Road Trips with Kids

Road trips with kids, whether they are an hour’s drive to Grandma’s house or a trip across the country, can be exhausting for all involved.  The number of times I get asked, “are we there yet” is enough to make me want to pull my hair out.

Although playing with electronics and listening to books on tape can be great, sometimes we need more.  Here’s a list of car games for kids that we play when we need some distraction.

DOWNLOAD THE PDF OF GAMES

Choose an animal: All players have to make the noise that animal says before they speak, 1st person to forget looses.

Category game: Pick a category and kids need to say as many things in that category in within one minute

Silly sentences: One person chooses 5 random letters. Kids come up with sentences in which each word starts with the designated letter. For example, HRTB. Harry read three books.

Thumb war

Count how many red vehicles you can find in 1 minute

Count each animal you see on your drive

I’m so hungry game: I’m so hungry I could eat an item that begins with an “A”, then you repeat the “A” word and add a “B” word. Keep doing this for all the letters in the alphabet

How many people can you get to wave to you?

No talking contest: Who can be quietest the longest? (parents favorite)

Staring contest: Who can stare the longest without blinking?

Color Search: Pick a color and you have to find 15 objects that are that color

20 Car Games for Kids

Cookie Game: If I were to make cookies, I would add these ingredients

Name Game: You say a name, for example, Tom, and the next person says a name that starts with M, the last letter of the previous name.

Pick a common word and you can’t say that word the whole car ride. First person to say it loses.

Guess what I’m thinking: Get travelers to guess what you are thinking by providing three clues

Tell a story

Say one thing nice about everyone you are traveling with

Play charades

Pick a letter and find something in the car that starts with that letter

Name all the words you can think of start with the letter of your destination.

Need some quiet time in the car?  Check out our road trip travel pack that includes 12 pages of activities to keep your kids busy in the car.

 

Things To Do in Detroit, Michigan With Kids

Visiting Detroit, Michigan with kids?  Having a staycation?  Here is a list of 34 things to do in Detroit and the metro-Detroit area.  Some places listed are more popular and we couldn’t leave them off the list because they really are worth a go, but sometimes, you need unique.  We’ve included some Michigan off-the-beaten-path adventures on this list as well.

Michigan Outdoor Center – Located on Detroit’s Riverfront, this is a great place to climb a tree, drive a motorcycle and cross a river all under one roof.

Make a day of it, and visit the Belle Isle Park after visiting the Outdoor Center.  Belle Isle is down the street and has an Aquarium (7th oldest in the US), a conservatory and a maritime museum.  Don’t forget to pack your lunch, it’s a great area for playing and picnicking.

Go on a candy tour at Sander’s Candy Factory.

Spend a day at the Detroit-themed fun and educational indoor play area, Detroit Kid City.

Wander around the Detroit Riverfront.  Check the site for festivals and local happenings.

Catch a game at any one of our new stadiums:  Comerica Park for baseball, Ford Field for a football, and the soon to open Little Ceasars Stadium for hockey.

Smell the roses and grab some veggies for your picnic at Belle Isle when you’re visiting Eastern Market.

Gaze at the stars at the Cranbrook Science Center planetarium.

Visit Detroit Mi Kids

Let the kids explore and learn at the Children’s Hands on Museum in Ann Arbor.

Visit one of the many Michigan pumpkin patches in the fall for cider and donuts.

Enjoy a baseball game with a more intimate feel at the minor league Jimmy John’s Stadium.

Check out the new Penguin exhibit at the Detroit Zoo.

Check out one of the family programs at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Spend the day as a scientist at the Detroit Science Center.

Get your build on at Legoland.

See Detroit from the River by taking a Princess River Boat Cruise.

Detroit Princess Riverboat Cruises

Explore the mysteries of the deep at Sea Life Aquarium.

The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village –  At The Henry Ford, you’ll discover America — its culture, inventions, people and can-do spirit — and hundreds of hands-on ways to explore it, enjoy it and be inspired by it.

Looking to play some video games and have a go in the bumper cars, check out CJ Barrymores.

