Since my wife and I became vacation club owners in 2005, we have enjoyed traveling as often as possible. We usually drive to our destinations to save money. The drives can take many hours, which means keeping our son occupied in the back seat. What worked at age three does not work so well at age 12. We can sing “Camp Town Races” only so much, and the alphabet and license plate games get old fast. We have never gotten all 99 bottles off of that wall either. In addition, his interests change as he grows.
Coloring books and puzzles
At age three, our son loved coloring books and puzzles. We drove from our home to Stone Mountain, Georgia, a good six-hour drive. My wife bought an activity kit made just for young kids. We thought he would color for a while, then sleep, color, sleep, and so on. He stayed awake for the entire trip – both ways! He kept busy, though, coloring, finding words, solving mazes, and working dot-to-dot puzzles. The puzzles helped him practice reading, counting, and problem solving while keeping him busy.
Our son outgrew the puzzle kits before too long, so we had to find other ways to keep him occupied. On a trip to Virginia, we borrowed my brother’s portable DVD player for our seven-year-old boy to watch. We got appropriate movies and cartoons from the rental store and the library. I admit that we watch too much television, but the DVDs helped fill in some of that twelve-hour drive. We could even listen from the front seat and imagine the scenes as we heard them. Well, my wife imagined while I kept watching the road.
Even the DVDs could not fill in the entire twelve hours each way. Who wants to watch the same shows four times each way? We had a small portable television with a car jack cord and RCA jacks on the front. We bought a few plug-and-play video games such as Pacman. The DVDs and the games combined to fill in most of the time. Later, our son bought – with his own money – his first handheld video game, a Gameboy. As our son got older and earned more money, that Gameboy gradually evolved up the handheld chain. For a few years, those devices kept our son occupied in the car.
When our son turned eight, though, even games lost their luster. I already had a laptop computer and Wi-Fi card so I could keep teaching my online classes on our trips. I added a car adaptor. Our son could then play his favorite online games in the car. What a sight to see the back seat of our car turned into a miniature office and our son clicking away at his sites as if performing major business transactions. From that point on, our son has set up his office whenever we drive to our vacation destinations. No matter how long the drive, he keeps busy with his games or other favorite Websites. Even more, we can listen to sports or other radio feed through the computer.
We prefer driving to most of our vacation spots. This means hours in the car, and our son needs to keep occupied. As he grew, we found new ways for him to make the long ride more pleasant for him. Not everyone will agree with our choices, but they have worked wonders. He keeps himself occupied, and we make sure to talk with him along the way. Mostly, though, he rarely resorts to asking, “Are we there yet?”
More from this contributor:
Teaching Our Son Science in the Kitchen
Gradually Loosening the Chains to Hang Out with Friends
Keeping Track of Our Son’s Grades