Are you a road-trip family? Our family takes road trips fairly frequently, if not at least yearly. With a 12 ½ year old girl and 7 ½ year old boy it takes some serious creativity to make our long… LONG road trips tolerable (by long I mean our most recent road trip was actually TWO trips. One to Idaho which is typically a 12 hour drive – turned into a 17 hour drive due to a massive crash, and another the next day which is typically a 9 hour drive – turned into a 12 hour drive due to several more massive crashes). I’ve experimented with different ideas. Some have won, some haven’t. So for your travel pleasure I have consulted with the experts (read: one daughter and one son) to bring you our kids’ favorite things to do on road trips.
I spent a couple of weeks prior to vacation researching ideas for the kids on Pinterest hoping to find things fun things to keep them off their ipods and iphones and get their little brains working and excited. You know, maybe get them to look out the window, interact with each other (and us) and maybe learn a little bit too.
Secret Agent Mission
I came across a “Secret Agent” style mission pack for road trips online that was about $30. I happen to be someone who prefers to save as much money as possible, especially when I’m about to spend a bunch of money on gas and food for a road trip. So I got an overview of what the concept was and set about creating my own Secret Agent Mission packets for the kids including games, activities and a dash of education meshed with the “secret agent theme”.
First I decided on a list of activities/things I wanted to include in their packets. Next I tried to come up with a story; a way to somehow make all the things I wanted to include to work together. I knew I also wanted to have milestone surprises. These are basically fun things you give at specific intervals along the way. They can be anything from favorite snacks, books, games, movies, etc.
I created “aliases” for each kid (Agent 015 and Agent 070) and created stories about their secret missions. They were to spy on their respective “bad guys” (we made up some silly names for them, they each had their own, and they were not to tell each other that they were on a secret mission, or what their bad guys’ name was… even though that didn’t happen…) and report back to “headquarters” when we got back home.
I went to the 99 Cent store to find some fun stuff to use for their milestone surprises. I found a kids’ police kit that came with a gun, a badge and a cardboard police badge they could fill out, two binoculars, disguises, two kid’s “sketch artist” kits, two cool pens, some random goodies (i.e. Favorite gun, small Toy, etc.), two thin 3-ring binders and a couple of pencils.
All in all I spent about $20-25 on things to go along with all the secret mission things as well as a few snacks for the road. I printed pages (their mission pages) and created some pages for the activities, games, etc.
I then made plaques to tape on the paper bagged prizes keeping with the secret mission theme. I.e. “Your cover has been blown! Quick! Use this disguise to secure your new identity”. Inside the gift bag was the disguise kit. I wrote on the bottom of the bags the city and or time that they would get the gift bags (having planned it using a map earlier… yes, OCD issues). This also helped me remember what was in the bags (I stapled them shut) and made them look less like a sack-lunch.
I tried to include different activities and games for there to be variety of things to keep them interested and excited. Here are the activities I included in their packets:
- License Plate Game: Classic, right?! I tried to find plates of every state to print and put into a bingo board but the plates are constantly changing and I didn’t want to confuse the little guy so instead I just made a checklist of each state.
- Dots Game: I loved this game when I was little. Take turns connecting two dots trying to create a square where you put your name initial in. The person with the most squares wins. This would give them a break from focusing outside and interacting with each other. It’s the most ridiculous simple game ever but it’s pretty catchy and fun! Even little ones will get the hang of it after a couple turns.
- Scavenger Hunt/Spot It: I created specific things for the kids to look for (since our road trip was going to be quite lengthy, I wanted it to last on the way up and down). I also made sure to include random things I knew they would see, or wanted them to keep an eye out for such as A Big Blue Ox (in Klamath, CA), a really big orange bridge (Golden Gate Bridge), a kid picking his nose in a car, a guy sleeping in a car with his mouth open, etc. Something that would really keep them on the lookout for these random things, and hearing the screams of amazement that they actually SAW a giant blue ox when they never in a million years thought that was something they would be able to cross off their lists!
- Super Secret Undercover Mission: Do something for someone without their asking or knowing – I feel like we don’t make enough opportunities to teach and show our kids to be selfless so I thought I would use this as an opportunity to have them think of something to do that would brighten someone else’s day in one way or another, one thing for each day. Then I would have them fill out a form about who they helped, what they did and how they think it made that person’s day (from helping with dishes to holding a door open for an elderly person. Even drawing a picture and leaving it on someone’s pillow).
- Travel Journal: I wanted to be able to look back on their memories of the trip and give them a platform to express themselves so I created travel journal pages to get them rolling writing down the things they found interesting or wanted to remember.
- ABC Game: this is a classic! I kind of made it into a checklist so when they found the letter they could check it off. Keeping their eyes busy and their hands 🙂
- Milestone Surprises: I had planned out pit-stops, milestones or time-milestones to give them each a special surprise. 4 prize bags for each way. I had written the location/time and way there-or way-back on the bottom of the bags so I could easily identify which one to give them. This was my sons’ favorite part!
- Write a story: Give them a scenario, a character and have them finish the story. This would challenge their little brains to be creative and use their writing skills too.
- Information on two of the locations we’d see or visit. I knew we would be going to the redwood forest so I had a short paragraph about redwood trees with a large picture of a redwood, with 4 bullets with facts about redwoods and two smaller photos below of the facts above
- One page information about the places we would see/stop along the way with cool pictures. We happened to be going to visit my Dad on the coast of Oregon near the California border so we were going to see the beautiful Coastal Redwood Forest. We were going to also drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, and I wanted to make a stop at one of the many Mystery Spots aka Vortex’s along the way. I absolutely love random learning stuff like that personally, so I hope to pass that on to our kids… even though they may not love it… yet… but they will… trust me… they will!
What Road Trip Ideas Have You Gotten Great Feedback On?
The kids were very excited to see the notebooks on their chairs when we got in to the car to leave. After the excitement they fell back asleep for a couple hours. I then gave them their first prize bag when they woke up. They loved the surprise bags, that was probably their favorite part. The disguises were also a big hit.
Overall it did take a little bit of work to put them together, but I think the end result was well worth the little bit of effort! The kids enjoyed it and so did we. It was fun to see the excitement on their faces when they say these super random things they could check off their lists. And now they have a fun journal to look back on later and reminisce on their road trip!
What road trip things to do are favorites in your family? Both kids have asked us if we can do that again the next time we take a trip. Although we have taken another, rather lengthy road trip after this one, we didn’t end up putting another mission together (it was a two state ordeal, remember? Cut me some slack I had a lot on my plate and as much as I wish I could say I was, I am definitely not a supermom) but I think I will definitely do it for the next one. It seems as though giving the kids fun things to do on road trips definitely keeps them engaged and makes the most boring part of the trip memorable!