How to make long rides more fun with kids – ever wondered how families survive long trips in a car or an RV? When your destination is a couple of hours away from your home, we have some tips and tricks for you how to make long trips more fun with kids. We started taking our boys on long drives and even flights when they were only a couple of weeks old as we wanted to share our passion for travel and the great outdoors with them from early on.
As a result, our kids get excited about family trips, especially camping trips. Sitting in a car for many hours is naturally not their favourite pastime, but they know what to expect and there are a couple of things that make long rides more fun with kids.
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Cut long rides into shorter parts with kids
How to make long rides more fun with kids? Most parents and caregivers dread the thought of taking their children on long road trips spending many hours in a vehicle. But what if your favourite campground is miles away from home or you simply want to explore a country? When you take your kids on a camping trip, you may want to choose your destination carefully.
Remember that long rides in an RV or in a car with a trailer hooked up to are stressful for children and consequently, for you, too! But when you keep some basic ideas about how to make long rides more fun with kids, it will become much easier. (Not a breeze, but easier!)
Take breaks when on the road with kids
One of the first tips is to make sure to include many breaks to stretch little and long legs. Sitting in a confined space for several hours can not only make everybody feel uncomfortable, but could actually result in severe pain and health issues. The risk of developing blood clots is increased if you spend too much time sitting in cars. The condition is called venous thromboembolisms (VTE), a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the leg, groin or arm. Your legs and arms might start swelling, too.
How to make long rides more fun with kids? Take breaks, get outside the car and walk for a couple of minutes to let your blood circulate more easily again. Circle your foot and run on tip toes to exercise your veins – and these little exercises are also fun for your children. Look for a parking lot or resting area with a playground or a an area to walk safely. Play running on tip toes or walk like a duck with your kids and you will be fit again in no time! Saving time is not always a good goal when on the road, especially with kids.
Taking infants and toddlers on the road
Remember that babies, especially new-borns, shouldn’t sit or lay in an infant carrier for hours because it could actually hurt their backs. Take your baby out of the carrier when it becomes fuzzy and put it either in your baby sling or take it into your arms. You could use the break to feed your baby and to change diapers.
Make sure to take enough wipes and little plastic bags with you. Try not to wake up the baby when it sleeps but make breaks when it is awake, which means a little bit of flexibility on your part, but it is so worth it.
When our children were smaller, we always took some pick-nick or small snacks with us in case they needed a break when there wasn’t any restaurant nearby and they were sleeping peacefully when there were some and we didn’t want to wake them up again. Hungry parents aren’t fun travel companions, either!
Plan an overnight stay on the way
If in doubt and your children are not used to long rides, try to plan an overnight stay at a campground in between. This could actually turn out to be a fun experience as you get to know a different region and try a new campground. The next day everybody will start the next part of the trip refreshed and in a good mood, which will make the trip a wonderful time to remember.
Seat storage hangers and organizers
How to make long rides more fun with kids? On the ride make sure your children are seated comfortably. Your children are most likely used to their car seats. Our children love to take little toys and gems into the car and know how to put them away safely when they do not use it. We use car storage hangers or organizers that are installed onto the back of the front seats for them to use.
Some hangers even provide a secure space to put bottles into so that older children have access to their drinks when they need it. Use bottles that are spill safe and that your children already know how to use. Otherwise, you’ll have a mess in the car and an unhappy, thirsty kid!
Drinks and treats in the car to make long rides more fun with kids
As sugary pop or soft drinks make most children fuzzy and cranky, we always put water or non-sugary drinks into their bottles for our own sanity. Now that our children are older, we usually let them have smaller snacks to knibble during the drive that are low in sugar and calories and that won’t make a mess. So the treats you give them shouldn’t melt in the heat when you park your car. Try to let them have some treats they haven’t had before or that they know they will only get on long rides. That way, they will be looking forward to the ride and know it is a special occasion.
Games on the road
Screen time in the car
Of course you usually don’t let your school kid play with the gameboy or iPad for hours, we understand. Although you may be tempted to just hand over the screen and let them play while you are trying to make miles we encourage you to stick to some screen-time rules.
From our experience a prolonged screentime comes is handy at first as the kids are busy and entertained, but as they are not used to a lot of screentime the excitement quickly turns into over-excitement and crankiness. We have experienced very interesting behaviour after a long time on the screen, and we decided it wasn’t worth to risk anymore.
So although our children are allowed to play on the iPad or watch a movie during the ride , they know they need to turn off the devices after an hour or after the movie and have a break. We have discussed it with them and keep discussing it, but fortunately, they understand they feel better with less screen-time.
We usually download movies and apps before we go on a trip so we do not depend on a good internet connection on our way. Take mobile data costs of your provider into account and remember that internet connections may be weak on the road.
How to make long rides more fun with kids – Games
So what do we do instead? Remember how your parents kept you and your siblings entertained on long rides? We remember singing songs with our parents (and we are all glad nobody else could listen to us), playing road games like I spy, looking for cars of a special colour and making lists to compare, card games, riddles and quizzes. Actually, those rides were a wonderful opportunity to reconnect and spend time together.
Talk about what you did when you were a child, camping, the hikes you will do together,… Let your children talk about their favourite series, action heroes, books etc. A drive can be a good way to start your vacations as a family. If you cannot remember any road games from your childhood, look up ideas in the internet or ask your family and friends. We are pretty sure Grandma remembers your favourite game.
When our boys were younger we took a stuffed animal puppet with us on long rides and the parent who wasn’t driving used it to entertain the kids when they needed it. We don’t usually interrupt their games or their thoughts, we only entertain them when they really needed it. You are not their show master, but it can help to use a stuffed animal when they are unhappy and you need to divert them.
Make long rides more fun with kids: Audio books
How to make long rides more fun with kids? You could also listen to an audio book together. Our children love to listen to audio books and the prospect of listening to a complete book during long rides is very appealing to them. Especially when Mom and Dad will listen to it, too.
Choose some books you want to listen to before the ride and discuss which books you would all like. Of course you could also give your children their own device and have them listen to their own book with earphones.
We do that, too. However, the experience to interact to agree upon a book everybody will listen to is a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other better and to practice social skills as different family members may have different tastes and preferences. Try to keep it calm, let everybody contribute and find compromises. For example, you may listen to one book on the way to the campsite and another on the way back.
Enjoy listening to a book with your children (try not to get your smartphone out to check out social media, for example) and discuss the book with them later. Ask questions like: What happened? What was the name of the boy who did this and that again? How did you like the book? What was the best part? What would you have done if you were in that situation? Appreciating books and discussing them will actually help your child in school as he or she gets used to talk about books. And again, sharing this experience is a valuable time together and will be remembered by everyone.
More fun on trips with kids – RV there yet?
To sum it up, try to envision the time on the road as a means to connect with your kids. Focus on the time spent with your family and not so much on „getting there“. If they are very young, make sure their needs are met with careful planning and flexibility on your side. Older kids can be included in the planning of a long ride. Try to find compromises to make the trip a good experience for everybody because, after all, you are on a vacation!
So how to make long rides more fun with kids? Take your time to reach your destination, keep things organized, explore sites on the way and plan an overnight stay if needed. Stretch your legs, provide snacks and drinks, engage with each other.
We hope these simple tricks and tips how to make long rides more fun with your kids will help you to create great memories for your family trips. We’d love to hear from you and your family’s experiences on how to make long rides more fun with kids!