Are we there yet?

A simple strategy to keep kids busy on road trips

As parents, we’ll try anything to prolong hearing those four words coming from the minivan’s back seat—”Are we there yet?” I discovered a way to keep my three girls (ages 13, 10 and 8) occupied in the car (or on a plane) a little longer and even make the"getting there” (and home again) of family vacations part of the fun.

The girls pack their own travel favorites, but I also fill surprise bags with additional items. Resealable gallon bags labeled with each name work well and most of the contents can be found at a dollar store. Hand out the bags after the trip gets started and you’ll find this can help keep the kids busy for awhile.

Have fun and be creative. Here are a few ideas that have been hits with my girls:

• Look for license plates. On driving trips, print a simple United States map off the Internet. Find cars with license plates from different states and cross them off the map. It’s fun to see how many states you will encounter and everyone can play.

• Create a travel guide. Use the Internet to find the Chamber of Commerce or other official travel Web sites of the cities you’re visiting. Many of these sites will send out free brochures. My girls like looking through these to learn about the destinations and fun things to do there.

• Jump for journaling. Blank journals may inspire kids to keep a travel diary. My youngest still reads her journal from last year. If your kids aren’t writing yet, they can draw pictures of favorite parts of the trip.

• Click away. Add a disposable camera (write their names on them) and let kids take their own pictures.

• Keep it age appropriate. I’ll buy activity books and crayons for my younger girls, but magazines and Sudoku books for my oldest.

• Don’t forget the food! Add cool candy (PEZ dispensers) and easy-to-eat treats (fruit snacks and goldfish crackers).

Jenny Du Brock

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