After nearly 13 years of marriage, my husband Marc and I have covered a lot of pavement. Our family vehicles have traversed the U.S. and Canada, from Anchorage, Alaska to Orlando, Florida (not all at once, of course!).
For the vast majority of those miles, we’ve had kids in tow. We try to take at least one family road trip each year. Currently our three kids are ages 10, 8 and 6.
While we love traveling with our children, I admit that it can be difficult, especially before they’re potty-trained. I understand why some families actually prefer to do the bulk of their driving at night while the kids are sleeping.
But we like to think of our time on the road as part of the travel experience. While it is wise to pack lots of snacks and portable forms of entertainment, we are also intentional about how we can connect and strengthen our relationships with one another.
After tens of thousands of miles on the road with kids ages 0–10 in the backseat at different times, here are some ways we’ve bonded as a family during our road trips.
1. Listen to Fun Audiobooks and Sing-Along Music
Rather than let our kids bury their faces in individual electronics for the whole trip, we immerse ourselves in shared auditory experiences. These include audiobooks and fun music that we can all enjoy.
Audiobook options vary depending on your kids’ ages, of course, but even preschoolers can pick up bits and pieces of well-written kids’ novels. Over the course of a few years, our family listened to the entire Harry Potter series whenever we traveled long distances.
The best kids’ books are entertaining for adults too. And they give you lots to talk about—think of it as a family book club.
Good music you can enjoy together is another way to pass the time. We’ll often start a long day on the road by singing a few hymns (let the kids pick some!). At some point it is very likely that we will listen to our favorite Disney songs—and sing along.
2. Play Road Trip Games
No trip would be complete without car games! You can pass the time quickly and be more engaged with conversational games that involve everyone (little kids can have assistance, of course). Some of our favorites include:
I Spy: one person spots something of a certain color, and the rest take turns guessing what it is. Preschoolers love this game.
The Question Game (a.k.a. 20 Questions): someone thinks of something, and everyone takes turns asking yes or no questions to figure out what it is. (“Is it bigger than the car?” “Is it something you can eat?” Etc.)
The Category Game: think of any category of anything, such as family movies, types of fruit or superheroes. Everyone goes around and has to name something from that category. If they can’t name one, they’re out.
The Alphabet Game: Try to spot things on the road that starts with each letter of the alphabet. You can do it as individuals or as a team.
The License Plate Game: Try to spot license plates from all 50 states.
Road Trip Bingo: Passengers get bingo boards with squares that have items you find on the road. You can often find these at gas stations or even at a dollar store.
Would You Rather: Everyone comes up with funny questions: “Would you rather do X or Y?” Like would you rather not be able to talk or not be able to taste for a day?
3. Take the Most Interesting Routes
When you have little ones in the backseat, it can be tempting to get from point A to point B in as little time as possible. But you’ll make your trip much more enjoyable if you slow down and seek out points of interest along the way.
Some of the most interesting things we’ve seen include a model train museum, a natural history museum complete with animatronic dinosaurs, and of course, the world-famous Wall Drug in South Dakota. We’ve also seen Niagara Falls, Devils Tower and several other National Parks in the U.S. like the Badlands, Yellowstone and Glacier.
With a little bit of research, you can make your trip extra fun by going a little out of your way. Sometimes you can even take a detour that you didn’t plan. One time we were driving from Denver to Boise and decided to turn off to see Arches National Park in Utah. We didn’t reach our destination until the early morning hours, but it was definitely worth it!
4. Stay with Disciples When You Can
I’m a little hesitant as family with kids crashing in someone else’s space, but I’ve never regretted the times we have done it. We’ve stayed with old friends as well as with people whom we were connected with through a mutual friend.
It’s so encouraging being able to connect with another family for a night or two. My kids get to see first hand how God’s family is alive and well around the world. Likewise, they’re eager to host whenever someone passes through our town.
It’s one of the reasons I love the vision of Come & Stay—to help us stay connected and build up God’s kingdom through hospitality.
What are some of your favorite things to do on a road trip? Leave a comment!
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like this post on my blog: 30 Brilliant Road Trip Hacks for Families.