We recently got back from our family vacation, a 16 hour drive, one way. We have 3 little ones, 6, 4, and 2. For some, that kind of a vacation drive would seem like a nightmare!!
Between the "I'm bored's" and the "are we there yet's"... Madness takes its toll. But listen closely... Not for very much longer. I've got to keep control.... but I digress... and I have no idea why that quote from The Rocky Horror Picture Show came to mind... but it seems fitting.
So what do you do to keep your children entertained on long road trips?
I find that less is more, and more just creates more to fight/argue about. Some swear by dvd players - I'm not a fan. Why?
1. With 3 kids, they seldom to never agree on a movie, and I'm not playing several movies at once... they're a little young yet for headphones and the noise would drive me mental.
2. I'm also not a fan of having them stare at a show for 16 hours... there's so much more we could be doing with our time!
So what do we do then?
1. Each of our kids packs a backpack that they get to have beside their seats in our van. This generally contains a few books, and 3 or 4 of favourite toys.
2. I pack a "tickle trunk" (any Mr. Dress Up fans out there?!) I put a few inexpensive things in there and sometimes when we stop they get a little something from there. They don't get to pick, and they don't know what's in it. It can be anything from a new little truck, to colours and an activity book. They love getting the occasional little surprise and it buys a good 1-2 hours of quiet play.
3. We bring music that they know and like. It might not be our favourite, but they have a blast when we all have a sing along.
4. We talk about "interesting" things. We talk about where we are, the land, the people, the culture, the different kinds of jobs, and one that my kids seem to love - the geography - where we are, how far is it from home, what Province/State it's in, ect.
5. We play strange homemade games... like the license plate game: spot a license plate that is from somewhere OTHER than the Provence/State that you're in and gain points based on how far away the plate is from.
6. We play age appropriate trivia, and "I spy".
Between all these things and stops for gas and for meals we NEVER ONCE heard an "are we there yet?" or an "I'm bored".
And for meals... if at all possible, PACK PICNICS! The kids want to get out and run, play and stretch. Heck, I want to run, play and stretch after sitting for so long! Picnic's are a great way to do this. No wasting time sitting in a restaurant and waiting.
We also have Van Rules. This is a list of things you are allowed to do. We don't bother going over what's not allowed... they pretty much know what is not allowed, and I don't need to remind them, especially if that's the last thing they hear... what do you think is going to be fresh on their mind? Perhaps they can't think of stuff they are ALLOWED to do... so they will often do what's on their mind. Wow... hope I didn't lose you there... haha!
So our rules... here they are.
1. You can play with the toys/books you packed.
2. You can look out the window.
3. You can be bored... yes... it's okay to be bored. If you complain to me that you are bored, then I will be happy and say "Great! That's one of the things that you're allowed to do!"
4. You can sing songs.
5. You can participate in the van games (license plate game, trivia, ect)
We had a great trip, both ways. Our kids didn't complain... not even once. No fighting (okay, there was a couple of times where one kiddo got a little over zealous with their toy and ended up bumping the one sitting beside them.... but it was a mild altercation and easily resolved!).
I've had people tell me that we're just lucky that we have such good travelers. Perhaps that's true. Perhaps my kids are just good travelers. BUT, I'm not going to give them any reasons to start becoming a spoiled, I want what I want right now, kind of traveler. My kids are well prepped, and know my expectations, and they know what to expect of the trip. There are no surprises for how long it will take, and we break it up in stops so they know just how much longer we have. It works for us.