Ride a  1924 train car.

Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve – Offers nature inspired classes and events.

Step back in time at the Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum.

Take in a play or musical at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

Take a tour or a class at the historic Pewabic Pottery.

Watch a puppet show at PuppetART Museum.

Check out the unexpected at The Heidelberg Project.

Get lost in the gardens at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor

Visit the farm at Petting Farm at Domino’s Farms.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American history – This museum began in 1965 and opens minds and changes lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture.

Michigan Sports Hall of Fame

A cross between horseshoes and Bocci Ball equals lots of fun at Feather Bowling at Cadieux Cafe.

Go zip lining at The Adventure Park.

MI Adventure Zipline

Do you have a favorite place to visit in Michigan with kids?  Please tell us in the comments below.

 

Visiting Clearwater Beach, FL with Kids

Leaving the cold of Michigan to visit sunny, warm, Clearwater Beach…yes, please!  The kids were off the entire week of school for mid-winter break (why didn’t I become a teacher), so we chose this time to head south and get some Vitamin D.  Of course, the main attraction is the sun and the beautiful white sands of Clearwater Beach, but in case you need a break from the pool or beach or the weather doesn’t cooperate with you, here’s a list of things you can do in Clearwater, Florida and the surrounding areas:

clearwaterflkids

Attractions in Clearwater Beach

  • Rent jet skis or a boat – check with your hotel or you can find a company right on the beach
  • Take a ride on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise or the Calypso Queen
  • Play at the Pier 60 playground
  • Jump on the inflatable bounce houses on the beach (there is a cost for this)
  • Enjoy the kids show and vendors at the Pier 2 hours before and after sunset (and catch an amazing sunset while you are there)
  • Visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and visit Winter from the movie Dolphin Tale
  • Play mini-golf at Captain Bligh’s Landing
  • Go parasailing
  • Check ut the indoor Flowrider surf simulator at Surfstyle.  This is a shop right on Gulf View Drive where you can buy souvenirs, clothing, groceries and catch a wave all in one place.  It was closed for cleaning when we went in, but the kids did get a few souvenirs with their money, one being a boogie board for them to catch some waves at the beach.
  • Take a ferry to Caladesi Island:  Here you can find 3 miles of pristine beaches (and usually fewer tourists than on Clearwater Beach) and enjoy snorkeling, shelling and sunbathing.
  • Take a Segway Tour
  • Countryside Mall – If it’s raining and you need a break, this mall has a movie theater and an indoor skating rink!

Restaurants in Clearwater Beach

We found most restaurants served the same fare.  Mostly fried and grilled options of fish, chicken, and hamburgers.  Here are a few of the more famous attractions and restaurants that we ate at:

  • Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe (they have a few different locations)
  • Clear Sky Beachside Cafe – we had a great breakfast here
  • Jimmy’s Fish House and Iguana Bar – this was at our hotel so we did eat here twice
  • Cooters –
  • Gondolier Pizza – we had this delivered to our hotel when the kids were to whipped from all the swimming
  • Crabby’s Beachwalk Grill – I add this more as a no need to go here kind of place 🙂
  • Jimmy’s Crows Nest – This is a rooftop bar and is worth the visit up for the great views of the beach and the Pier

Places to visit outside of Clearwater if you have a car

    • Tampa Aquarium – we did not visit this aquarium on this trip but visited when my daughter was 3 and had a great time
    • Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL– your hotel may have discounted pricing for this attraction
    • St. Petersburg – Museum of Fine Arts, Florida Holocaust Museum, Boyd Hill Nature Park and The Dali Museum
    • Tarpon Springs (approx 20 minutes north of Clearwater)- rich in Greek culture and is famous for its Sponge Docks.
    • If you are planning on visiting more than one of these locations (including Clearwater Marine Aquarium) I recommend a Tampa City Pass.  You can get more information here –

