizoom Action Cam
Don't forget to pack a camera for the road trip! The VTech Kidizoom Action Cam is a great choice for family road trips given that it is easy for young children to activate and arrives with accessories that allow footage to be captured when to be mounted to bikes or used in a protective case in water at the pool or the beach.