8 Ways to Road Trip (Mostly) Without Electronics

One of my favorite aspects of family travel is the time we get to spend together in the truck when we travel between destinations. Technology has transformed road trip activities since I was a kid. While we are well equipped with iPads, iPods, cell phones, laptops, and almost every other electronic to keep our teens entertained and not asking, “Are we there yet?”  I’m actually trying to limit the amount of time they are “plugged in” while we are on the road.

It would be easy to let each kid use an electronic device to escape into their own private world, and not interact until we arrive at the next stop, but this trip is about more than just the destinations we are getting to. It’s mainly about the family time and connections we can create while spending this time together.

Here are a few ways that we attempt to navigate the road without the kids being lost in their own “electronic bubble”.

1. Turn off & talk The times we turn off the radio and strike up a conversation with the kids have been so rewarding. The silence gives us the opportunity to ask questions about what they’re learning-thinking-feeling about a variety of topics.  Sometimes they’ll ask us questions about our childhood, etc.  We’ve had some great discussions that I’m not sure we would’ve had otherwise if we weren’t spending this much time in a vehicle together. Every time you are in a car with your children is an opportunity to connect.

2. Books on CD We can only listen to the radio for so long before the songs start to repeat and we get sick of music. We’ve decided to start listening to books on CD. While 3 out of 5 of us are avid readers, we think listening to a book together will give us something to discuss as a family and help the time pass quickly.

3. Instagram the journey My teens are too old to be interested in “I Spy” or other road games that help them interact with their surroundings. Instead of burying their heads in an electronic game and missing the scenery whizzing by, I’m encouraging them to take photos on their phones and upload them to Instagram for a real-time travelogue to show what we are up to. Yes, this technically involves an electronic device, but the creative process they go through when trying to find an artistic shot is more important to me. They amaze me on a regular basis with the pictures they capture.


4. Teach them to navigate I didn’t realize until we were traveling full time that my kids aren’t the greatest at directions and navigating a map. Once I started relying on them to give me directions off my phone map, I saw where their gaps in “co-piloting” were, and now we can actively teach them this crucial life skill.

5. SMASH book/journal I used to be an avid scrapbooker, and I’m still a big advocate for documenting life through pictures and/or journaling. I recently discovered these hybrid journal/memorabilia books called SMASH books. They are artsy and eclectic, so my teen girls think they’re cool enough to use to capture their memories of our trip. Traveling down the road seems to be a perfect time to doodle in them.


6. Reading Like I said earlier, I’m blessed with two bookworms who read as often as they can, so they love to spend a big chunk of our journey reading in the truck. Kids that don’t love to read books as much can still be stimulated through a magazine, crossword puzzle, or Sodoku.

7. Sing-a-long  Please don’t think we are cheesy, but one of our favorite family activities is to sing along to fun music. Dino has raised our kids to love music from Top 40 to Broadway musicals, and everything in between.  We spend many afternoons cruising down the highway, singing at the top of our lungs. As a result, certain songs have become associated with different legs of our journey.  It’s like we’re creating a soundtrack of our lives.

8. Family movie When we’ve exhausted the options listed above, we relax with a movie on our portable DVD player. We run it through the speakers so we can all listen in. This keeps Dino alert while driving, and makes it a communal experience.  Spending this time laughing together and memorizing funny sound bites that we can quote later on has created some strong bonds in our family.

Using electronics to ease the strain of a long road trip isn’t a big deal, just try not to miss out on the opportunity to connect with your loved ones. Road trips are synonymous with family time, and electronics can easily distract from that if you’re not paying attention.  So the next time you hit the open road, try one of these eight suggestions to make the journey more memorable.

What are some ways you enjoy road trips that don’t involve electronics?

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8 Ways to Road Trip (Mostly) Without Electronics

Shannon is a mother of 3 teens, who hit 40 and decided that instead of a "mid-life crisis", she wanted an adventure of a lifetime. She convinced her wonderfully open-minded husband to pack up their house, sell most of their possessions, and travel the USA in an RV for a year or two. Besides homeschooling her kids, running their online program, Watts in the World, Shannon loves to explore new places. Nothing is more exciting than waking up in a new city everyday, and discovering what's great abou ... More

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