The American Automobile Association reported that this summer 97% of summer trips will be on the road, an increase of 10% from last year. Mamas know family road trips call for creative thinking—playing the license plate game and piling up the car with snacks will only entertain little ones for so long.
We caught up with Gregg Murset, CEO of BusyKid (and a father of six who has driven cross country in an RV with his kids) to offer suggestions on getting kids involved in planning a road trip. We also asked Andrew Moore-Crispin, Director of Content at Ting Mobile, to offer a few screen time hacks for extra long trips. Don’t sweat it mama, you’ve got this.
Here’s how to make road trip planning with kids easier—and how to make the most of your time on the road:
Before the road trip:
1. Pack bags together. Let children select, organize and lay out what they will bring so you can approve it before they put it in the suitcase. “Allowing them to decide what to pack will help them feel a part of the process,” says Murset.
2. Let them earn money for souvenirs. Have your kids buy their own souvenirs with their spending money. Tell them, this is what you have to spend, but you can always earn more by helping out or completing certain tasks before the trip like cleaning up their room, says Murset.
3. Lay the ground rules in advance. Don’t want your kids on their screens the entire ride? Both iPhone/iPad and Android devices offer ways to monitor how much time is spent on devices. “Download apps like Screen Time to allow you to set a duration limit for each app or type of app,” says Moore-Crispin.
4. Plan your entertainment: “Not every kid wants to watch the same program, so make sure the entertainment’s set for the long ride,” says Moore-Crispin. Prior to leaving, download your kids’ favorites movies and shows to your device.
5. Let them pack a lovie. Your child loves nothing more than that cute, handmade bear so bring it with you. Tell them “Mr. Bear” is going on an adventure too and explain all the fun things they will do together.
During the road trip:
6. Bug duty. Kids will love the “eeew’ factor of this road trip rite of passage. “At every gas stop, have kids wash the front window and headlights,” says Murset. “If they are too small, lift them and lend a helping hand.”
7. Gas watch. Older kids can fill the car with gas and can even help by using a gas app like GasBuddy to find the most affordable prices along your route, says Murset.
8. Dog duty. At every stop, walk the dog with the kids and clean up after them, says Murset.
9. Take pictures. Grab a toy camera and see how many fun pictures your little one takes during the ride. You can even turn it into a game and whoever takes the most pictures can win a small prize at the destination.
10. Empty trash. Instead of having a wrecked back seat and door pockets full of debris, have kids collect and make sure all trash is thrown out at rest stops or your destination, says Murset.
11. Charge devices on airplane mode: Although you’re not going to be on a plane, this hack can come in handy, says Moore-Crispin. If you’re low on battery life, put devices on airplane mode to cut down the time needed to charge them.
12. Try no-mess activities. The last thing you need is a big mess in a car. Try activities that are easy to clean up, like reusable sticker books, pipe cleaners and colored pencils.
Road trip toy picks:
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