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It's Possible to Survive a Road Trip with Kids

Photo: Anton Luzhkovsky (Unsplash)

If you’re one of the almost 50 million travelers hitting the road this Thanksgiving — well, good luck.

But as a survivor of a 1,000-mile road trip with the family, I can tell you that we all enjoyed it in the end, even with the badly-timed bathroom breaks, backseat fights and an utterly trashed car. We broke out the iPad for part of the trip, but we also managed parts of it without screen time — with a few toys like these, and plenty of snacks and water.

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Crazy Arron’s Thinking Putty, $10
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

With long hours in the car, it helps to have something to fidget with. Putty is something tactile that kids can smush, roll, press, and pinch with their fingers. Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is my favorite since it creates the least amount of mess (our household has gone through our share of slime, play doh, and putty, and we’ve had some that simply came apart, leaving a trail of goo on the furniture). My kids especially like the hypercolor ones, which change color with heat. Plus, they come in a compact tin, so they’re easy to take along.

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It seems appropriate to include this traffic-themed puzzle for a road trip. A solo game for kids 8 and older, Rush Hour Traffic Jam comes with 40 cards that show you where to place the 15 cars and trucks on the board. Then your goal is to move the red car out of the traffic jam. The game even conveniently comes with a pouch to hold all the pieces.

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Mudpuppy Cat Fashion Magnetic Dress, $17
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

Mudpuppy makes a series of magnetic playsets that come in easy-to-pack tins. The Make a Face is good for preschoolers, as is the Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site set, based on the popular book.

Slightly older kids might like the dress up magnetic playsets, like this adorable Cat Fashion one. They can design a character, then make up stories to go along with it.

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Peaceable Kingdom Sticker Fun, $11
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

Sticker sets also make a fun, imaginative way to pass the time in a car. This cars and trucks sticker tote comes with 50 stickers that kids can arrange on a fold-out road scene. The stickers are made of vinyl so they can be peeled off and re-used. The only trouble with stickers is that if your kids are like mine, they may be tempted to decorate the car with them, and some stickers are easier to remove than others.

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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, $20
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

A good audiobook can entertain the entire family and give you something to talk about later. The trick, of course, is to pick a book that both parents and kids can enjoy. Personally, I love the fantastic adventure in Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, about a young girl named Minli who sets out on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon. It’s available as a downloadable audiobook or as a CD.

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About the author

Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area.