On the Road Again ... Traveling with the Grands


It's that time of year once more. Planning for our granddaughters' summer visit is always fun for me, and this week I've been researching travel games. We make the long trek to New England or the beach from North Carolina just about every year, or we have other destinations from time to time that require several miles and hours in the car. Never fear, Dandy is here! And I make our travels fun, fun, fun!

On our first car trip from Charlotte, NC, to the beach in Wildwood, NJ, I tied a length of rope between the two front seat head rests and strung beads in a repeated pattern of three red beads and one gray. Calculating the miles from home to the beach, we determined it would be around 600 miles. That seemed like a very long trip to our granddaughters, but we made it a game by letting them know every time we'd gone 25 miles. At that point Jain and Sofia were instructed to slide a red bead from left to right for the first 75 miles of every 100 miles. The gray bead was moved after the three red beads, indicating we'd driven 100 miles. This was repeated every 25 miles for the rest of the trip and the time just flew by. They were so excited when they moved that last gray bead because then they knew we'd arrived at the beach! Oh, by the way, if we forgot to tell them we'd gone 25 miles, they got a special treat at our next stop. That happened more than once, so this game definitely keeps the adults on their toes. Watch that odometer!

Another cute game we intended to play, but kept forgetting about, is marking everyone's first initial with a piece of chalk around the outside of one of the car's front tires. When you stop during your travels, check to see whose initial is at the bottom of the tire (the part resting on the ground). That person gets a special treat! The only drawback to this game is that you have to hope it doesn't rain or the chalk marks will wash off.

Sometimes creativity and imagination are sparked and games are randomly and suddenly invented. When our two were young, we played a game called License Plate Roulette. Three columns describing vanity license plates included "It's A Winner!," "OK, but Why?" and "Bazooka Bait!" Once a player sees a vanity plate, its message gets written under one of the three columns. For example, KIDS RX (obviously a pediatrician) would get entered under "It's a Winner!" Others that are just a nickname or something along those lines would be written down in the "OK, but Why?" column. Vanity plates that just make absolutely no sense at all are entered under "Bazooka Bait." These drivers are considered so lame and unimaginative that we all then pretend to hold up a bazooka, lock and load and blast that car out of existence. Sitting in the car for hours on end can be very difficult for people of all ages. This was simply a passive-aggressive way the Mennillo clan let off a little steam! Please don't judge!

Last year I came up with a game I call "I'm Goin to Have (#) Children and Their Names Will Be (first road sign, billboard message, animal or thing you see when you look out the car window)." This game is hilarious, especially when your child's name will be TWP RD (Township Rd) and you pronounce it Twip Rud. Our granddaughters cracked up! Imagine naming your child that, or Motel 6 or McDonald's Golden Arches or Construction Next 10 Miles or Grazing Cow! Too funny!

If you've ever searched for travel games, whether it be actual games or books about games, you know there is a plethora of material out there from which to choose. The Internet abounds with websites full of ideas. Alas, not every website, book or kit is helpful or even entertaining. But don't give up. If you're a bargain hunter like I am, you will eventually find some serendipitous treasures! Just recently I found a spiral bound gem titled 365 Travel Games & Activities by Stan and Shea Zukowski at our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Its chapters include observation games, arts & crafts, imagination games, break time games, mazes & puzzles, word games & trivia, and odds & ends. Gleaning from it last night, I was delighted I'd spent a whole dollar (that's right, $1.00) to add it to my collection. I found 24 games I know the girls will love, but the book is too big to take on our trip along with all the other stuff we'll have in the car. I printed out the pages of those 24 activities I selected that can easily be stored in the car's seat pockets. Once we're home and making shorter day trips, we can keep the book in the car for quick and easy reference.

I think my favorite activity from this book will be one called "And Then What?" Each night before going to sleep, we will have Jain and Sofia think about what happened from the time they woke up that morning. Then we'll talk with them about the day's activities and ask questions. When did you get up? What did you wear? What did you eat for your meals? Who did you see? Where did you go? How did you get there? What was your favorite activity today? Each of us will try to remember as many details as we can. This is a great way to improve your memory, too! It will be interesting to see who remembers the most that happened on any given day. In addition, we will encourage the girls to keep a daily log or journal of their vacation experiences. Imagine how much fun it will be to look back on them in the future!

Now is the time to start gathering ideas for your summer car trips. I wish you happy hunting and gathering! Many of the books I have in my collection are no longer in print but can be found used on Amazon.com. Along with the one mentioned above, these include Kids Travel from Klutz Press and Travel Games: How to Play More Than 60 of the World's Greatest Travel Games for 2 or More Players by Joe Gannon. I got a real bargain at $4.99 on Keep Us Busy! Travel Activity Pack at Marshall's last summer, but this item is currently available in limited quantities on Amazon.com, too, for only a couple dollars more. And don't forget to stock up on a few Mad Libs. It's an oldie but a goodie and will keep everyone in stitches!

Please share your travel experiences with us. We'd love to hear how you keep your children and grandchildren entertained on long trips!

Happy Trails and Safe Travels, and as Grampy always says,