Before children, or B.C., road trips were these amazing escapes from real life. I happily spent hours and hours driving with friends to our destinations — and as the saying goes, half the fun was getting there. We’d sing along to the radio, gorge on junk food and catch up on each other’s lives. The fun continued when my husband and I would hit the road — again, before children.
Once we added two kids to the mix, road trips became a lot harder thanks to unplanned emergency stops, unsuccessful attempts to entertain bored little ones and all the planning around packing for young kids. We’re now quite a few years into this whole parenthood experience. While we’re still fumbling our way through it, there’s one area of family life that’s gotten easier: road trips. While the tween and teen years aren’t known for their smooth sailing, now that my sons are older, road trips are actually becoming fun again.
Here are four things I learned while road-tripping with my family to St. Louis:
1. Old-School Games Have Lasting Appeal
The Alphabet Game, I Spy and the License Plate Game are just a few of the old-school car games that continue to be popular on road trips. My husband and I always play the License Plate Game, though we’ve upgraded our tracking system over the years from a notebook and pen to an app. On our trip to St. Louis and back home to Chicago again, the kids finally joined in on our fun. Who knows why they finally decided to play along after years of ignoring our requests for them to help out, but we’ll take it. With their help, we got 39 states (humblebrag).
2. Use Technology to Create New Memories
When the kids were young, we were always looking for ways to keep them entertained while we logged the miles. Thanks to books and smartphones, my boys manage to entertain themselves for large chunks of time, but one way that we keep everyone in the car happy for an hour or so is by playing DJ. Using Pandora or Spotify (and assuming we’re somewhere with decent cellular service), we take turns playing our favorite songs. I like hearing what’s at the top of everyone’s playlists, and I enjoy watching my teen die of embarrassment as I attempt to sing along to Migos or whoever is hot at the moment.
3. Audiobooks Keep Kids (Somewhat) Unplugged
While smartphones and books keep my kids occupied, in the stop-and-go traffic that’s prevalent in and around Chicago, they can help trigger carsickness. We like to fire up an audiobook to allow my carsick-prone younger son to keep his eyes on the horizon as we navigate all that traffic. Just be sure to download your book before hitting the road, as many audiobook files are too large to download without Wi-Fi.
4. Reconnect With Your Family
Yes, it sounds a little dorky, but road trips are a great time to reconnect with your family. Between work, summer camp and sports, my family is running in a million different directions this summer. Spending hours in the car together helped to remind all of us that we actually like each other (in addition to loving each other, of course — we are a family after all).
May your summer road trip be problem-free and filled with sun, fun and snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.
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