“Aaand … we’re off! … like a dirty shirt!”
This is how every road trip begins for our family. Well, sometimes if my husband hesitates too long after the first part, the kids (or now the grandkids) try to “fake him out” with maybe “like a dirty undershirt!” or “like dirty socks!”—and then giggle hysterically.
NOTE: This article is geared to summer travel, but the same suggestions are equally applicable for holiday travel as well. Just plan for the weather, toss in some blankets, and switch it up with some holiday music!
Summer is often a time to travel, whether on a local afternoon excursion or a week-long vacation. Homeschoolers know how to get the most out of a road trip, making it both fun and educational. Here are a few tips for successful travel this summer:
Make sure everyone is comfortable. Uncomfortable kids are unhappy campers, literally! It helps to have shades for the side windows for little ones strapped into car seats, and lightweight blankets to toss over chilly legs. Also, be sure that booster seats have ample padding for long trips; they are not all made alike. Water, healthy (non-crumbly) snacks, and wet wipes (in our house, non-toxic and reusable Norwex cloths!) are other helpful additions to the travel tote.
Plan to make lots of stops—not only for the obvious, but also for stretching and exploring.
Pack travel activities, such as travel games, art-quality colored pencils (no crayons—they melt in the car!), and other small toys in a clear, lidded plastic shoebox that will slide under the seat. We gave each of our children her own shoebox and she could bring what would fit into it; the lid also served as a board for small puzzles or a flat surface for drawing paper. When not in use, the shoebox slid under the van seat. On a longer trip, we also packed small treats to be brought out every so many miles or hours—a new game or a pad of MadLibs, for instance.
Keep a few games in reserve. Our family still enjoys the ABC game (finding consecutive alphabet letters on road signs, billboards, passing trucks, stores in towns we passed, etc.). On one trip, we made up (way too many) silly verses to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”—for example, “We are looking for a gas station in Grandma’s van; we are looking for a gas station in Grandma’s van; we are looking for a gas station; we are looking for a gas station … ” (you get the picture–although ours was actually “the Cieslaks’ van,” since that generous and kind family had loaned us their van for the trip), and someone would pipe up with a new verse every so often.
Word games, memory games, trivia cards, scavenger hunts, and the old standby—license plate bingo—can help keep minds sharp and tempers at bay. (Some of the items listed below are affiliate links, and when you buy through the links, I may receive a few cents in thanks but your price stays the same.)
Books and Games
- Are We There Yet? Travel game book by Rand McNally and Family Talk card packs—available at Cracker Barrel restaurants
- Travel scavenger hunt printables
- Printable travel games for all ages
- My State History Funbook (age 3 to grade 3) is a color-cut-paste workbook that provides an introduction to the state of your choice.
- Fifty States Under God (two levels) is an introduction to all 50 states in order of statehood, with a timeline and map study built in.
- Considering an e-reader for that long trip? Kendra Fletcher at Preschoolers and Peace shares some tips in “E-readers for Kids.”
- Road Trip Activities that Promote Speech and Language Development (games that reinforce skills!)
Media for Travel
- Classical Kids CDs, including Beethoven Lives Upstairs and Hallelujah Handel
- Dan and Louie Bible stories
- The Bulletproof George Washington
- Your Story Hour: Heritage of Our Country
- G.A. Henty books on audio
- Audio Memory
- Lyrical Science
- Wee Sing
- Seeds music
- Unabridged audio recordings of classic literature and old-time radio
- Ranger Mike nature videos
Let the children help you with the budget, itinerary, and packing, as maturity allows. Give them each a map to plot the course and follow the landmarks. Before you head out, read a book set in the area you are visiting or related to a landmark you will see, or bring one along for a read-aloud (if someone in the car can read while riding). And to rescue your budget, check Facebook for museums or attractions you “like”; you’ll often find money-saving coupons. Not on Facebook? Visit the museum website and ask about special offers. For one family’s experience (and a few laughs), check out “My Kids Navigated Our Road Trip…It Was an Adventure.”
Or plan a Destination Unknown trip, venturing out for the day into your own community or a neighboring town, exploring side roads and stopping at places that catch your attention. If you are on the East Coast, George and Michele Zavatsky’s Kids Love I-95 is a family travel guide to more than 500 kid-tested fun stops and unique spots from Pennsylvania to southern Florida, with no destination more than 10 miles from Interstate 95.
Take Your Homeschool Camping by Tiany Davis
If you are planning a “stay-cation” (taking some vacation time but staying at home), check out these ideas for fun summer activities.
Whether you cross the country, or just cross your backyard—enjoy your family this summer!
Adapted from a newsletter by this author, previously published at www.hslda.org