Preparing for a Family Road Trip

Living with two six-year-olds, even brushing my teeth without interruption can be a challenge. When my husband and I planned a little getaway with the girls earlier this month, I knew we could be in for a wild ride. The kids are pretty civilized when we run errands around town, but I figured six hours on the road would be a different story. So, I asked some friends of mine—seasoned veterans of the family road trip—for a bit of advice before our departure. These are some ideas they shared:

Create a “Car-Time” Schedule

To make our time on the road a little more manageable, I broke down each leg of the trip into one-hour chunks. By labeling each hour as “movie time,” “story time” or “game time,” I had a better idea of what I needed to bring along to keep the girls entertained.

Scheduling a stop every hour also made the drive more doable. Just giving the girls a chance to stretch their legs was great, but I also planned quick 10-minute activities for each stop, such as a bubble blowing party, a game of tag or a fun exercise routine. This gave the girls something to look forward to. If they got restless I could say, “Just 15 minutes until our next energy break!” Letting them know there was a light at the end of the tunnel helped calm them down—at least for the next few miles.

Find New Ways to Have Fun

Beyond packing the standard arsenal of books, toys, coloring books and travel-size board games, I researched some classic road trip games to teach the girls on the ride. These five were their favorite:

  1. License Plate Bingo: This one can be played as a family or as a competition, depending on your kids’ ages. We worked together to find cars with license plates from all 50 states. We didn’t spot them all, but the girls did get excited when we found one from Alaska!
  2. 20 Questions: This game was great because it stretched our kids’ imaginations. At first, my husband and I picked a few random items and the girls would ask yes or no questions until they could guess what it was. But by the end, they were picking the secret items—and figuring them out was actually pretty hard!
  3. Travel Scavenger Hunt: Before the trip, I made each of the girls a list of things they should try to spot on the ride. Each list was a little different, including items like “brown cow” or “water tower,” but I made sure to have prizes for both of them, regardless of who found all their items first.
  4. The Flag Game: When we were driving through slightly more populated areas, I assigned each of the girls a side of the road and challenged them to see who could count the most flags. I was surprised by how long they could keep the competition going!
  5. On The Map: To help them understand where we were headed, I highlighted a map with our route and circled each of our stops along the way. As we entered each new county or state, I would announce our arrival, and the twins would take turns marking our progress.

We also had fun letting the girls choose where we ate along the way. Using the mobile app from, we were able to find local restaurants with kids’ specials and had the girls pick from that list.

Expect the Unexpected

After several hours on the road, chances are you’ll encounter something you didn’t plan on. Make sure to keep a bag with extra clothes, bottles of water, a healthy supply of snacks, wet-naps, sunscreen, a first-aid kit and anything else that might come in handy separate from your luggage. You don’t want to be digging around inside suitcases if someone spills an entire juice box down their shirt.

Thanks to all of our preparations, the long drive wasn’t nearly the disaster I’d envisioned. Though there were a few trying moments, we are able to the keep the ‘Are we there yet?’s at bay and enjoy (most of) our time together.

Want to avoid—or at least limit—the ultimate in road trip surprises? Make sure your vehicle is covered by the proper car insurance policy.

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