5 Ways We Use Books on Family Road Trips

We find ourselves on logging quite a few miles in the car each year due to a combination of Josh’s schedule and a healthy dose of wanderlust. Last year was the summer we fell in love with audiobooks. This year is already shaping up to be the summer we left a library book 3 states away. (I’ll leave you to guess which of the summers I prefer.) As we finalize our itinerary and pack our bags for a 10-day trip this month, here are 5 ways we use books on family road trips:

Embrace audiobooks. Before we hit the road, I download an audiobook or two for myself, a couple for the whole family, and as many as I can find for the little people in the car. Audiobooks are my best friend when I’m the solo driver or my copilot is taking a nap. A set of earphones and the audio versions of some early chapter books buy us and hour of silence when only some of the kids fall asleep after lunch. (Thank you, Boxcar Children.)

Pick a new book for the whole family. Starting a new series or discovering a classic for the first time together can be a great way to pass hours driving. We’ve enjoyed the audio version of The Chronicles of Narnia (the BBC full cast version is great) and finished off the last chapters of various Harry Potter installments in the past, and I’m eyeing The Swiss Family Robinson or Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Institute for this next trip. GeekDad has two great lists of kid-friendly audiobooks that are interesting enough for the driver too if you’re looking for something the whole family can enjoy at together. NPR does something similar with their Backseat Bookclub.

Set a limit on print books
. Despite our devotion to audiobooks in the car, I can’t go on a  trip without a book (or four) in tow. My children are shaping up to be the same way. We’ve always managed to keep track of the books we take by setting a limit per person. Three books per child seems to be the right number for our family, although our oldest has started to pick the longest 3 books he can find to make them last. It makes packing to go home fairly simple as well. I know once I account for all 9 books we are good to go. (Except this past trip, of course, when I forgot to count books. Considering the miles we’ve logged with other library books in the past few years, I’m still counting this as a fantastic success.)

Visit a local library or bookstore. I went through a brief souvenir penny collecting phase as a child. I’ve since upgraded to books. Browsing through a small bookstore for something to read on vacation is incredibly satisfying for me. Since leisurely bookstore browsing time is a rare treat with three small children, I’ve learned to appreciate story time at the local library. We can spend a few hours during inclement weather sitting on the floor reading whatever we grab off the shelves and exploring the exhibits or activities each library has for kids. In my experience, any library is fun the first time, but we’ve especially loved the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. If your destination is flexible, here’s a list of 6 amazing libraries to try.

A new graphic novel or book of poetry can work magic. Finding something for the older two kids to do while the toddler takes her desperately-needed afternoon nap has been a challenge. The same is true for passing time quietly in the evening when little sister is asleep just a few inches away (hotel rooms being as large and full of privacy as they are). I’ve learned to pack a book or two for the older children that will feel completely new. Graphic novels, poetry collections, and books of hidden pictures have all fit the bill for us. (Bonus points if you can find a book by a local author or that ties to your destination.)

Anyone else heading out on the road this summer? What works for you and yours?




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