Are We There Yet? Tips for Staying Sane On the Family Road Trip

Whether it’s a bumper-to-bumper ride cross-town or an all-out trip cross-country, here’s how to put the breaks on “Are we there yet?” whining and make sure getting there is half the fun.

Rules of the road trip
Set clear expectations from the get-go. Lay down the law with gentle reminders to use their indoor voices, to keep their hands to themselves, and to put garbage—AKA “carbage”—in a bag instead of trashing your ride. Establishing boundaries before you begin your journey should help nip bad behavior in the bud.

There’s an app for that
Electronics are great when you want a little break from all the US time. But limit digital distractions. Too much of a good thing will make you lose out on another good thing—spending time with your family. From educational to flat-out family fun, there’s an app for that.

  • Ansel and Clair: Little Green Island ($1.99) This award-winning app empowers kids to care for the environment while they’re out in the world exploring it.
  • Stack the States ($.99) Capitals, abbreviations, bordering states, flags, and nicknames. Learn all about the state you’re in—and the other 49.
  • News-O-Matic (FREE): Stay current with current events with this kid-friendly daily news source.

Google map treasure
Print out a Google map of the journey for each child and use a highlighter to outline the route you’ll be taking so kids can follow along. Place a star next to choice locations to upgrade to a treasure map, and issue rewards (games, snacks, cash) when you reach those spots.

Ear buds
Indeed, when you’re hoping for a little quiet time headphones are your friends. But instead of letting kids blast The Biebs, have them listen to a book, tune in to an interesting podcast, or brush up on a language they’re learning in school.

Picture that
Buy a handful of disposable cameras and let your children take photos of each day’s adventures. They can create a scrapbook of the journey when you return home from your trip.

The write stuff
And though those pictures may be worth a thousand words, encourage your children to write about the day’s events, concentrating on the sounds and smells that stimulated their senses.

Turn to the classics
Hey, they don’t call them classics for nothing. These car activities have withstood the test of time.

  • I Spy “I spy with my little eye, something that is ________.” Plug in a clue about the object and let the game begin.
  • The whole family can sing 100 Bottles of Milk on the Wall to practice counting backwards. (Change it to Beer if your kids are age-appropriate.)

Make it up as you go along
Take in Mother Nature’s natural wonders or those you, Mother, cook up. Joanne Moskow and her husband play “School of Rock” with their kids by scanning classic rock radio stations, and stopping on hits like Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody." “We crank it, point out the artist, when the song was popular, and the genre, like disco, rock, punk, etc.”

If all else fails, head for the hills
“When we’re really at wit’s end, we find hills for the kids to run up and roll down,” says Moskow. “They have a ball, while, little do they know, we're really trying to tire them out.”

 

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