Shoestring Travel - Are We There Yet? Inexpensive ways to beat boredom on the road.

Are we there yet? Such a familiar phrase. As children we said it to our parents and as parents we hear it from our children. Living 30 some miles away from town, I'm often tempted to say it myself. For many families, summer is the time for car trip vacations. I recently saw a segment on a morning news show about toys to buy your kids to keep boredom at bay during long drives. The toys were bright, electronic and expensive. With gas going up again and a price of a hotel room and road food it's hard to imagine spending hundreds of dollars on toys that they may or may not play with.
Here's some time tested games and ideas for your next car trip that cost very little or, better yet, nothing at all:
These are games that my mother played with us when we traveled and are still a hit with kids:
I Packed My Grandmother's Trunk
This is a memory game base on the alphabet.
  • First person says, "I packed my grandmother's trunk with...(and then names something that starts with 'a' - apples, apes, apricots, anvils, etc.)
  • The next person says, "I packed my grandmother's trunk with... (whatever the first person said and then names something that starts with 'b')
  • The game continues on with each person naming the items that were said before them and then naming an item that starts with the next letter in the alphabet.
  • The goal is to be able to pack grandma's trunk with something from every letter in the alphabet by the end of the trip.
  • This is a real memory stretcher and the more that you play the better you get.

This game teaches counting by fives and is a great pre-multiplication skill builder.
Starting with one, each person counts the next number in order, until you get to the number 5 or a multiple of 5. For each multiple of 5 you say, "buzz".
So, it sounds like this - one, two, three, four, buzz, six, seven, eight, nine, buzz, ect.
Continue counting until someone misses. Then start over. The goal is to get to 100 with no mistakes.
To challenge older kids count by other numbers, 3's are fun and 9's are especially tricky.

Sing Rounds
Singing really does help pass the time. Start with an easy one like Row, Row, Row Your Boat then try some trickier rounds. Here's one of my favorites:
(second part starts after first part sings,"old gum tree")
Kookabura sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh Kookabura, laugh Kookabura
Gay your life must by.

Kookabura sits on the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookabura, stop Kookabura
Save some gum for me!

Read a Favorite Book Together
When we were traveling from Arizona to Idaho one summer we read aloud all of Charlotte's Web. There's nothing like sharing one of your favorite books with your kids and a continuing story gives everone something to anticipate.

For more fun car trip games and activities check out 101 car travel games and ideas for kids. Laurel Smith has an amazing list of things to do on car trips. A few of my favorites on her list are Make a Trip Journal, Have Bubble Gum Blowing Contest, Counting Cows (I love this game!), and Aluminum Art.

So, what does your family do to beat the Are-we-there-yet blues?
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Road Trip Mom said...

Great stuff! Thanks for the shout out!

Gayle said...

Boy, does that bring back memories!

We also play the alphabet game with a variation. We look for a roadsign or billboard with a word beginning with the letter "a" then "b" etc. It doesn't count if you find a sign with a word beginning with "x" for example, until you get to that letter in the alphabet. It can't be saved for later!

We also keep a list of the state or foreign license plates we've seen or color in a map of the states we've seen so far.

If you belong to AAA you can get free maps for the kids to highlight the route of he trip and plot the progress. Our older children enjoyed developing map reading skills this way.

Each family member buys a candy or special treat that we only buy for long road trips. Chick-o-sticks will always remind me of driving from San Diego to Tucson as a kid!

With small children, we always stop every 2 hours, preferably at a city park and let the kids out of the carseats to run for 15 minutes or so. This prevents LOTS of stress for the whole family.

Fun activities along the way make for great memories! Enjoy, and literally stop to smell the roses.

Janelle said...

I used to always count the semi trucks when we drove to my grandparent's house just south of Portland, OR. And we would play the ABC game with the signs and license plates. The ABC memory one was a fun game when my dad, brothers, and I drove there for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. No, we didn't lock my mom in the closet, she was already there.

m said...

Awesome car games.
I will try these out with the kids next time we go somewhere:)

Life Insurance BC said...

Thank you for all the great posts from last year! I look forward to reading your blog, because they are always full of information that I can put to use. Thank you again, and God bless you in 2010.

Tante said...

This post brought back many memories for me, too! Back in the sixties, my sisters and I played the alphabet game on every trip, using license plates and road signs. Quaker Oil and Junction signs were valuable finds! My own children played this game, too. I enjoyed reading aloud in the car, even though it was a challenge finding a book that was of interest to one boy and two girls with an age span of seven years. But even my husband enjoyed hearing "Little Britches," by Ralph Moody! Somewhere we obtained a set of wipe-off Road Bingo cards, which were a fun way to pass the time. However, we all agreed that we should develop our own set for North Dakota, where oil drills, piles of old tires, and farm machinery are more abundant than factories and railroad crossing signs.