Families feeling antsy during the pandemic have been renting recreational vehicles (RVs) and campers as a means to seek out safe adventures in nature. Fox Business reported that the company Outdoorsy, which rents RVs online, was projected to hit $1 billion by the end of second quarter 2021.
While RV rentals are booming, families also could be hitting the road in their own cars for extended trips. Keeping kids entertained can be a challenge, though. Need ideas? Here are the best road trip activities and apps for the journey…including the best reading apps for struggling readers.
Road-Trip Survival Pack: Prepare for Boredom!
Road trips can be a few hours or several days. Families might be road-tripping across the country and stopping at national parks along the way. No matter how long the trip lasts, kids will eventually get bored. Books, handheld games and music may only keep their attention for so long. Eventually, parents will hear the dreaded “Are we there yet?” Or perhaps siblings may start really annoying each other, leading to a full-blown battle royale in the backseat.
Parents can prep for highway miles with a road trip survival pack. This isn’t survival in the case of first aid kits, although parents should pack one of those, too. A road trip survival pack includes a variety of games and snacks and the aim is for parents not to have to keep peering in the back seat and proclaiming: “Don’t make me pull this car over!”
Parents can pack two coolers. A big cooler can be kept in the trunk or back storage area with lots of drinks and other items. A small, portable cooler can be placed in the backseat for easy access. During rest stops, parents can transfer items from the big cooler to the smaller one if items are beginning to run low.
So what should parents pack? Whatever kids like! Some parents opt for healthy items like string cheese, fruit, nuts, etc. Others may include snack mixes, chips, fruit snacks or other animal crackers. Bottled water is always a safe and smart choice for drinks. If water spills, parents don’t have to worry about stains or sticky messes. Fruit juices, milk or soda, however, can cause quite a mess in the backseat. Nothing smells worse than sour milk, so if that jug does spill and doesn’t get properly cleaned, the rest of the journey could get quite stinky!
If parents pack crackers or other crumbling items, they may opt to also pack a travel mini vacuum. Or stop by a car wash for the occasional back seat cleanup (depending on the length of the trip).
Kids may get bored easily. Parents can pack a variety of games to mix up the fun. Many stores include travel size versions of popular board games, or parents can hunt for these games at thrift stores.
There are also games geared towards travel that are ideal for road trips. These games may encourage kids to find objects throughout the trip.
Color books and crayons also could be fun for kids during trips. Children who love art also might want a sketch pad, too. Activity books include a variety of word games, connect-the-dot pages and other activities. These big books could be fun for kids to work through during the trip.
Depending on the age of children, parents can pack some modeling clay and cookie cutters. Kids can create shapes and figures during the trip. However, parents might want to make sure that moldable substances are easy to clean. Some are notorious for getting stuck to carpeting or just being a massive mess.
Older kids might like playing card games in the back seat. Some card games are actually designed for road trips and may ask children to hunt for something on the trip. Parents can research card games specific to travel.
Road Trip Bingo
Play road trip bingo! This game encourages kids to find things on the drive to mark off their bingo card. Parents can download cards online or make their own…personalize the game for the trip! Download a few cards at the site Crazy Little Projects.
Games that Are Fun for Parents, Too!
No road trip survival kit is complete without games or entertainment ideas that are fun for parents, too! Some of these ideas/games don’t require anything but participation. Play these family games to keep everyone talking!
Buzzfeed offers a list of road-trip games that are fun for adults, but a few also could be fun for children, too. The game “While You Were Sleeping” encourages road trippers to make up a crazy story while the person is sleeping. The idea is to keep adding to the story. When the person wakes up, they hear the story from the passengers and have to decide if it was real.
One of the easiest road trip games, I Spy is all about finding an object, describing it and seeing who can guess what is spied. Everyone gets a turn!
License Plate Hunt
Going on a cross-country drive? Try to find a license plate from every state! Keep track of all the states the family finds on the road, in parking lots and elsewhere on the trip. Which state has the coolest license plate?
Everyone gets a turn to answer and ask 20 questions. Keep this game going by selecting a person to answer 20 questions from every passenger in the car. Or alternate participants. Children can learn a lot about their parents and vice versa. Get creative with questions!
Technology & Devices: Fun and Education
This is the age of technology, and many children play on devices, phones and handheld game consoles. Pack technology for optional entertainment. With handheld game consoles, choose a few games to take on the road. When you stop for a meal or at the destination, though, make sure to place all devices out of sight…don’t tempt thieves!
Parents can download a few new apps and games on devices and phones specifically for the road trip. Load up the device with a variety of games and entertainment options for kids. If the data plan allows, parents also may include streaming services like Hulu and Netflix.
Apps also can be a mix of entertainment and educational options. Word games can be a fun way for older children to perfect spelling and vocabulary while also following the story plot of a game. Math games can help children master multiplication facts.
Parents can let children choose a few games to download before the road trip, too. Parents also could stipulate that the games can’t be played until the family hits the road. That way, kids aren’t halfway through the game before the trip begins!
Reading on the Trip
Books and reading apps also could keep kids occupied during the journey. Make a trip to the library or the book store and let kids pick out a few books to read on the road. Allowing children to choose their books may ensure that they like what they’re going to read and that the story interests them.
For children who struggle to read, parents also could download reading apps to use during the road trip. Parents can research reading apps to find the right one for their child. The best reading apps for struggling readers should address their individual struggles. Some may focus on phonics, others may be more helpful for reading comprehension. Reading apps also could help with both phonics and comprehension.
So what are the best reading apps for struggling readers? Again, the best reading app is subjective; every child is unique. Parents can look for apps that are research-based, that include immersive content, colorful illustrations and interactive features and stories that progress as the child shows mastery. Parents also will want to know if the program is beneficial; ideally, a reading app should provide parents with a synopsis of their child’s progress and reading data. Readability ticks off all these boxes!
Readability helps children with both phonics and reading comprehension. Readability even includes a built-in AI tutor that can help correct pronunciation and ask children questions to test for understanding. For apps like Readability that include auditory feedback, parents will want to pack headphones or earphones. Otherwise the entire car could get a reading lesson!
All reading can be beneficial. So parents also could pack magazines and comic books for kids, too. Mix up the reading materials so kids have a variety of options. Audio books also can be entertaining for everyone in the car. Just make sure to choose a book that is appropriate for all ages…and that interests the entire family. It might be fun for the family to vote on the audio books to download for the trip!
Not sure about what books would be appropriate for all ages? Audible includes a list of books that everyone can enjoy! Choose the titles that the family will love!
Other Entertainment Options
Some vehicles allow for phones and devices to plug into the entertainment console of the car. This allows music to be streamed via the car. Include a travel playlist with the family’s favorite tunes. To keep it fair, let everyone create their own playlist. Listen to each list during the journey!
Cars also could include television screens in the backseat, and children might be able to pack their favorite movies to watch on the road. This could help keep them entertained for long periods, and movies could be ideal during cross-country trips. Just remember to pack headphones or earphones (if applicable).
Road trips may be a fun and budget-friendly travel option for families craving new scenery. There are so many ways to ensure that kids stay entertained during these trips, and parents can pack a road trip survival kit with snacks, games and lots of entertainment options. Of course, when traveling during the pandemic, don’t forget masks and hand sanitizer…and be sure to social distance!