Gone are the days of long boring road trips, squished in the backseat for hours where the only entertainment was elbowing your brother or counting the license plates that drove by.
Today, it is much easier to keep the kids busy when heading out on the road. With a little planning, not only will you survive spending countless hours in close quarters, but you will have fun too!
From high-tech solutions to modern twists on old-school ideas, here are five ways to keep your family entertained during a road trip.
Tip 1 - Portable Technology
Parents know that a little screen time can serve as a much-needed distraction. But hardware like smartphones and tablets have software that can encourage a little bonding time between siblings. So instead of having the kids play the time-tested “He Hit Me First” game, download games they can play together. Sports themed games, for example, can stir up a bit of friendly competition, while role-playing games offer the chance to team up and work together towards a common goal. They can even play classic board games on their mobile devices.
So be sure to bring along those smartphones, tablets, laptops and MP3 players — and don’t forget the chargers. With a total of five USB ports* (three in the front, two in the back), it is easy to power up all of your favorite devices in the 2017 Toyota Highlander.
Tip 2 - Catch Up On Reading
To go along with the digital screen, parents can also go the analog route by getting some books. Make a trip to the library to pick up a few new books or magazines your kids have been waiting to check out. Audio books are also great because then the whole car can listen and then after chapters, have a discussion. This is a great way for kids to explore their minds.
Before their last big road trip, Noelle Kirchner, parenting writer and TV host, bought audio versions of her children’s favorite book series. She said, “They loved the CDs so much that they even asked me to play them for carpool after our trip!”
Tip 3 - Movie Time
Technology is great: We can now watch movies in our cars — and not just at drive-ins! Turn the rear seat of your Toyota Highlander into a portable movie theater when you pop a DVD into the state-of-the-art entertainment system. The 9-inch display screen comes equipped with RCA jacks, a remote and two cordless headphones.^ Before heading on the road, pick up the latest kid flick and a bag of fresh-popped popcorn. Who knew the rear seat of the family car could rival the local cinema?
Tip 4 - Make Pit Stops
If you will be traveling in the car for an extended period of time, plan your itinerary to include a couple of fun pit stops. While researching your travel route, check out which family friendly attractions you will be passing along the way. Kids love to see how stuff is made. From teddy bears to potato chips, many companies throughout the country are opening their doors to fans. There are also a number of roadside attractions and local oddities ready to be explored. Throw a ball and a couple of jump ropes into your trunk so the kids can stretch their legs at a park or rest area.
Tip 5 - Embrace Old-School Toys and Games
Pack up a tote of low-tech toys and games; check out the toy bins in your playroom, and visit the dollar store for some fun options. Dry erase boards, magnetic paper dolls, puzzle books, and travel games can make the trip fly by. For longer car trips, wrap up a few new small toys and give them to your kids at certain mile markers. This gives your kids something to look forward to during the drive. Glow sticks are a great distraction for when it starts to get dark.
If the kids get antsy, start a game of Road Sign Scavenger Hunt. Before you leave, print up a list of common road and traffic signs. Hand out a copy of this list to each of your kids and instruct them to call out the signs as they spot them. The player who calls out the most signs by the end of the trip wins. This helps them pay attention to their surroundings, while making a game out of something seemingly boring.
Noelle’s favorite game to play in the car is a twist on two classic games, I-Spy and Going on a Picnic. Here, the first person to go suggests an item they are taking on a pretend picnic. The person who follows has to pick something to bring that begins with the last letter of the previous person's choice. The game continues by going around the car, so everyone can play.
She says, “The longer the trip, the sillier the suggestions become. My boys could play it for quite a while, and they're learning simultaneously, which is a score in my book!”
* May not be compatible with all mobile phones, MP3/WMA players and like models.
^ Headphones are for passenger use only. Do not use while driving vehicle.
‘ Prototype shown with options. Production model may vary.