When my kids were little, I used to get physically ill before a road trip. Just the thought of being cooped up for days in a car would cause me to have a therapist on speed dial. But through the years, I learned some tricks for making them more fun and enjoyable.
First of all, snackage: This used to make me crazy because I had bags of prepared foods under my feet and was in a perpetual state of sorting through, digging out, and wrenching my back to distribute them. Mostly this was because they were bored. Then, I discovered the snack box. Use an egg carton (wash first) or a tackle box or any other sort of divided container. Let each child decorate his own. Then before the trip, put a small amount of snacks into the compartments and make them responsible for their own. I used things like:
Raisins or other dried fruits
Sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts
Chocolate chips, M&Ms
Celery, baby carrots, diced cucumbers
Dried cereal (Chex, Cheerios, etc.)
Use a variety of tastes and textures to satisfy any craving.
Next up, games:
License plate games
Find license plates beginning with each letter of the alphabet and each single digit number. Find as many states as you can.
Make some simple cardstock bingo cards and draw simple pictures in the squares: trees, billboards, stop signs, cows, hotels, ponds, mountains, ducks, horses, overpasses, bridges, tunnels, etc. Laminate or cover with clear contact and give them a crayon to mark them off. Then, wipe off and re-use.
Someone says a word the next person has to say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word. Someone starts a story with a word or a few words and each person adds to the story. That old initial parlor game using the first letter of your name: "My name is Becky, and I'm from Boston and I'm going to Bermuda and taking a baseball bat." Next person repeats that and adds his own.
First person finds a word on a sign beginning with "a", second person uses "b", and so forth. Have a list of things or words for them to find on signs and let them mark them off.
Name that tune: Someone turns the radio down after a couple of notes and everyone guesses. Sing-alongs. Sing-alongs with silly voices: sing like Elvis, old ladies, robots, aliens, French accent, etc. You can even draw these challenges out of a baggie and have to sing it in the manner on the card.
How far to the next town? What will be the color of the next car that passes us? What will the next billboard advertise? What letter will the next town begin with?
Two truths and one lie
Tell two things true about yourself and one lie. Have everyone hold up one, two, or three fingers for the number they think is a lie.
Pencil and paper games
Have the kids write down or draw 50 things they think they will see on the trip, and then cross them off as they come across them. Make as many words as they can out of the letters in a simple phrase, such as "road trip" or "I like grandmas". Have someone draw a fence, and then put the paper up on her forehead and draw a cat sitting on that fence. See if anyone even comes close.
Last note, comfort:
I preferred to drive at night while the kids sleep, but whatever time of day you drive, make certain the kids are all equipped with the things that make them comfortable: a stuffed animal, a pillow, a blankie. Go to the dollar store and invest in little lights for them that clip onto books. Allow them a book to read or maybe a puzzle book for mandatory quiet times, my suggestion being 15 minutes every hour.
Car trips are a great time to bond as a family. Not disliking one another is a great place to start. Find joy in the journey by planning ahead. Enjoy your summer!