Part 1 of this topic is here: Kids and Road Trips Part 1: Planning.
We ALWAYS make stops at the Travel Information Centers at state borders. Many maps – (Yes, we still use paper maps in conjunction with GPS….Rand McNally) show these locations, but as a general rule, they’re on Interstate highways right inside state borders. They’re typically cleaner (especially the rest rooms), staffed (safer and someone is there to answer questions) and they often have coffee. 🙂 If we are planning to spend time in that state, I will check the racks of brochures/tourist info for information and even coupons (though coupons are rare…).
These Travel Centers/Rest stops are great places to expend a little energy if you have young children as many locations have added playground equipment. There are always picnic tables if it’s time for lunch. Sometimes there are grills. It’s a multi-use stop! 🙂
Rolls of quarters: When I stumbled upon this idea it made the WORLD of difference in our road trips. At the beginning of the vacation, each child got a roll of quarters ($10) That roll of quarters was theirs to spend as they wished on the last vacation day…with just one little clincher…. Mom or dad could ask for a quarter anytime there was a ‘problem’. If the children fussed over “backseat real estate”, we could ask for a quarter. If they didn’t follow instructions or family rules, we could ask for a quarter. If we told them it was time to stop giggling and go to sleep at night and they didn’t stop giggling etc… we could ask for a quarter. They soon realized that it was in their best interests to ‘get along’, obey cheerfully, and basically be pleasant company on our trip. I’m happy to report that after we started doing this, behavioral issues on our trips took a nose-dive. We had obedience without punishment…in situations where they might have been in danger otherwise. It produced peace and peace of mind. Since treats on our vacations were usually a rare thing, being able to spend their ‘balance’ on WHATEVER they wanted was a HUGE reward to them. The few quarters we did actually confiscate were used for the coin laundry on laundry day. “…Two birds with one stone” 🙂
I recently came across this….. shared just for the humor benefit, unless of course, you think it might ‘work’ for you 🙂
◊ One year, when my kids were in middle school, we had a vocabulary word every morning of our vacation. I chose/planned these before vacation and chose words that not only ‘fit’ each day but also appealed to the middle school sense of humor….words that were “interesting”, intriguing and just fun to know and use.
What happened next was not part of my “plan”…it just “evolved” (as can often happen when dealing with middle school boys). It became a game (challenge) to use the word throughout the day…..the funnier the context, the better. We were often sent into giggles when someone would creatively drop the word into conversation during the day. By the end of vacation, everyone was searching for ways to use multiple words in sentences/conversations… and it often brought either hysterical laughing…..or GROANS!! 🙂 This activity had added benefits that I never intended. To this day, my children still know these words and I’ll hear them dropped into conversations… I know EXACTLY where and when they learned it.
When we arrive at our destination: My kids almost always want to get in the pool when we get to the hotel. If we’ve been sitting in the car all day long, the pool is great to relieve cramped muscles. If we’ve arrived at our final destination, we also like to go to the Visitor Center that evening to gather information, get our bearings, buy tickets if we need them…or come up with a plan. That gives us a head start on the next day.
Back in the hotel room that evening, we might pull out a deck of cards for a family game. (I usually discouraged individual computer games…vacations are about ‘family time’.) We might pop some microwave popcorn in the microwave and find a movie on television…we almost always pull our clothes for the next day and get suitcases repacked to make things a little easier the next morning. Perhaps we’ll read through brochures picked up at the Information Center to prepare for the next ‘event’ on our vacation. At any rate, we’re usually VERY ready to turn out the lights by 10 pm —especially our driver! We enjoy our evenings in the hotel as much as any other part of the vacation. 🙂
Some may think that structuring things like this (and the suggestions from Part 1 of this article) are “anti” fun. I would never presume to say what works for everyone, but I will say, this worked best for my family. My experience with children in the classroom (I’m a teacher by profession) is that they thrive on structure and knowing what to expect. They typically NEED that. Of course, take from this what works for you, in whole or in part….but consider the advantage to be gained from structuring at least parts of your traveling/vacationing days.