Ah, the summer road trip. Pack up the car and the kids and drive yourselves straight on to Crazytown.

When a long car ride pops up on my summer calendar, I remember the old Ben Franklin quote, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This is not a task I like failing at because a bombed road trip can mean misery that lasts much longer than the actual hours in the car. Start your vacation off right and check out some of these tried and tested successful road trip tips.

#1 Go Old School

Remember those square cards we used to have with the sliding plastic windows that covered a barn or gas station? They still have those! (see Amazon for options). It sucks up at least 30 minutes while the kids play iSpy for roadside items! Sweeten the pot by having some small prizes on hand (said prizes, of course, are additional road trip distractions and entertainment). As an alternative to purchasing the cardboard versions, download these printable Car Bingo sheets (visit momsminivan.com).

#2 New Toys

The single best piece of advice I was given prior to taking my then two-year old on her first plane trip was “bring new toys and bring them out one by one as she gets bored with the last activity.” Let me tell you a secret, it works on older children, too. Hit up the Dollar Store or Five Below (without them in tow) and stock up on activity sheets, coloring books or pocket games.

#3 New Food

See above. New stuff works! Fill up a bag with snacks you don’t normally buy, but yet your kids will still be interested in eating. It doesn’t have to resemble and Christmas stocking full of chocolate and sugar—think fruit leather, cheddar popcorn, M&M trail mix or yogurt covered pretzels. If you already give them that stuff, try donuts. Donuts always work.

#4 Scavenger Hunt Photos

Since we now all have camera phones that allow us to take pictures with reckless abandon, give your kids the opportunity to play photographer. Create a scavenger hunt list of various photos to take (i.e. funny billboard, sleeping selfie, 18-wheeler, whatever works). Find the photo, check it off the box. Once all the boxes are checked, see #2 or #3. Or again, donuts.

#5 Travel Diaries

I don’t know if they still have them, but I recently bought the most excellent Travel Kit for my kids at Five Below. It came with a spiral bound notebook that asked children to document their trip using stickers, drawing pictures and including small snippets of information about what they did and saw. The kit also came with a small “collection jar” for gathering important trinkets along the way and a fold-out, laminated map of the US (which was also a game). If you can’t find one for purchase, buy a small notebook and create one of your own. Later on, it will be a great memento for reminiscing about the family vacation for years to come.

#6 Movies, Duh.

This one needs no explanation, other than this warning…no matter how easy it seems to let them watch one Disney classic after another, they will eventually overload on this and take out their unspoken frustration on you later. Break up the movie watching with rest stops, snacks and other non-media related games.

#7 Sir, Please Step Out Of The Car

Just because you have the window down while trying to get to the Poconos in less than five hours doesn’t mean you are getting fresh air. Your kids need an outside break to burn off some energy and so do you! Get out, stretch your legs, take 15 minutes at a Rest Stop picnic table. It won’t add much time onto your trip and it will be an excellent reprieve to the little ones who’ve been cooped up in the back seat.

See you on the open road!

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