Traveling for the holidays? Time to pack up the family for one helluva ride! Because boredom sets in half as quickly in a car as it would at home, you need to be organized and ready to keep those kids busy. Check out these sanity-saving tips for keeping peace amongst the passengers.

Car Bingo
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 that ultimately result in…you guessed it, BINGO! Sweeten the pot by having some small prizes on hand (said prizes, of course, are additional road trip distractions and entertainment). If you are strapped for time or cash, bring something sturdy to write on and use these printable Car Bingo sheets.

New Toys
Ok, I know it’s right before Christmas, but the single best piece of advice I was given prior to taking my kids on their first plane trip was “bring new toys and bring them out one by one as they get bored with the last activity.” Works on all kids, big or small! Hit up the Dollar Store (without them in tow) and stock up on activity sheets, coloring books or pocket games.

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. And 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. That always works for me.

Say Cheese
Since we now all have digital cameras (or camera phones) that allow us to take pictures with reckless abandon, give your kids the opportunity to play photographer. Take some pics of the landscape through the car window. Capture yourselves on film making funny expressions. Click away at the mess they’ve made of the back seat. Whatever works. The good news is, you can always delete them later.

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.

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.

iPad, iPhone, or anything that starts with an “i”
I don’t regularly let my kids play with my iPhone, only on very special occasions (like when mommy needs five minutes to order a coffee without having to review the Dunkin’ menu for the 185,254th time to everyone in the car). Whether you’re a fan of electronics or try to go the wholesome Walton route, I promise you’ll be glad that you allowed them to play with these devices while on a long road trip. The serenity is priceless. Not to mention, there are many games out there that involve educational themes, analytical thinking and cognitive recognition.

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 and cop a squat 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.

If all else fails, Benadryl. KIDDING. But don’t forget about quiet time. No games, no music, no movies. Feed ‘em a big lunch and their bound to fall asleep eventually. Happy holiday travels!

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