Many moms use scavenger hunts to pass the time with kids while traveling. "When I was a kid and we took long car trips, my mom would make a scavenger hunt that included landmarks along the way," says Laurie Bittle, a school nurse and mother of two. "The first one of us to see the landmark on the list would get to unwrap a small toy to play with during the rest of the trip."
Scavenger hunts can also include searches for everyday items.
"My friend Lisa Seabaugh loaned us a scavenger hunt card game for one of our summer vacations," says Sherry Thomas, a substitute teacher and mother of two boys. "The cards would have things like a red tractor or a blue car on them. Whoever found all the items on their cards won that round."
Other tried-and-true car games include the billboard game where you find each letter of the alphabet in order on roadside signs and billboards, and the alphabet game where each player has to say a name, state and food that all start with the same letter. (For example: my name is Anna; I'm from Arizona, and my favorite food is apples.) If you get stumped on a letter, you lose the round.
Counting games can also help to pass the time while traveling. Players can choose a car color or a state license plate, and see who can find a set number of those items first.
Bringing a new book (or an old favorite) can also make a road trip more enjoyable. If your kids tend to get headaches from reading in the car, try audio books with headsets.
Luckily, movies, video games and favorite music can now be transported on car trips with portable DVD players, DS game players, iPods and cellphones.
"We rely a lot on technology and use movies and DS games to keep the boys occupied when we travel," says Thomas. Many parents choose to buy a new movie or DS game especially for a long trip to hold children's interest longer.
Workbooks can also pass the time on the road and keep kids' minds engaged. From coloring books to crossword puzzles to word searches, workbooks are available for kids of all ages. You can also help your child brush up on facts from the previous school year by purchasing workbooks geared toward specific grade levels.
Stickers are another great activity for kids, especially younger ones, to do while en route. Stickers can be purchased in sheets or books in all different types of themes and placed on plain paper or in a sticker book.
Several board games, such as Scrabble, come in a travel version. The game pieces snap into the game board so that they will not slide or fall off the board.
Brain Quest cards are great for entertaining and educating kids on the road. Each box contains two decks of cards held together at the bottom with a grommet. Questions are on one side of the card while the answers are on the next card, and kids can play alone or with another person. Brain Quest is available online or in various toy stores and book stores, and can be purchased by age, grade or subject matter.
Whether you're heading west to see the mountains, north to see the family or south to see Mickey Mouse, bringing along some fun activities for the kids to do on the road can make any family journey more enjoyable.