Whether or not you plan simple travel activities can make or break a road trip with kids. These family trip ideas will help you reconnect with your kids and make your family vacation one you'll never forget.
I found her sitting all alone with her lunch plate in her lap. The beach house was full of family, why was my precious Little Pea looking so crestfallen?
"Honey, why aren't you eating lunch outside with grandma and grandpa?"
"They are too busy, they weren't talking to me. So, I came inside."
"What were they busy doing?"
"Grandma was reading on her iPad, Grandpa was on his phone."
In their defense, every adult I know needs a little downtime during a busy family vacation. My parents adore my girls and went to great effort to arrange a family reunion for us all at our favorite beach. They would be devastated to know this conversation happened at all. Just how easy the same thing could potentially have been said about me: "Mom is too busy for me, she's on her phone."
As the school year was winding down, I happened across a really disturbing article about the dangers of distracted parenting. Summary: We put so much focus on worries about screen time for our kids we've neglected to be aware of how much time we are ignoring the kids for the screens that run our lives.
This wasn't exactly new information, but something about that article really hit home and I vowed to make sure my kids saw more of ME and less of my phone during these precious months of summer break. We were lucky enough to have nearly back-to-back beach trips scheduled and I knew it was the perfect opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.
I planned ahead and made a list of simple travel activities for us to do with the girls to ensure we spent quality time together on our family vacations.
Cell phone use really is an addiction, until you make a conscious effort to not use it you don't realize how often you reach for it as a default during downtime. I encourage you to plan ahead with a few of these family trip ideas, you'll love the wonderful memories you make with the people that matter most.
6 simple travel activities to help you reconnect with your kids
1. Get lost in a road trip book: Whether it is an adventurous audio book for your road trip or an old-fashioned paper copy of one of these amazing family read aloud books, spend a little time every day of your vacation enjoying a story with your kids. It gives you something fun and new to talk about over meal time. We read each night before bed in our hotel room but you could also try a fun outdoor reading session, too.
How it helps connect you with the kids: Sharing a story together gives you one more element from your vacation to look back on and remember with the kids. If you choose your book carefully, whenever they see it in the future they will remember that they first read it with you on your family trip.
2. Pack a breakfast picnic: Grab a few portable beverages and a pack of donuts and eat breakfast together outside. It's the easiest meal to plan as a picnic because you just need a little nibble. My girls loved eating on the oceanfront balcony of our hotel last summer, it is one of my very favorite vacation memories from that trip. Check it out here. While they munch, you could read your book to them!
How it helps connect you with the kids: My favorite part of travel is trying new things and breaking up our routine. Eating in a totally new location for a meal your kids are so used to doing in the very same place day after day is a fun way to show them you can be spontaneous and fun.
3. Bring along a few family travel games: My kids have been obsessed with corn hole this year. The set we have at home is large and wooden and completely not travel-friendly at all. For our beachtrip, I packed the Melissa & Doug Camo Chameleon Bean Bag Toss game for us to play right on the sand. It is smaller, lighter, and easily rinsed as necessary. It would be perfect for playing during a camping trip or beach trip. It's great for family reunions, too.
I also packed a set of Melissa & Doug's Suspend for us to play in the evenings. It comes in a flexible cylinder package which is so much easier to fit into a tote bag or suit case than a traditional box game. We love Suspend because it doesn't require too much concentration so you can still chat while playing. You can also play as a team or competitively against one another depending on your kids' moods.
How it helps connect you with the kids: You'll be less likely to grab your phone during quite time if you have a game ready in the wings.
4. Collect nature together: At the beach, the obvious choice is to go for a shell collecting walk but you could also hunt for pretty stones, leaves, or flowers. If you don't want to remove them from their home, consider taking pictures of your finds!
We go to the beach so frequently, our home doesn't have room for jars upon jars of shells. Often my girls will leave their collections on the sand and we just enjoy the moment of collection. But this year, we decided to experiment with the Melissa & Doug Beach Memories Sand-Casting Kit. We broke the activity down to make it last even longer by collecting the shells during one beach visit and then completing the craft kit the next day. It makes a perfect activity if you want the kids to spend some time in the shade of your umbrella to get a break from the sun.
How it helps connect you with the kids: It gives you a group goal, something to look for together. You can save your finds for crafting at home to relive your trip, or enjoy using them for something while you're away together.
5. Create a vacation playlist: We realized this summer just how few songs our kids know the words to sing along. As Tim and I rocked out to hits from the 80s and 90s we love, our kids sat in the back of the car silent and clueless. The key to learning lyrics is repetition, a playlist that is too long means your kids can't learn the words quickly. So we took this great advice for making a trip-specific playlist with just a few of our favorite songs we can play on repeat over the course of the adventure.
How it helps connect you with the kids: We chatted about our first concerts, memories from when we heard the songs, why they were special to us. Music is an amazing memory maker and conversation starter.
6. Hunt for car licenses: Our all-time favorite road trip car game is the Melissa & Doug license plate game. We bring it along for even short road trips because we use it to hunt for licenses the entire time we are on vacation, not just the road trip itself. Over the course of a week at our destination, we can often fill in the majority of the country.
How it helps connect you with the kids: Finding cars from different states opens up the door to conversations with your kids about times you visited those states or places you've lived before they came along. We shared memories of college, our early marriage, and different places Tim was stationed with the army.