Additional Clearwater Beach Tips and Resources

  • It is not necessary to rent a car if you plan to stay on Clearwater Beach.  Access to everything is in walking distance.  You can get a shuttle from the Tampa airport to your hotel for approximately $60 one-way.
  • Most hotels have a “sight-seeing” card rack in their lobby that offers discounts on many of the local attractions
  • We stayed at the Holiday Inn because it suited our budget, timeframe and accommodated 5 people.  However, there are many local vacation rentals, air BnB rentals, and hotels in the area that are available for rent.
  • Beach rentals:  Clearwater beach has cabana and umbrella rentals.  You receive two beach chairs and the cost was $30 a day and went down to $20 a day after 2:00.  You just grab one when you get to the beach and someone will come by and take your money (either cash or credit).

Hiking With Kids – 8 Tips to Keep Kids on the Trail

Hiking and backpacking were adventures that my husband and I loved to do together.  When we started having kids, those two things were put on the backburner.  We knew we wanted to do this more and the only way we can get out there is to get our kids on board with the adventure.  So, here are some tips and tricks we use to get our kids on the trail with us.

Give them their own gear

Who doesn’t love gadgets and gear?  The best part of finding any new activity is the new gear you get to buy. Kids are no different.   We bought both our kids a backpack that is used for hiking and travel.  This is a good start to getting them used to wearing a backpack and carrying their own stuff.  Even on short hikes, they wear their packs.  It prepares them for carrying their own things for future longer hikes.  They also enjoy storing the treasures they find during their hike.

hikingwithkids

Every good hike needs snacks

With kids, I think every activity needs snacks.  Hiking is no exception.  We always pack trail mix, protein bars and snacks that they might not get often at home to make it a special event.  Don’t forget their water bottle!

Maps and Navigation

My kids love leading the hike.  Some trails are marked, but I also bring a map.  Even if it’s just a quick loop at our local park.  It helps them to learn how to map read (something I am terrible at) and gives them the confidence to lead the hike.

Plenty of stops

I know, stopping a hundred times isn’t an adult’s idea of a good hike, but kids need it.  We have to remember they are small, most initially don’t prefer walking and get bored easily.  We stop often to look at nature, have our snacks and take pictures.

Kids love games – make the hike one big game

In the kid’s backpack, I add things like a magnifying glass, small baggie to collect specimens, scavenger hunt printouts and in the summer and fall, a leaf collection book.  These are just a few ways to make the hike more fun and engaging.  We also sing songs, climb trees, throw sticks in the water and look for animal scat and prints.

hikeactivities

Friends are more fun than parents

Kids are never bored when they have a friend around.  Bring friends along on the hike or join a local hiking group with other families to build a network of fellow hikers.

Go often

Busy schedules can make getting on the trail hard.  Remember that not every hike needs to be epic.  Short hikes can be just as engaging as a long one.  The idea is to be consistent about going.  The more it becomes your family’s routine, the easier it gets to get them on the trail.  It might seem obvious, but scheduling a hike on the calendar is the best way to make it happen.  If it’s on the calendar than your committed to hiking!

Resources

Free Family Packing List for a Short Beach Getaway

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get a thing done without some type of list.  We are heading out in 2 weeks to sunny Clearwater Beach, Florida (from gray Michigan) and I started my travel packing list.  Usually, I start a couple weeks in advance so I can jot things down as I randomly remember them.

This time, I thought I would throw it into Word and type it up so I could share.

Here ya go, feel free to print and jot down any extras you’ll need on your short beach getaway!

Download the Family Packing List For a Short Beach Getaway

beach-vacation-packing-list

 

3 Books that have you traveling the world without leaving your couch

Warning!  You may end up quitting your day job, selling all of your possessions and traveling the world after you read these books.

ONE YEAR OFF: Leaving It All Behind for A Round-the-World Journey with Our Children

David and his wife were avid travelers before they settled down with careers, mortgages, and children.   Their wanderlust had gotten the best of them and decided it was time to sell their possessions and take a trip around the world with their family.

Tuck in and get lost with them in their adventures.  You’ll enjoy navigating a houseboat thru the canals of Burgundy, camping during a Lion safari, and keeping their curious toddler safe during a trip to hike an active volcano.

