It’s nearly summer, and that means road trips. So if you’re planning a long drive, here are some creative ideas to keep kids busy and parents sane.

Practical ideas from our friend Lesley

If you don’t have one already, get the “soft folding table” from ToysRus. It goes over their car seat, and is genius. They can do just about anything with it!

Bring a potable DVD player (if your car does not have a built in one), with lots of DVD options.

If your children like to colour, bring colouring books and markers. Mini puzzles. Books he likes to read/look at.

Pack lots of snacks. The portable car seat table is perfect for all that jazz.

Make a few playlists with songs he likes (ideal if your car has bluetooth that links to your phone or tablet.)

If possible, pre plan your route with stops at parks where he can run around and play in a few times on your trip. Totally hype up the awesomeness of a road trip beforehand so they get used to the idea of being in a car for a while, while also knowing that it will ne an epic adventure.

From our friend Vivienne

Sticklebricks, so they can make a few things, and a few toy cars (you can draw a few simple road maps on paper for them, give them a new map each time they get in the car).

A few tiny planes, if your child(ren) likes them.

A play camera so they can take pictures, or even a real / cheap throwaway camera to see the world through their eyes (it would be interesting to develop their pictures (I mainly got feet and noses!).

Best Travel Apps for Your Summer Road Trip

A list from the good people at BestKidsApps

Kids roadtrip
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Apps and travel go together like summer and pool time. There are so many app choices out there with very different uses when it comes to travel. I’m going to skip the travel booking apps and get straight to the apps that you’ll use while you’re actually in the car. From driving directions and dog-friendly restaurants to last minute hotels and crazy road side attractions your kids will love—pack these handy road trip apps to keep the drive smooth, steady and fun.

Waze | Free | iOS, Android, Windows

This is the superhero of navigation apps. Not only does it tell you how long it will take to get to your destination, and offer alternate routes if you don’t like the main one, but the info is derived from other drivers. Get warnings of upcoming police and hazards on the road. Older kids might have fun adding updates themselves. Just watch out, it’s a battery suck. Have it plugged in to battery juice from your car if you’re going to use it for any length of time.

Roadtrippers | Free | iOS, Android

Your road trip is way cooler than you think it is. Use this app to plan your route and your pitstops. From suggestions for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives to Route 66 Attractions and Offbeat hotels – this is a one stop shop road trip app whether you’re using it ahead of time or on the road. Check out the website before you download for lots of inspiration. I’ve used it to find great kid-friendly restaurants and parks.

Road Ninja | Free | iOS, Android

This app helps you find out what kind of services are coming up at future exits. Need a McDonald’s break? How about some cheap gas? I recommend setting this app up in advance of your trip so you can control the amount and type of options you want to see in your app for upcoming exits and budget travelers can even scroll through promotions for  nearby deals.

Hotel Tonight | Free | iOS, Android, Windows

OK, I said I was going to stay away from travel booking apps, but I used this app on a road trip last year and I find it incredibly handy.  Hotel Tonight helps you find a last minute hotel room at a discounted price. Handy, right?! I particularly love that they classify the hotels by easy to distinguish categories like Solid, Hip, Luxe. Check out all the different destinations they cover across the U.S. and worldwide.

Bring Fido | Free | iOS

If you’re bringing your dog(s) on your next epic American road trip, you’ll want to find pet friendly hotels, parks, and dog friendly restaurants. This app has you covered. Find photos and user ratings of the hotels, too. Go ahead, make your life easier.

Tales 2 Go | Free trial (subscription $99.99/year) | iOS 

What? Your kids get car sick looking at books and apps in the car? No sweat. Tales2Go is here to help. It’s the Netflix of audio books. Follow your favorite book characters, listen in Spanish, choose books by celebrity narrator or by grade level. It really brings the whole family together not to mention makes your road trip more educational. Win win. There is a subscription fee but they also give you a free 30-day trial.

Mad Libs | Free, $1.99 for 21 pack story additions | iOS

Bridge the gap between the old school road trip fun you used to have when you were a kid and the digital age version for your own children. Type in nouns, take pictures or use photos from your smartphone or iPad’s photo gallery, and watch the comedy ensue. It even saves your story as a photo for recalling the fun after the trip has ended.

Roadside America | $2.99 + $1.99 for certain sections or $5.99 all access | iOs

Ever wanted to take your picture next to a crazy large object on the side of the road? This is your app. Introduce your kids to the weird and wonderful across our United States of America. Editors review their favorites and you can check off which ones you’ve already visited. And there’s even a sunset alarm so you get the heads up for your last photo opportunities. They also make it easy to share your discoveries through Facebook and Twitter.

Visited States | $.99 | iOS

It’s OK if Dad said  you couldn’t plaster a magnetic States map across your car. This app lets you mark off which states you’ve already been to. It’s a simple app but does the trick. And you can brag to your friends about where you’ve been by sending them images of your map.

Happy and safe travels!

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