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Road Trips with Kids

This photo shows a family looking out the back of their fully packed SUV, ready for a road trip vacation.

Let the kids choose their own entertainment.

If you want happy kids on a road trip, this short article has some expert tips.

Yes, I have a child. She’s been on several road trips. Most of my friends have children as well. Some have more than one. They range from infants to teens.

Kids get bored easily. It’s one of the reasons families avoid road trips. Mom and Dad’s nerves can’t take the “Are we there yet?” chorus from the back seat.

Not to worry parents. Pack those kids in the car, because things have come a long way since you were a kid.

Thanks to electronic devices like personal media players, digital cameras, handheld games and smart phones, kids will enjoy the drive. In fact, they might get so into their tablet, that you’ll need to pry them out of the car, just to glance at the Grand Canyon.

Pack plenty of rechargeable batteries, or have car chargers standing by so they’ll never run out of juice. If they get bored of the electronics, pull out the analog stuff like comics, coloring books, pencil crayons (because wax ones can melt), travel board games and the like.

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If the children get tired, get out the throw blankets and car pillows so they can nap. If they get restless, pull out the snacks and let them munch while you drive.

Better yet, stop at the next rest area. Get out and play a bit of catch to stretch the legs. Go exploring around, looking for interesting bugs and animals. You never know what you’ll find, from giant fire ants, to a once in a lifetime cicada hatch.

Something that really helps, is to make kids and teens part of the travel process. Tell them that they are responsible for their own backpack. They get to choose what to put in it, including their own toys, snacks, water bottle, hat, tissues, wipes and everything they might need. (Be sure to double check it.)

You can also let them research the destination and the route. They’ll feel valued and involved, if you let them pick some activities along the way.

If someone suddenly decides they want to go swimming, why not pull over and let them take a 20 minute dip. You parents can relax, while the kids go burn off some energy.

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Once you arrive at the hotel, make the children responsible for sterilizing certain items in the room. Give one the job of checking the TV signal, cleaning the remote and clock radio. Give the other the job of wiping down the computer, keyboard, door knobs and light switches.

If you’re planning to stay more than one night, get the kids to pick some local attractions. Let them search the internet and the GPS to see what’s around. Some favorites include zoos, museums, gardens, theme parks, water parks, county fairs, roller coasters and similar attractions.

At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for washing their own clothing and their own entertainment. One can be watching TV, the other using the computer, while mom and dad read, or plan the next few days.

In addition to all the other forms of entertainment, get a streaming video subscription like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Apple TV. It follows you around, no matter where you travel and it uses the hotel wifi to stream video. This lets some of the family watch the TV in the room, while others watch whatever they want using their smartphones and tablets.

If you ask them, kids will tell you that they want autonomy and self directed entertainment. Add to that some responsibility, like selecting activities and packing their own bag, with stuff they want for the next day, and everyone can have an enjoyable trip.

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