Road trip recreation

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Airfare for five people was just too expensive, especially with so many pieces of luggage. But now you are wondering how you will keep the kids entertained for so long. Take a deep breath. You'll be fine. The trick is to do a variety of things. Not just games, not just singing and not just movies. Do a combination of all.

I adore family time in the car. I love singing together, even though we sound horrible and the only songs we all know the words to are Christmas carols (even in July). I'm sure the kids will remember driving through Georgia in 85-degree weather singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. You can't buy memories like that.

Survival creativity

Get a notebook, a pencil and a roll of tape (glue sticks are bad for car rides, especially if they are left in hot cars) for each child. Make it simple, don't bring a lot. Creativity is the key here. Have the kids take a little time in the car to write about where you are going and what you are going to do. You can do it too (when you're not driving, of course), and share the results with each other. When you stop at rest areas get some brochures that your kids can cut up and tape into the notebooks.

It always interests me to see what

my daughter thought was the best part of the car ride, or what interested her at each of our stops. Continue writing in the notebook and collecting things to add to it throughout your trip. Once you're home you'll have the best souvenir ever.

Games are a car trip must. Memory and recognition games are the best for car rides. They don't require game boards or game pieces, which almost always get lost.

By popular vote of every mother I know, the best car games are all classics. I thought I would find some new games in my poll, but the oldies won:

I Spy

I Spy is best for young children. Someone picks an item in the car and gives a clue such as, "I spy something brown," and the kids each get to take a turn guessing what it is. The person who guesses correctly then gets to pick an object and so on.

License Plate Game

The License Plate Game is an every-vacation game in our car. My family plays it more competitively than most. Every time a license plate from a different state is spotted, a person calls it out. The score keeper jots down the state and the finder's initials on a sheet of paper. Each state can only be called once. The person with the most states at the end of the trip wins. We even allow parking lot finds so that the game continues during the length of the trip. Hawaii and Alaska get double points!

Car Bingo has free printable Car Bingo cards which you can mark with a highlighter or pen. There are a lot of different bingo cards out there but the selection at momsminivan is best. They have pictures on the cards instead of words which younger children can play without assistance. To make the game more exciting, buy small prizes to give to the winners.

After the adrenalin rush of the trip has worn off and the kids are tired of games, it can get whiny and grumpy in the back seat. A friend called me about a year ago and said, "Can you believe my husband wanted to get a DVD player in the minivan? I refused. I want to play games and sing songs and enjoy my children away from TV." Don't feel like a parental failure because after five or six hours in a car you need a break and, quite frankly, so do the kids. A movie gives the kids a chance to quiet down and concentrate, and perhaps even fall asleep. If the movie doesn't work or you don't have a DVD player you can always play the Whoever-is-Quietest-the-Longest-Gets-Five-Bucks game. Hey, it works.

After the kids are asleep, I usually find Alaska!

Kristi Farrow is a freelance travel writer who lives with her family in Columbus.