Top 10 Tips for getting kids to unplug on road tripsUnplugging on road trips is a paid collaboration with Aviva. It seems that car journeys for kids have changed a lot since I was small, mostly for the better. I remember being carried to the car in my PJ’s in the middle of the night and laid down on the back seat to go back to sleep without seatbelts, yes I am that old!
I love that fact that there are lots of gadgets and technology to make travelling easier, but I also like getting the kids to unplug and communicate too. For me, it is all about balance and a good road trip includes both. The fact that I have a child that gets travel sick if using a screen for a long time means that I have become something of an expert at keeping them entertained over the years without just relying on screens. Although I am very envious of the fact that on long journeys they can stream movies!
Aviva has some fab tips on how to keep the kids and the car under control when going on long journeys. The husbeast is responsible for ensuring that we have adequate breakdown cover, foreign insurance and making sure that the car is shipshape for long journeys usually in France for us, but entertainment on the journey is my responsibility. So how do you get the kids to unplug on road trips? Most of the time it means being well prepared and putting in just a little bit of effort. All of the activities below are things that I do with the boys or have done when they were younger.
Travel activity packs
When my boys were younger I used to give them a travel pack for long journeys which included small toys. I would always ask for a spare activity pack when we ate out as they make great travel competitions as does mess free painting kits! Small pots of homemade playdough are great too and make sure you keep all those freebies from magazines and comics on the weeks before you travel.
My boys love maps, we often print out a route planner of where we are going for them to follow the route themselves as we go along. If you have time before your travel you can also look up facts about places you will pass along the way.
Dollar store/Pound Store trinkets
If you have a really long trip coming then get the kids involved and give them a budget to spend at the local store. Our local pound shop (yes we live in the UK) has some great colouring and puzzle books, as well as the regular plastic toys.
Travel board games
Both my boys are hugely competitive and we always have travel versions of our favourite games in the car such as travel connect four and battleships. I am always on the lookout for travel versions of games and have great magnetic snakes and ladders too. We keep the games in labelled plastic containers as we are less likely to lose pieces then.
I have one child that is travel sick in the car, which rules out reading for him. But the other loves reading his books en route and as a family we love audiobooks. I can recommend the David Walliams and Roald Dahl for tweens, Julia Donaldson for preschoolers and Harry Potter, Chamber of Secrets and Percy Jackson for older tweens and teens that will not drive the adults insane. Also podcasts are great for long journeys.
What is not to love about free printables for travel packs. I made some for my boys including count the vehicles, car models word search, join the dots, tic tac toe (noughts and crosses), hangman, travel bingo, car badge bingo and car name word search. My top tip for these is to laminate them before you go and give the kids a whiteboard pen, then they can be cleaned with a cloth or even a baby wipe and be used again and again. Don’t have a laminator, don’t worry just pop them in a plastic pocket and you can do the same.
I think this is my favorite of all, games that do not require pen, paper or anything other than just a person such as eye spy (colours for younger children and letters for older kids), I’m thinking of a country beginning with ……., I’m thinking of an animal….. (with this one you get to ask the person a question, but they can only answer with yes or no), Eat the alphabet (each person takes a tern listing what they would eat from a – z and then passes it on. The next person has to add theirs and also recite all the previous ones too), The Alphabet Game (the alphabet has lots of possibilities for games! My boys love Star Wars ABCs Anakin, Boba Fett, Clone Wars, Droid, etc. You could also do places, foods, animals, kids’ names, etc.), Name that tune (people get three tries at naming the tune you are humming or whistling), Opposites. (the opposite of short is tall and the opposite of big is small etc), and Joint story (this is a great one because you can make it as long or short as you want! Start by telling just part of a story, and then have the next person tell the next part. Cut them off, and have the next person tell the next part, and so on).
Snacks and drinks
I make sure that I prepare a load of healthy snacks and drinks before we go. Now the boys are older they get their own bag each (when they were younger I dished them out as they would have eaten them all in one go). I love things like granola bars, fruit salad, nuts and dried fruits, flavoured coconut water, popcorn, yoghurt coated fruit, fruit leather, dried cereal, cheese,
You can take many toys in the car, just avoid ones with lots of small bits. We love things like magna doodle, aquadraw, felt boards, lacing cards, top trumps, puppets and Rubik’s cubes.
Sensory bottles or busy bags
Most busy bags and sensory bottles can be converted for in-car play. I love this hair tie bracelet busy bag and it would be perfect for in the car. We have a love of sensory bottles and they are perfect for in-car entertainment, especially discovery or eye spy bottles.
Do you have a favourite unplugged car activity that I have missed? We are always on the lookout for more, so do let us know in the comments. Happy travels.