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This Summer we are going on a HUGE road trip from San Juan Island, WA, across Canada, down to Ann Arbor, MI and then back across the northern states while visiting many of our country’s national treasures from Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone. While talking to friends, I kept hearing “make sure you have movies downloaded”, but the teacher in me wants more than long spans of screen time across our continent. We can always use some road trip tips to keep our kids engaged about where we are, where we’ve been and where we are going.
The national parks’ landscapes and vistas will automatically grab the kids’ attention, but here are some other tips to keep kids involved.
Road Trip Tips to Keep Your Kids Engaged
#1 Photo Journal
This is a favorite among the Road Trip Tips! Give your kids their own camera or hand over your smartphone for your kids to capture your trip via pictures and photos. If they need some tips to get them started Nat Geo’s book Photography for Kids is the perfect way to capture their attention. This is the perfect opportunity to get them started with this incredible hobby that will be a lifelong gift as they continue on their own adventures.
Before you leave, create a plan. What are some things you want to include? Landmarks? Signs that show you are crossing state lines or entering a park? Wildlife? Also, can they squeeze in a photography class before you leave?
#2 Learn about your Destinations
Pull out maps, brochures, and books about where you are going. We have been planning using Furkot and it is really helpful to find sights of interest along the way (and lodging, too!) Nat Geo has books on National Parks and Monuments, Wildlife, and more. Check out our favorite National Park Road Trips.
#3 Fantasy Animal / Destination
Each person going on the trip can pick an animal that they hope to see on the trip and then you can take side trips to make sure it happens. Nothing is better than celebrating a check mark on the list. This can easily be done with destinations as well. Drive that extra half hour to see something your kids’ really want to see! Doing the research in #2 will make this a lot easier and will spark their interest. For our trip in July, we started dragging out books and websites every once in awhile in January.
#4 Scavenger Hunts or Geocaching
Visual Scavenger Hunts can be a really fun way you can use your cameras! Create a list of items to find at a point of interest or along a route. These are fun things to do in the evening for a little quiet time. Let different family members take charge of different days.
Geocaching is ALWAY a lot of fun. Here are some tips from Kids Activity Blog.
#5 Keep a Trip Journal
Ok, I will admit. This just screams “my mom is a teacher”, I know. However, it keeps the interest going. I created this template to track our adventures each day. 30 sheets, colored pencils, a sharpener, a glue stick, scissors and will help us chronicle our journey. We will track things like the weather, destinations, good eats and our song of the day as well as expenses. This handy dandy Expense Tracker print out will help us track our expenses over the course of the trip. I think it is REALLY important to set a budget and to have the kids be aware of the costs. This helps with the “can we go here and here and here and here” and “get this and this and this and this” syndrome which can drive any sane parent crazy.
Also, let your kids track the trip and find the best routes using Waze AND let them find the perfect spot for dinner using Yelp. These are GREAT skills for them to learn!
What are your tips for keeping kids engaged?
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