Kids Say “No” to Long Car Rides

Fret not, dads and moms!  You’ve anticipated the chance to escape, whether it’s meeting extended family members or taking a well-needed vacation.  The biggest concern now is the extended time cooped up in the vehicle with irritable children.  What are the options outside of listening to a mournful soundtrack of “How much longer?”  Providing headphones or a tablet can only distract the woeful cries for so long. With careful planning, a road trip can be a positive experience of enjoying each other’s company, playing games, seeing new sights, and most importantly, creating memories! Ready to start planning?

Backseat Organizers

Eliminate the mess on the floor; instead, consider investing in an organizational compartment that securely attaches onto the seat.  Kids can have a safe location to keep cups or water bottles, books, and a few other essentials in hand’s reach!


Most often, when children are bored, they look to eating.  Prepare lunch pouches with a variety of nutritious foods specifically designed for each child.  If Sam loves grapes, peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, cashews, and animal crackers, the goal is to promote contentment!  Ziploc bags, depending on the child’s age, are an easy way to contain a variety of foods.  While compartmental trays can hold a wide range of snacks, the tray is likely to end up crushed into the upholstery.

Tip:  When packing snacks, think fruits, also dehydrated, such as banana chips and mangoes.  Try to avoid foods that contain too much sugar or salt, which may lead to an upset stomach.

Listen to an Audiobook

Expand the imagination by listening to a story every member of the family can enjoy!   While downloading books is one option, check out your library for either CD or digital downloads.  Children can listen up to two years above their reading level; however, check that the content is appropriate.  Examples of authors:

  • Ages 5 to 7: Roald Dahl, Kate DiCamillo, Mary Pope Osborne, C.S. Lewis
  • Ages 7 to 8: Angie Sage, Cressida Cowell, Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson, J.K. Rowling, Christopher Healy
  • Ages 8 to 10: Johnathan Stroud, Brandon Mull, E.G. Foley, Rick Riordan, Eoin Colfer

Some books, such as Septimus Heap, The Wizards of Once, Bartimaeus Artemis Fowl, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, and many more, expand across three to eight volumes.  A high-interest series can fulfill the active listener throughout short trips and during the drive home.

Scavenger Hunt

Children as young as four would relish the responsibility of hunting for items on a list.  For preschool-aged children, consider a grid full of letters, shapes, and colors!  Older kids may enjoy a more challenging game, perhaps words from signs; symbols, such as a palm tree on a license plate; or specific names of states.  With parent support, the game can produce an hour of happy chatter!

“Would You Rather?” Game

The curious game asks questions such as, “Would you rather have bright purple hair or blue feet? or, “Would you rather have duck feet or a bird’s wings?”  To encourage reading, printable cards are available online or families can design their own.


From library books to home collections, children will want to bring books from home.  Consider adding non-fiction books featuring facts, mazes, crosswords, Mad Libs, and “I Spy”  books.  Consider a 30-minute period to encourage reading, followed by a time when children can talk about the information learned!


Through a print-out of the journey, children can answer the question, “Where are we and how much further?  A map provides a sense of control to understand the journey, and learn from the many locations along the way.  With crayons or colored pencils, children may enjoy decorating the map when leaving cities or states!

Utilize Stopovers

Rest stops are an ideal location to quickly zip off the highway and take a well-needed bathroom break; also, children need to stretch their legs.  Alternative stops may be at a park or on downtown Main Street to walk, observe, and relax.  If stopping for meals, park at a distance!

With plenty of ideas that your child will enjoy, you are bound to have a great road tripping experience!   Before the ignition revs up the vehicle, ask the troops, “Are you ready for an adventure?”  Yes!


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