Top Tips for Car Trips with Grandchildren
14th November 2023
Trips away can be a great chance to have a break from daily routines and having the opportunity to spend some time exploring somewhere new. A perfect and rewarding way to do so is by bringing along the grandchildren, which helps grandparents spend quality time with the little ones in the process.
Of course, one will need to travel there before arriving at the destination – either for a day trip or a more extended stay – which often involves a road trip or two. For long journeys in the car, this might seem like an ordeal; the question of how to entertain the grandchildren for hours on end and how to keep everyone comfortable might very well be on a grandparent's mind. As driving with grandkids can seem daunting, we have looked at some of the top tips on how you can entertain the grandchildren whilst on a car journey.
Top tips for car trips with grandchildren
- Plan the trip with your grandchildren
- Leave early
- Make regular stops
- Plan car games
- Treat the journey as an adventure, not a chore
- Allow technology
- Think about safety
- Plan Storytime
- Look at finding audiobooks and sing-a-longs
- Involve the children in making memories
Plan the trip with the grandchildren
The ultimate destination of a trip can play a significant role in the enjoyment of the journey itself. To keep the children happy along the way, involving them in planning any adventure long before starting the engine is important. This will make everyone feel involved and create excitement for the journey ahead, which will add to the fun.
Mommybites, an all-encompassing parental resource, also suggests letting the children have some level of input into road trip plans.
Mommybites columnist Karen L. Rancourt says: "Let the grandchildren have age-appropriate input into the details of the trip. For example, let the kids take turns picking from options the grandparents provide for them in advance: (1) things to do during the trip, (2) restaurants, (3) where to get gifts and keepsakes for their parents and friends."
By involving the kids in the discussion and consulting them on where they would like to go, grandparents can help make the journey a more exciting one for the children and not just another boring car ride. And asking them what they would like to bring along, such as toys and magazines, will help all the more.
By being on the road considerably earlier than the children would usually be awake, grandparents can allow the kids to sleep in the back of the car for a considerable portion of the journey and delay any calls for toilet breaks. It's a tactic undoubtedly worth considering, especially for extremely long journeys, and still leaves plenty of time for enjoying the drive with the kids later on.
Take regular stops
Being cramped in a car for a long time isn’t fun for anyone, so if you are in the car for a while, then taking regular breaks can be a good way to break up the trip. Whether you want to plan on stopping at a service station to stretch your legs or want to visit an attraction or point of interest on your route, you will be able to let your grandchildren burn off some energy whilst having fun.
One of the best ways to keep the kids entertained during a planned road trip is by joining them in playing a host of car games. These are a wonderful way to pass the time, are good fun, and also help encourage children to learn about the world and develop other skills. We all know the classics, games such as 'I Spy', but there are many other classic and new games to consider.
Mommybite's Karen L. Rancourt also has some fantastic suggestions for games to play in the car, suggesting the following games that can involve everyone:
"Play the 'going on a picnic' game: First person starts: 'We're going on a picnic, and in the picnic basket are some apples.' The next person has the letter B and has to remember what the person before him/her put in the picnic basket. 'We're going on a picnic, and in the picnic basket are some apples and berries.' The process is repeated through the entire alphabet."
Karen also recommends "the 'I see the letter X alphabet game': Everyone is looking out the window trying to find something that has the letters of the alphabet in order (looking at signs, license plates). Example: 'I see an A on the street sign that says Main Street.' Now everyone is looking for something with the letter B, etc., until all the letters in the alphabet have been cited in order."
The AA has assembled a great list of games that can be played for those looking for a few more ideas.
READ MORE: Tips and advice for grandparents
Treat the journey as an adventure, not a chore
Long car journeys can be tough on all of us, but for a child, it can seem even longer, so it's important that grandparents help treat and frame the journey as an adventure and not just a task to get from A to B. To avoid making the car trip feel like a chore, make sure to schedule some stops along the way where the kids can get out and stretch their legs, and even find some fun places along the road that they might enjoy spending some time at, helping to prevent any boredom and upset that might arise – an approach well worth the consideration.
