Whether you’re taking the family on the long-awaited Big Lap or escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a fun long weekend, we all spend many hours on the road.
You’d think we’d be experts by now in entertaining the little people but a recent survey revealed the second most annoying travel companions are – you guessed it right - children. People who can’t read maps ranked first.
In this day and age of technology there is absolutely no reason for kids to get bored, even on day-long family trips. So let me take you through the many options, starting off with the more traditional and budget-friendly ways of keeping kids happy.
Young kids actually love to play the old-fashioned game ‘I Spy’ and even adults can get hooked. Or what about ‘Lingo’, requiring you to explain the meaning of letters on car license plates?
Alternatively, get a large plastic tub and fill it with pencils, paper, stickers and colouring books to make an activity centre. This option requires a fair bit of preparation but is sure to keep the younger ones happy for quite awhile. Include snack packs as well so you won’t have to make unplanned stops at Macca’s or KFC. Audio books and sing-along CDs can also make the journey more enjoyable.
Older kids might like to have their own map so they can plot the journey and keep track of landmarks and cities. Compact magnetic travel games are another way of avoiding the dreaded, ‘Are we there yet?’ Scrabble, Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, Chess, Backgammon and many other popular games can be purchased at a reasonable price without taking up too much space.
However, if you simply don’t have the time to prepare or you prefer peace and quiet during the trip, on-the-road-technology is the way to go. Technology comes in many shapes and forms as well as price range.
At the cheaper end of the scale you can choose from mobile phones with games or hand-held educational computer games such as Hangman, Yahtzee and Rummikub. The Nintendo 3DS is the next step up as this game console comes with a dual screen – hence DS – and features the ability for multiple Nintendos to interact without having to connect to a wireless network. A Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) is a similar mobile entertainment device. The list of games is endless and can be purchased online.
Older kids might be more interested in an iPod Touch. This device functions as a music and video player, digital camera, hand-held game device and personal digital assistant.
Once kids have lost interest in games, movies are next on the list. Which kid doesn’t like to watch a film? It doesn’t require a lot of effort to turn your vehicle into a driving cinema. Portable DVD players that slip over the back of the driver’s seat have become quite affordable and are easy to use. It is recommended to invest in good-quality headphones so the driver won’t be disturbed.
So really, whether you’re on a budget or not, there’s absolutely no reason for kids to voice the dreaded ‘Are we there yet?’ with a multitude of options available. Road trips should be something families look forward to. Who knows, it might even change the result of the next travel survey, though people who can’t read maps will always remain the most annoying travel companions.