In this day and age, it's really easy to hand an electronic device to your kid and tell him to have fun, you'll be there in eight hours. But if you're one of those parents who thinks a family trip should not include individual headsets (Hi mom!), then here are some suggestions for games to get the whole family involved.
1. The license plate game
I know, I know, this is an obvious one! But this tired old game can become new again if you include prizes! The person who spots the greatest number of out-of-state plates gets to choose music. The person who spots the license plate from the furthest away gets to choose where you stop for lunch. A license plate with two Zs? That's worth 30 minutes in the front seat! Feel free to pack tangible prizes for your kids as well. There's nothing like a little competition to bring the kids together, as long you keep it light!
2. Name that tune
This is a game lots of radio stations like to play during the morning commuting hours. It's even easier to play if you have an iPod at your disposal, but a mixed CD works too. The person in charge (preferably not the driver; just concentrate on the road!) will choose a song and let it play for about 10 seconds. The first person to accurately name both the artist and the title wins! This is a great game for inspiring a little family karaoke as well.
3. That's not something we see everyday
A great way to keep your kids observing the changing world around them is the Not Everyday game. The premise is simple. Just keep an eye out for anything unusual or different on the road. Driving through Maine for the first time? Moose crossing signs might be something you don't see every day! City kids driving through the countryside? Cows are something you certainly don't see every day. Traveling should be broadening your kids' horizons, and this game will make sure they're paying attention.
4. Team Storytelling
If you have creative kids, team storytelling is a good way to keep them all occupied for a limitless amount of time. To start, your initial storyteller has to come up with the first line of a story. Then each player adds a single sentence, creating a usually hilarious narrative that can go literally anywhere. To add an extra challenge, make up rules like having all the lines rhyme. Have one of the kids write down the story as you go, or they can create illustrations later to make some great additions to the scrapbook.
5. "Are we there yet?" maps
Are you a supermom or dad that likes to take the time to create these little games ahead of time? If you are, we salute you… it's definitely not for everyone, but here's an adorable game for you: Create a map of your route marked with different landmarks-- anything from cities to parks like Badlands National Park to icons like Mount Rushmore will work. Then bring some small toy cars for your kids to follow your progress throughout the trip. For instructions and pictures, look here. There's no better way to quiet the chorus of "are we there yets” than with a map that lets them visualize the trip!