On full driving days like any other day, they start with a sunrise and end with a sunset, but you are seeing both through the windshield of your vehicle. We all endure them and they’re inevitable if you live the full-time RV lifestyle. They are typically not fun for anyone involved, but if you remember roadtrips as a kid, they are even less desirable for little ones.
So the question begs, how do we keep kids happy on long driving days? In our family, we try to stay away from screens as long as possible. Long driving days are the exception and we will generally allow them after 6 or 7 hours on the road. But we survive most long driving days on audio books, regular books, games, and breaks here and there.
Guest Post and Photos by Laura Georgieff
Our number one way to keep kids happy on long driving days are audio books. We never knew our kids would be receptive, until we gave them a try. We were out skiing a few winters ago, and I’d drive up to the mountain by myself with the kids on most days. It was nothing more than a 30-minute drive, but the kids were particularly restless.
That is when we first tried out Pinna – a collection of audio books, podcasts, and other media, curated for kids ages 3 to 12. Our kids are very receptive to it and while this app is a paying app, it is worth its weight in gold if you travel with kids.
Those audio books buy us hours of quiet travel time and we, adults, get into some of those books just as much as the kids do! We have even incorporated some more informational audio books into our homeschooling curriculum. If you’re on the fence, there is a free trial I highly recommend signing up for.
We always have an open box for travel days. A lot of it is paper books, and some of it are loose lego bricks, games of cards (i.e., UNO), and little plastic animals.
If you have reading-age children, paper books will keep your kids happy for a couple of hours. They’re a great way to pass time and as long as your children are not motion-sick, they might welcome a few hours of uninterrupted reading time.
We travel full-time and like to exchange books with other families in campgrounds, as well as rely on campground exchange libraries, to keep our stash fresh and exciting. But if you live at home and travel for a few days or weeks at a time, make use of your local library and get brand new books that your kids are excited about for the trip.
Game Of Cards / Legos / Figurines
Those have been lifesavers on our longest driving days. While games of cards will only keep the kids happy for 15 to 30 minutes, Lego bricks and figurines can entertain imaginative children for several hours.
We always have loose bricks with us, and the kids build houses or vehicles that become part of an imaginary world where their plastic figurines play a vital role in keeping them happy for hours on the road.
We usually break into electronics after 6 or 7 hours of driving. If you travel in a motorhome and have a mobile wifi solution, you may be able to stream a movie while driving. If you travel in a car or a truck, try to download a few shows or movies to a tablet or laptop prior to starting your trip.
Screens can be a good way to kill another couple of hours, but kids can quickly get sucked up by screens and have a bit of a behavior challenge when you take the screens away. I recommend ending the drive with a movie or a device game, and letting the kids enjoy screens until the end of your drive, to avoid problems as you take screens away half way through your drive.
Quick breaks to let the kids run around and use the bathroom are key to a healthy driving day. Make sure that everyone gets out of the car, moves around, and runs a couple of rounds around the parking lot.
Those quick breaks are great for the driver too, to make sure s/he is remains a safe driver.
On very long driving days, we love leaving extra early and planning an actual visit somewhere on the drive. Our favorites are any park of the National Park Service – whether an actual national park or a national historical park, those are amazing to cut the drive in two pieces and make the day seem a lot faster.
Check the route ahead of your trip and see where you can stop. Those visits will add 2 or 3 hours to your itinerary, but they will make your trip seem like two shorter drives. Account for the time spent in the park and make sure to leave earlier in the morning to fit it in, but this is one of our favorite ways to make those incredibly long journeys feel shorter.
How To Keep Kids Happy On Long Driving Days
Long driving days will never be fun. I wish I had a magic wand to make them go by faster, but I don’t. 700 miles will not be quick and easy, but leaving ready and with options, will help keep the kids happy on those inevitable days.
You will also find that kids do better with “practice.” If you are leaving on a full-time RV trip with kids, and are worried about driving long distances with your children, you will find that they quickly get used to it and fret less with every drive.
Just make sure you have books and a few toys ready, some audio books, and quick stops here and there.