The above advice is championed by Teresa Kindred, author of several books for mothers and a blogger over at NanaHood, a very valuable resource in itself:
"We have five grandchildren aged five and under, and we stop at rest stops and let them run for 15 minutes," Teresa told us. "We also plan lunch at a fast food restaurant that has a play area and give them 30 minutes there. Yes, it makes the travel time longer, but it really helps with their attitude and makes being in the car with them easier!"
Teresa also has some constructive tips for keeping the kids entertained while inside the car:
"We have DVD players and always get at least one new movie for them. We also pack backpacks for them, full of colouring books, picture books, etc., to keep them busy. And, of course, we take lots of snacks with a garbage bag to make the clean up faster."
Sue Slaght, a proud grandparent herself and travel enthusiast over at Travel Tales of Life, is also someone who firmly advises that plenty of stops be made along the way, that is, if grandparents would like to keep the kids on their side of things:
"Stop frequently no matter how keen you are to get to your destination. If you want your grandchildren to have fond memories of time spent with Nana and Papa, strapping them in a car seat for four hours at a time decreases the chance they should ever want to come near you and your car ever again. Most of all, set off on the adventure with a positive attitude. Have fun and enjoy."
Allow technology but with limits
Kids love their technology, and while some of us might not understand the attraction of some of their favourite gadgets and gizmos, for many children, this is an important part of their lives, so allowing them to bring an item or two along will help make life easier. Gretta Schifano of the travel blog Mums do Travel has a tip for grandparents that may become handy in this department:
"If your grandchildren have mobile devices which they're using on the journey, make sure that they're charged up before you set off and that they have charging cables which work in the car."
Of course, the objective of trips such as these is to spend quality time with the little ones, so it's more than fair to implement limits on tech usage. This can be achieved by simply talking to them and letting them know that this is a moment to spend time together, chatting and having fun.
Think about safety
Keeping everyone safe whilst venturing on a car journey is of the utmost importance, and even more so when you have children in the car. You should always be prepared in case the vehicle breaks down by having your breakdown cover provider on hand, as well as taking note of service stations you pass in case you need to stop safely in case of an emergency.
As the law states that children must use a child car seat or booster seat until they're 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, you should make sure that you have the correct seats for the children travelling with you to ensure their safety. You should also ensure all straps are tightened before heading off on your journey and ensure child locks are enabled and shade screens put on the windows if the weather is particularly sunny.
ALSO READ: First aid tips everyone should know
Storytime with the kids
Gretta also suggests that grandparents tell stories with their grandchildren, entertaining them with their own tales and encouraging them to ask questions.
"Most children are fascinated by what childhood was like for older family members. Tell them stories about when you were young, and ask them questions about their lives, such as 'How do you get to school?' or 'What's your favourite game?' and then get them to ask you the same question about you at their age."
Audiobooks and sing-a-longs
Another suggestion from Karen from Mommybites is to "Listen together to books on tape through Bluetooth or other technology. Lots of good choices are available, depending on the ages of the grandchildren. (Go to Goodreads for a list.)"
Getting the kids enraptured in a riveting tale for a significant portion of the journey has obvious benefits and might provide the adults with some engaging entertainment. The website BookPeople also has a fine selection available, including many favourite hits such as Harry Potter and the Roald Dahl collection.
Grandparents might also consider encouraging the kids to participate in sing-a-longs, which is something Sue from Travel Tales of Life advises, along with arming yourself with plenty of snacks and toys:
"Pack your bag of tricks with age-appropriate toys, crafts, puppets, snacks and songs. Lots of songs. Singing can get you through a lot of road trip miles."
Plenty of karaoke tracks are available inspired by kids' favourite musical films and animations. Not only will this activity encourage the whole car to get involved, but it will also be a crowd-pleaser.
Involve the children in making memories
A car trip, such as the one being proposed, is a wonderful way to create lifelong memories for the grandchildren and some fond recollections for their grandparents. So, make sure to involve the children in this memory-making process, as Karen from Mommybites suggests:
"Make a record of the trip: print out maps of the trip for each grandchild; have them use a crayon to follow their travels. Give each grandchild a throw-away camera and a notebook to take notes on what they see and do on the trip (leaving room to affix their photos when they get them developed)."
There are myriad ways to document a trip, and not only does this give the grandchildren something to do, but it will provide physical evidence of the adventure that can be looked back on with joy in the years to come.
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