I love this quote from David, “When your routines are disrupted – especially this radically – you become very conscious of your actions, your surroundings, and your relationships.  Everything seems new and unsettled.  But again, that’s one of the goals of our trip — to disrupt our usual patterns so thoroughly that we’ll be receptive to new options and possibilities.”

Get ONE YEAR OFF: Leaving It All Behind for A Round-the-World Journey with Our Children

3bookstravelaroundworld

360 Degrees Longitude: One Family’s Journey Around the World

After a decade of planning, John, his wife September, and two children, ages eight and eleven traveled around the world for a year.  Their family visited 35 countries and you get to experience the ups and downs of life on the road.

Why John and his family set out for this adventure, “to take you to distant lands and meet the people who live over there to show that, at the end of the day, humankind in all its wonderful weirdness is the same all over the plant.”

The end of the book provides resources for you to begin your around-the-world travel adventure and the breakdown of the $121,000 trip cost.There is also an online companion piece with many more photos and a Google Earth component.

Get 360 Degrees Longitude: One Family’s Journey Around the World

Family Travel: The Farther You Go, the Closer You Get (Travelers’ Tales Guides)

This book is a compilation of 45 different traveler’s stories.  Some to far away countries, others are weekend getaways in the traveler’s own backyard.    I love that each story has something different to offer the reader.  One story, Lessons From The Nile, a mother demonstrates her courage to let her children explore a country without a parent’s tainted eyes.  The story of traveling with your mother as adults and embracing the quirky differences among mother and son.  Or the advice that comedian Paul Reiser gives to a young couple questioning him on parenthood.  These stories remind us that not all travel has to be of epic proportions and even small vacations can teach us about life and love.

The editor Lura Manske writes, exploring with family in tow may be more time-consuming, but it is also time-enhancing.  Traveling together as my family does is about connecting on different age levels with people, with ideas, with landscapes.

Get Family Travel: The Farther You Go, the Closer You Get (Travelers’ Tales Guides)

Each one of these books has a very different story to tell, but they all have the same theme.  They embrace the difficult and the unconventional to experience the precious gift of togetherness. Do you have a trip planned with your family this year?

There can be hope only for a society which acts as one big family, and not as many separate ones.  – Anwar al-Sadat

20 Must Have Items for a Road Trip with Kids

roadtrips

The Holidays are here and that means it’s time for road trips and vacations.  We have racked up some serious family road trip miles over the last 6 years with some of our epic road trips (think Michigan to California) and these are items we always have in our car.

Road Trip Entertainment

Magnetic Dry Erase Board and Markers

Melissa & Doug Magnetic Chalkboard and Dry-Erase Board With 36 Magnets, Chalk, Eraser, and Dry-Erase Pen

Magnetic Dry Erase Boards and markers make it easy for the kids to draw, play games like tic-tac-toe and hangman, and use their magnetic letters to spell words.

Travel Journals

This is our most popular item on olly and hue and that’s because it’s great for kids to keep track of what they did on their trip.  It has daily pages for journalling and an envelope for all their treasures they acquire on their trip.

Magnetic Tangram Sets

My kids love making shapes, pictures, and figurines out of shapes.  Our tangram set comes with 8 puzzles and solutions and you can find more online once your kids have mastered the first eight.

Legos

You can never go wrong with Legos.  I made up some lego puzzle cards so the kids can copy the pictures, but usually, they just end up building some cool things on their own.

Dolls and Cars

There’s nothing better than hearing the kids imagine a scene in the backseat with their dolls and cars.  It provides entertainment for everyone in the car.

Crayons and Paper

Crayons and paper are great for restaurant stops.  We have so many drawings of the spots we have stopped for dinner it’s a great keepsake.

