May 29, 2014

Screen Free, Scream Free Car Trips

I have mentioned before we live away from all our family.  Visiting several times a year, requires a 14 hour road trip....3 kids, 1 dog and me.  My hubby comes along when he can get away, but I travel more often with the kids solo.  I have finally come up with a plan that works in keeping us all sane and happy upon arrival.  These tips will help you have a Screen Free, Scream Free Road Trip.

Now, I haven't always been against screen time in the car.  When my kids were younger, it was the only way we traveled.  A DVD and IPad were essential to a successful car trip.  However, when we started homeschooling I realized how valuable car travel was for learning.  My kids were so engrossed in car screen time, even a trip to the grocery store caused arguing over their desire to watch a TV program.  We were out of control and things needed changed.

I started by borrowing audio books at the library.  The kids enjoyed them and often asked to stay in the car when we arrived back home to finish listening to a chapter.  We started out with The Magic Tree House series and A-Z Mysteries when the kids were 8, 6 and 2.  The chapters were short and I honestly enjoyed the stories too.  We would often talk about the books in-between car trips too, in anticipation for the next chapter.  We still had the DVD in the car, but no one asked to watch it anymore.

Then, about  nine months ago, we started shopping for a newer car with less miles.  We talked about getting out of the minivan club, but after looking at other cars, we just couldn't give of the space and family friendly features.  So, we found a newer model Honda Odyssey with less miles and all the features we wanted except NO DVD!!  Could we really go this extreme?  Car trips to the store were one thing, but what about 14 hours road trips??  We went ahead and purchased the car and immediately my husband wanted to have a DVD  installed.  I didn't want want one, so we decided to wait and see after our first long road trip.

Guess what, we survived!!  All of us, and have traveled this way many times.  Now, it is not even a question of getting a DVD put back in, we are officially a screen free car trip family.    I pretty much feel the same regarding Ipads and portable gaming systems.  We have tried using them on past car trips and  I found they always caused fights and made the kids more irritable and crabby after playing for an extended time.  When we would get to our destination they would wake up wanting to play, theywould become addicted to the screen.  I found the saying,  "out of sight out of mind," to be true of the Nintendo Ds.  If the kids didn't see them, they never asked to play.  I just put them in a cabinet at home and honestly they have never asked where they are, even on road trips.

Now traveling without screens takes a little more planning on your part as a parent.  But it is well worth the effort!  I will share my secrets!

1.  A behavior plan  It is no secret we are a clean eating family.  We avoid sugar and processed food as much as we can.  But because we don't eat junk frequently it becomes a huge motivator for my kids.  So, here is what I do.  Starting a trip I tell my kids the expectations.  They are the obvious rules, no fighting, teasing, whining or distracting the driver (this is very important when you are the only parent/driver.) I also say when we will be stopping, my kids can go 3-4 hours between stops and I found if I tell them the time we will stop, they are less liking to whine, or ask to stop.    Then,  I allot my kids 5-10 dimes each. I place them by me, so I can easily remove one if they break the rules.   Each time they break a rule, a dime gets taken away, they can only earn a dime back by reading for 20 min.  At the end of our stretch in the car, they get the dimes to buy whatever they want at the gas station, or they can save to buy a more expensive treat at the next stop.  I do try and avoid drinks as they can run quickly through little ones, but other then that all treats are ago!  I vary the dimes, because you would be surprised how much junk food you can buy for a dollar.  I found I prefer $.50 each for long trips, because after 4 stops,  I am cringing at the amount of junk they have eaten.   They all get a fresh start  with new dimes after each stop. This is a very good motivator for my kids!  It works great and my kids are ages 4-10.  Just FYI, we still travel with snacks, but they are just healthy choices.

2. Audio books  As I said, my kids love audio books.  I try and pick out titles I will enjoy too and I have found my kids can  all really enjoy and get into much more adult topics then your typical kid titles.  I look for audio books at Thrift Shops, the library and Audible.  Some of our favorite titles have been:

3.  Games and Books  Books are a great travel companion, my oldest will bring his current read, but they all enjoy looking at books with lots of pictures and no story line to follow, since they are usually listening to an audio book.  My absolute favorite books are the DK Eyewitness books.  These come in a variety of topics and are not only educational, but interesting.  Even my 4 year old loves them.  The kids read facts and ask me questions and share pictures with the other kids, we all really love them.  I also love the Leap Tag Reader and books for my 4 year old. As for games think old school, license plate games and roadside bingo.

4. Talk  I find my kids ask a lot of really insightful questions while car traveling, when they are not locked into a screen!  We have lots of fun talks and tell stories and really bond over these car trips.  I hate to think what I would be missing if I just let them stare at a screen for hours, simply so I wouldn't be bothered.

5.  Music  Make a fun  play list, you can all sing too.  I also always play my favorite songs, nothing is more entertaining to a kid than seeing their parent act crazy.

I hope these suggestions help create fun road trip memories for your family.  I encourage you to turn off the screens and enjoy the time with your kids.  If you have any other suggestions, or a favorite game or audio book please share in the comments below.

Have a great trip!!,


 The links above are affiliate links and while your cost is the same low Amazon price, I will get a small % of the sales, that I can use for more great books and games for my family!


  1. This is great, Kate! I love your dime idea and listening to audio books! I'll be showing this to my husband, who insisted we get a dvd player installed on our new minivan a few weeks ago! :)

  2. What GREAT ideas!! We have a few road trips planned this summer, I'll be sure to use these ideas! Happy Summer!


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