Road Trip Activity Kit

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It’s fall break season in East Tennessee! While people from all over the world are traveling here to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park — the nation’s most-visited national park, incaseyadidn’tknow — many of us are making travel plans just a bit farther than our own backyard.

This year we packed up our family of six for a 600+ mile trip to Pennsylvania, where my parents relocated last year. Being that they moved there fairly recently, this is just our second time making the trip, and I’ll admit I have been a little nervous about how the kids would do. We take trips a couple times a year, but nothing too major. From Knoxville, TN to Reading, PA, my GPS suggests right at nine hours on the road; factor in bathroom breaks, refueling, blessed Chick-fil-A detours, and get-out-and-stretch-before-you-kill-your-brother pit stops, we were hoping to get there in under 12. Even for the most peaceful, well-prepared families, that’s a long dang time in a minivan with four kids. 

Lucky for me, my husband is a friggin’ hero.

He created these awesome activity mats and laminated them at work. Then he printed a booklet of car games, writing prompts, coloring pages, and more. Everyone got their own clipboard decorated with Washi tape (because he’s so extra), a dry erase marker, pencils, and crayons to keep them engaged without screens long enough for the toddler to get a nap.

Download a customizable printable of your own here!

We broke down our car activities into movies, reading/creative time, rest time, and team games. To keep them from watching movies for eight hours straight, we set the rule that we had to cycle through all four activity segments before starting over again. So, once we watched a movie, we would need to also have times to read, rest, and play games before putting another movie in. This worked for us because it was such a long trip, but of course feel free to customize the plan to work for your family and your trip!

There’s also a “snack receipt” on the mat for everyone to keep track of spending at our rest stops. We allotted $10 per kid for the entire trip, and it was up to them to spend it wisely. If they bought $10 worth of snacks at the first stop, they wouldn’t get anything else for the rest of the trip. (Meals were not included in this, partially because my dear husband also packed sandwiches to eat on the road, but we also wouldn’t starve them when we are in a confined space for several hours worth of potential whining.) This also got them doing a little (very little) math on fall break, as they would be responsible for knowing how much available cash they had.

 

On the back of the mat, he included space for repeatable games like ABC Signs, the Box Game, and space to doodle. This page was borrowed from The Benson Street blog, and you can download those printables and more here.

Because our kids are currently obsessed with Diary of a Wimpy Kid, hubs found a bunch of Wimpy Kid themed games from the Wimpy Kid Club (download here!). Much thanks to Jeff Kinney for writing a book specifically about Greg taking a road trip to make our own trip more fun!

Check out these other great FREE road trip printables below!

In the end, my husband’s brilliant planning paid off, and we managed a fun, engaging, shockingly QUIET road trip that all the kids enjoyed! Because they stayed busy, we stopped less, made better time, and had more grown up conversations (yes, that is a real thing!) in the front seat. Do you know any other great travel activities for kids? Link ’em in the comments below!

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Knoxville born and bred, my love for this area is deep and true! I'm a working-turned-stay-at-home mom to 4 kiddos from kindergarten to middle school. My husband and I live in Knoxville where we both lead nonprofit organizations and are trying to become Love in our community. I love watching my kids learn something new, cooking for other people (but not for myself), and telling myself I'm a #fitmom when I go to the gym like once a week. I'm a bottle-feeding, disposable diapering, public-schooling (other than that one kid I'm homeschooling this year) mom with the stereotypical chill attitude of moms with large(r) broods. I love meeting new people, but I talk way too much and laugh when I'm uncomfortable. If you don't mind long stories and bad jokes, we are sure to be friends! Follow my family adventures on my blog Unthank You Very Much

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