Screen-free ways to spend a family road trip

As a parent, I tend to be more on the laxer side of the screen time debate. I know letting my kids have an extra 30 minutes on their devices can be just what I need to keep my sanity in check. However, when we travel, I prefer to limit screens as much as possible.

I find that while offering screen time can keep my kids calm and make for an easier trip in the short term, often the stress over devices losing charge, not working, or even inducing nausea make them not worth bringing in the long run.

My family has taken several road trips in our Subaru, the longest being our drive from New York to Ohio when my kids were 6 and 3. While we did endure the occasional whine, my kids were able to manage without a device in their face for a few hours.

We are heading out on the road again, this time to Washington D.C., and I plan to use some of my tested strategies as well as some new ones, to help make the trip a calm and enjoyable experience.

Read on to see my plans for a screen-free road trip.

Bring Lots Of Car-Friendly Activities

Whenever we take a car ride that is longer than two hours, I provide my kids with coloring books, mazes, word searches, paper and crayons to help them pass the time.

I have purchased low-cost items from my local drug store and dollar store, and I have put together my own packets.

This year, we gave each of our kids a small travel loom, and will suggest they bring those as well for another in-car activity.

Keep The Snacks Flowing

Hangriness and long drives with children are a dangerous combination. When we travel, I relax a bit on what and how much snacks my kids can have and let them enjoy some special treats. Yes, I pay for it in crumbs all over my car, but the peace is worth it.

Take Breaks At Cool Spots

Depending on our schedule, we often split up our trip by stopping to eat or explore in an area of interest. For instance, on our last trip to Washington D.C., we stopped over in Princeton, N.J. for a bit. Here’s a pic of my youngest (just over a year old at the time) enjoying Bookscape at the Cotsen Children’s Library at the Princeton University Library.

Yes, taking a detour off the highway can add to your total travel time, however, I find the experience is often well worth the extra hour or so it might add to your journey.

Fun With Fidgets

My children have acquired an obscene amount of fidget toys, which I hope will provide a few moments of quiet entertainment throughout our journey.

I may even “borrow” one of my kid’s infinity cubes to pass the time.

Listening To Audio Books

On several other blogs, I have read how listening to audio books are a wonderful way to enjoy the road as a family. We have listened to some short stories on a few of our shorter journeys, and I am looking forward to listening to some longer ones on this trip.

While I have access to books via Spotify and other apps, I plan to take advantage of our car’s CD system and pick out a few books on CD at my local library.

Doing Our Best To Appreciate The Experience

Whether or trip take 30 minutes or three hours, I find spending time in the care with the family can be a great way to learn more about what is happening in my kids’ lives. We often get into deep discussions about gaming, space and all sorts of interesting topics. Of course, there are times when I just want quiet, however, I do cherish those moments of discovering more about my children.

Traveling with kids (or even alone), can be unpredictable, and I am reminding myself not to overthink things and just go with the flow. This may mean, going back on my initial hope for no screens, or taking more stops, or dealing with motion sickness, or any number of unforeseen events. What matters most is everyone’s safety and well-being, and I will focus my energy on ensuring we arrive to our destination safe and sound.

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