Kindles

No list would be complete without some form of electronic.  My kids both have Kindles (ages 5 and 8) and they are great for games, books, and movies.  My kids currently have the 8 GB hard drive Kindle and I find we are often deleting old items to make room for new.  I would recommend the 16 GB, 8″ table from amazon – All-New Fire HD 8 Tablet, 8″ HD Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black

Road Trip Food

We don’t go on any road trip without a cooler and a food bag in the car.  This is essential for the keeping kids happy and has been known to hold a few beverages to keep the parents happy when we settled at the hotel.

Here’s what we bring:

  • Fruit:  Apples and bananas travel best.
  • Granola Bars:  Kind and Larabar are our favorites
  • Applesauce pouches from GoGo Squeeze
  • Yogurt Pouches
  • String Cheese
  • Nut / Trail Mix
  • Chocolate Milk Boxes
  • Baked Lays Chip Bags
  • On our epic road trip we also brought bread and sandwich fixins

Road Trip Miscellaneous

  • Kids Blanket
  • Kids Pillow
  • Kids favorite stuffed animal
  • Small first aid kit
  • Ziplock Bags
  • Headphones to go with electronic device (I really can’t stand another Kate and Mim Mim episode)

As the trip goes on, we typically acquire small trinkets and souvenirs along our way, but this is where we always start.  Is there something you can’t live without on your road trip with the kids?

Top 3 Wineries and Restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake

In celebration of my 5th decade, we went on an adult only vacation to Niagara-On-The-Lake (NOTL) in Ontario, Canada.  Six friends drinking wine, laughing and having adult conversations (well, not necessarily by the end of the night); it was a great weekend getaway.

This is our second time to NOTL, but it’s been about 8 years and the wine was just as great as I remembered it.  The town is quaint with plenty of great restaurants and shops to keep you busy.  Below are just a few of our favorite wineries and restaurants:

 

  1. Pellar Estates
    This is the most popular winery in the area, but it is good. There is a beautiful tasting room overlooking the vineyard and a wonderful restaurant on-site.  The restaurant has won numerous awards and reservations are highly recommended.
    What we Bought: 2014 Vintage Gamay Noir

img_53141

  1. Konzelmann Estates Winery

The view at this winery can’t be beaten.  As you stare out over the vineyards you can see Lake Ontario in the distance.  There is a lovely tasting room with knowledgeable and helpful staff teaching you about their wine and what pairs best with each bottle.
What we bought: Peach Dessert Wine

  1. Between The Lines Winery

This is a relatively new winery for the area and was started by two German brothers who came to Canada in search of land.  The Red Barn Tasting room is not as fancy as the others listed above, but the conversation directly with the winemaker’s wife made the visit well worth it.
What we bought: Meritage Reserve and Izumi Wine (Yes, that is named after famed Canadian Outdoorsman, Bob Izumi)

Restaurants

Olde Angel Inn Pub & Restaurant

Good food and less formal than many restaurants.  The only place we could find that had live music on the weekends.

Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine
Great dinner and recommended by many locals in the area.  We sat outside and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and great wine.  This is on the pricier side, but worth it.

 

queenslanding
Bar inside Queens Landing Hotel, courtesy of their website

Bar inside Queens Landing Hotel
This was our favorite place for evening cocktails.  Large, sink-right-in chairs, hospitable bartenders, and great drinks.  This is also the hotel we wanted to stay at, but unfortunately, it was not available.  We stayed at the Moffett Inn instead.  It was nice but preferred the Queens Landing.

img_5312
Silversmith Brewing Company

Need a break from wine?  Check out this old church converted into a brewery.  Good food and good beer.

 

The region is known for ice wine, a sweet dessert wine.  My husband and I tend more on the side of a dry, red wine, which thankfully, the region has plenty of.  We are not wine connoisseurs, but enjoy a glass (or two) with friends.  This trip delivered!

What you need to know:

  • Niagara-on-the-Lake is approximately 30 minutes from Niagara Falls (which is a must see)
  • Most wines cannot be bought outside of Canada and smaller wineries only sell at the winery.
  • Most wineries offer public and private tours for a fee. These require reservations and more information can be found on each winery’s website.  We just bounced from winery to winery and enjoyed a tasting at each one without an appointment.

Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake tourism website for all things Niagara